Director's Cut: in the director we trust

George Bell takes a look at some of the best director's cuts in the film industry

George Bell
10th June 2020
Image Cred: IMDB
The cinema industry is a great thing, allowing many people to be as creative as they can. Studio permitting of course. A director can have a certain vision that they wish to put on the screen, go through all the production just for the studio to sweep in at the end and make a bunch of changes. And for the most part, it tends to be detrimental to the end product. Thankfully though, more than a few directors are so determined to get their initial idea out to the world that the studio will release the cut of the film they want. The Director’s Cut. Here are some of those director's cut films that far exceed the original releases (or hopefully will).

Probably the most anticipated director’s cut at the moment has got to be one announced only recently, Zack Snyder’s version of 2017’s underwhelming Justice League. With Snyder leaving the production of the film due to the tragic death of his daughter the torch had been passed to Joss Whedon. Joss could not however make the new Avengers and we got a film that basically ended the first attempt of the DCEU. But since its failure, DC fans have been clamouring for Snyder’s version (#ReleaseTheSynderCut) of the film with hopes that it would blow the original out of the park. But for three long years, it didn’t seem like we would, until of course HBO gave us the great news. We would be getting The Snyder cut of Justice League on HBO Max by 2021. While this doesn’t mean we will be getting a good film by any means, it’s great to know we will finally get the film Snyder intended for us to watch.

One of the best examples of how a brilliant film can be ruined by studio interference is Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time America. Sergio’s initial version of the film, as shown at the Cannes film festival, was a four-hour story of two kids growing up in New York over four decades in a non-linear format. And for most of the world, this is the version we got. But not in America.

Warner Bros didn’t involve Leone at all as they started tearing his film down to a run time of only two hours and 19 minutes as well as rearranged the scenes into chronological order. Safe to say the end product was less than stellar, with the film bombing at the box office. The studio even managed to fail filling out the necessary paperwork which cost the brilliant score, by Ennio Morricone, a chance of getting an Oscar. Thankfully in 2001 the intended version was released and is now widely regarded as one of the best films of all time. This just goes to show how when it comes to making films, leave it to the director, especially when that director is Sergio Leone.

Turns out Warner Bros is a repeat offender in this field with how they handled probably one of the most famous Director’s Cuts ever - Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. As a result of poor initial screen tests for the film, Warner Bros took the film out of Scott’s hands and did some meddling. They added a voice-over narration and tacked on a happy ending for the film which resulted in a mixed reception, an okay box office returns, and the film pretty much dropping off the radar. It wasn’t until Scott released the Director’s Cut that people actually started to realise that this film was a classic and now has a cult following and warranting a sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017).

Director’s Cuts tend to add to the run time for a film as they will add certain scenes and even entire characters that were cut out in order to help get their story across to the audience in the exact way they wanted. So, when you sit down to watch a film make sure you have enough time if you accidentally put on the director’s cut. And what better example than Lord of the Rings. The extended editions of each of the films in Peter Jackson’s masterful trilogy increased the total run time from nine hours and three minutes to 11 hours and 36 minutes. And any Lord of the Rings fan knows that if you are going to do a marathon of the trilogy, you do it right and watch the extended versions. And that’s because it is the true cinematic experience for the movies that the director intended for us.

So if you are contemplating whether to buy the original or the directors cut of a film and are turned off by a slightly longer run time please reconsider. You’ll be in for a much greater cinematic experience and you would be making the director happy.

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AUTHOR: George Bell
One half film addict, one part computer nerd. All parts Croc lover

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