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There are many reasons why a theatrical cut of a film can be vastly different from the original vision of the director. Sometimes it is the runtime going too long; other times, the studio financing the film has creative differences with the director. This can be a good thing. There are many films where the director’s cut completely changed the movie in a way that did not sit well with viewers. The opposite, where the director’s cut gave the film a superior experience to the theatrical version, is what this article will focus on. A section for alternate endings will also be discussed, for the same reason. Some of these also have director’s cuts but are on the list for focus on their alternate endings.
5 Quality Director’s Cuts
All three The Lord of the Rings films have extended editions. Peter Jackson’s director’s cuts for each film added scenes that weren’t in the theatrical releases and extended upon some scenes that were. While the three theatrical releases are excellent films, picking up 17 Oscars between them, the extended editions give you a fuller experience of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. If you love the story of Middle Earth, the additional two-plus hours of footage will be well worth the watch. These films set the bar for Amazon’s upcoming series.
Fanny and Alexander is a 1982 Ingmar Bergman film about the lives of two siblings and their family after their mother marries a prominent bishop following their father’s death. Many issues arise in the family once the bishop enters their lives, and the bishop becomes abusive towards Alexander. The theatrical release was 188 minutes, and it received 4 Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film. The extended version was released as a television miniseries that spanned 312 minutes and has subsequently been released as a complete film. This version is able to go into a great more detail and depth to the story of Fanny and Alexander.
Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven had moderate success at the box office and mixed reviews from critics. The theatrical version had a runtime of 144 minutes; the director’s cut had a runtime of 194 minutes. The depth and story of Eva Green’s character Sibylla is completely left out of the theatrical version. Ridley Scott addresses this in an introduction on the director’s cut. While the theatrical release qualities of a good movie, something is lacking to make it a great film. The director’s cut gives viewers that great film, and one of Ridley Scott’s best movies to date.
On the Fandom page of Blade Runner, five different versions of the film are listed, and the differences are discussed. Some of the differences between the cuts are narration, music, and the absence or inclusion of certain scenes. Ridley Scott approved the Director’s Cut released in 1992, but the Final Cut released in 2007 is the only version that Scott had full control over. This is the version that we suggest you watch if you choose to check out Blade Runner.
Das Boot is a film adapted from a German novel by Lothar-Günther Buchheim. Wolfgang Peterson directed the film about a German U-boat crew as they partake in the Battle of the Atlantic. The theatrical version is 149 minutes, and the director’s cut is 209 minutes. There was also a miniseries released by Peterson. The director’s cut adds the character development seen in the miniseries to the action and drama of the theatrical release. The miniseries is 4 hours and 53 minutes and is a profound experience of cinema.
5 Interesting Alternate Endings
I am Legend, starring Will Smith as Robert Neville, had mixed reviews but did well at the box office. The 2007 film was based on the 1954 Richard Matheson novel of the same name. The film is different than the book in many ways, one being that the monsters in the movie are vampires in the books, but an interesting change was how the film ended. Neither the theatrical nor the alternate ending is true to the book, but the alternate ending offers a different angle closer to Robert Neville’s realization in the novel.
The Butterfly Effect did well at the box office and received positive reviews upon its release. The Sci-fi/Drama was a foray into a more serious role for Ashton Kutcher, who was known for his comedic roles in shows like That 70’s Show and movies like Dude Where’s My Car?. The film had a happier ending theatrically than in its alternate ending. While intriguing, the alternate ending leaves the viewer with a darker experience and is included in the Director’s Cut.
Before Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo character became more of an action hero, his time in First Blood focused on the story of a Green Beret struggling to adapt to life after the Vietnam War. Rambo runs into conflict with a small-town police force and is forced by the brutish Sheriff and his deputies to flee into the mountains where he wages a one-man war against his pursuers. The alternate ending brings a sad and different conclusion to the story but gives immense depth for the character struggles.
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut ‘Get Out’ was a huge hit both financially and critically. It claimed over $250 million at the box office and won Peele an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris Washington. His character visits his girlfriend’s parents, where his discomfort about his reception turns into a situation of nightmarish proportions. The alternate ending offers a much bleaker conclusion to the story and is a sad but essential reminder of current times.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. In the film, we follow Scott, played by Michael Cera, as he fights Ramona Flowers’, his love interest, seven evil exes who try and stop Scott from dating her. The theatrical ending is another one that differs from the source material. An ending more in line with the graphic novels was shot and shown to test audiences, but the theatrical version was preferred. The alternate ending gives a different conclusion to the story and Scott Pilgrim’s love life.
That wraps up our lists of director’s cuts and alternate endings. Besides Blade Runner, one thing that the director’s cuts have in common is that their final runtimes are significantly longer than the theatrical versions. Overall, these versions represent a fuller and more complete version of the story the directors wanted to show. Each one is worth watching and will give you a more in-depth experience of the story.
The alternate endings tend to have darker conclusions to their stories, but they offer an interesting take on events. They are worth checking out to see how they change the tone and final resolution of the film.
What are some of your favorite director’s cuts and alternate endings of films?
By Drew Ross
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