Tuesday, 18 March 2008

"Featuring Never Before Seen Ranting Exclusive To Blogspot!"

Something in the entertainment industry is really starting annoy me; DVDs. Namely, "Extended Edition" DVDs. When Pietro Jackson completed his “Lord of the Rings Trilogy”, he released the original version as a standard disc DVD, and then released “Extended Editions”, using all the footage from the cutting room floor; call it a “Director's Cut” if you will (though thankfully it still eschewed the infuriatingly pointless Tom Bombadill (take that fanboys)). The discs were phenomenally successful, making New Line a whole boatload of money, and also opening the door for other such films to be reedited upon release with footage cut from the original.

Upon release of the discs, Jackson made clear that he had not used all of his footage however, only the good stuff that he thought was worthy of making any kind of release was included. That point of creative self censorship seemed to be lost amidst the noise and hubbub of the Hollywood machine however, who seemed to merely look at the cash flow graph that spiked like their collective boners whenever "Extended Edition" appeared. An idea was planted. A sub-genre was born.

Cut to four years later. We see the release of "Beowulf: Limited 2 Disc Steelbook Director's Cut". We see "Saws 1-4 Extreme Edition". "Hostel 1 & 2 Unrated Edition". And a plethora of other garbage that is pumped out of the industry suburb of Los Angeles, makes very little impact in cinemas and then gets released on DVD with a huge boatload of extras and "Over 30 Seconds Of Additional Footage Exclusive To DVD!" This is another one of my (many) gripes with the film industry: You can't shine shit.

Badly made, humourless, soulless, conveyor belt films that rely on special effect, turgid comedy, a catchy, popular soundtrack (mainly the romances) to cover up for the lack of genuine feeling or chemistry between the performers, risible script and sloppy direction are always going to be terrible. People who see them - and hate them – at the cinema somehow always seem to forget what utter pigswill the film was when they hear the words "Now with X minutes of never before seen footage!" As if these additional seven minutes will make another one of Hollywood's tripe sucking abortions any better.

It is beginning to worry me, however, that with so many "Extended Editions" coming out (and I'm talking about new films here, old films have a reason to have director's cuts due to the technological limitations of the time (though five versions of “Blade Runner” is a little excessive Mr Scott)) studios may be beginning to pressure directors and editors into withholding some footage from the theatrical release in order to give the DVD more selling points. "American Gangster" - a very good film - is receiving an extended edition release. Why? If the footage wasn't good enough to make it into the theatrical release, why would it be any better in a DVD release? It will just weigh the film down. Or if it was good enough for theatrical, why wasn't it included? Don't give me any of that crap about the film being too long to hold audience interest - when Titanic is the highest grossing film in history you have all the proof you need that the great unwashed masses can cope with long films.

Once again, I feel, Peter Jackson's seminal epic proved to be a defining moment in modern cinema. It was the ultimate special effects laden blockbuster, taking audiences as high as they could go in terms of visual excitement (see my note “The Death Of The Blockbuster” for more on that), and it also proved to be the progenitor of these baneful "Extended Editions". Notice that good - really good - films don't get released on "Extended Editions". They might have a few deleted scenes, but these are never included in the main picture. Why? Because the film is complete. When you release a film, release the finished product. Don't withhold stuff in order to appease businessmen, and don't include stuff in later releases that were not worthy of being in your original vision. You never saw Raphael or Bernini adding extra bits to sculptures once they were completed. You never read of Picasso or Caravaggio sticking extras into their paintings. Hell not even modern artists like Banksy, Pink Floyd or Zaha Hadid return to tweak their work once it's finished.

If it's not good enough for the original, it's not good enough for the reprints. "No Cheap Tricks". As Geoffrey Wolff once said.

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