Terry Zwigoff must be the only director in history to make a director’s cut that’s shorter than the original. Unfortunately, he does so by arbitrarily slicing a bunch of scenes from the theatrical release (largely, the funny scenes), and changing the ending to boot. The result is an eviscerated mess that has little of the original’s hilarious blacker-than-black charm, and leaves you not really caring at all whether the dwarf shoots Billy Bob’s character at the end of the movie.
Richard Kelly’s post-Donnie Darko career (Southland Tales, The Box) presents a convincing case that giving him complete artistic control perhaps isn’t such a great idea — as does his cut of what remains his sole masterpiece. Like a David Lynch film, part of Donnie Darko‘s appeal was its enduring ambiguity, which was summarily ruined by the director’s cut. He messed with the music, too.
Apocalypse Now Redux
While the extra scenes were interesting enough, they didn’t add a great deal to the film, and they turned what was an already taxing 153-minute epic into an ass-numbing 202-minute endurance test. Studios have been rightly heaped with opprobrium over the years for messing with directors’ artistic visions, but they do have a point when they argue that not everyone wants to sit through a three-and-a-half-hour film…
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
…which brings us onto Lord of the Rings. At worst, “director’s cut” can come to mean “extravagantly long, completely unrestrained and entirely unedited cut.” The sort of fans who dress up as Legolas at conventions probably played ballads of joy on their lutes at the idea of a 250-minute version of The Return of the King. The rest of us, however, have things to do.
Star Wars: A New Hope
Not content with making largely dreadful prequels, George Lucas also had to go and “improve” the classic Star Wars films. By adding Jar Jar Binks to them. A shining example of why it’s a good idea to leave things alone.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
More needless fiddling with a movie that didn’t require fiddling with. The extra scenes add length but no depth, which means that even if this cut isn’t offensively bad, it’s fundamentally pointless. (Except for the two seconds of footage that explains how Sarah Connor managed to tell the two Terminators apart in the big smelting factory thing at the end — that never made sense in the original.)
The Last of the Mohicans
And yet another for the “if it ain’t broke” file. The volume of the soundtrack gets turned down, various lines of dialogue are summarily chopped, and fans scream blue murder. Honestly, why do directors feel the need to do this?
Because, like, the world needs a four-disc edition of a Michael Bay film. If a director’s cut of Transformers is ever released, we’re moving to Mars.
The French Connection
In which William Friedkin personally supervises the transfer of his 1971 masterpiece onto cutting-edge Blu-Ray media and, um, makes a complete bollocks of it. Friedkin decided to mess with the color, giving the film what the New York Times described as a “raw, chilly look.” Fans who shelled out for a new copy of the film were not impressed — but not half as upset as cinematographer Owen Roizman, who wasn’t consulted about the new version and described it as “atrocious, emasculated and horrifying.”
Or was it genius? Fans will argue this one until the cows come home.