It’s not uncommon for a movie to be released to theaters and not be the director’s true vision. Studio interference, budget issues and many other reasons can lead to this happening. Many times, the version of a film released to theaters is cut in a way that the studio believes will be the most profitable. That means things like length, violence and intense scenes are always in danger of being left on the cutting room floor in favor of less artistic, but easier to sell films instead. Usually, directors are given a second chance on home video. Director’s cuts (or extended / unrated cuts) give audiences a chance to see what was originally intended for a film.
Most times, this improves the final product. In fact, if a film is released to theaters that’s been butchered by too many edits, the director’s cut can save its reputation. Of course, there are also plenty of examples of the theatrical version being superior. It turns out, sometimes studios recognize problems and fix them in the edit, and the director was wrong to disagree. Here are both 7 films that were saved by alternate cuts, and 8 that just couldn’t be saved!
15. RUINED: SPIDER-MAN 2.1
While this might be a bit of a controversial opinion, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.1 is inferior to the classic Spider-Man 2 (2004). The original version is still considered one of the best comic book movies of all time. As Peter Parker struggles to balance his life as Spider-Man while going to college, the villainous Dr. Octopus launches a plan that could possibly destroy New York City.
While the extended cut does add a lot more action to the train sequence, and includes some nice character moments between Peter and Harry Osborn, there’s one inclusion that ruins the whole thing: Jameson gets his hands on the Spider-Man costume, puts it on and jumps around his office pretending to be the hero. The moment is meant to be funny, but it’s just too over the top and doesn’t fit Jameson’s character in any way. The movie was better off without it.
14. SAVED: SPIDER-MAN 3: EDITOR’S CUT
After making two very successful and highly praised Spider-Man movies, studio interference ultimately ruined Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 (2007). Sandman, Venom and the New Goblin crowded the story with too many villains, there are cringe-worthy scenes of Peter dancing while supposedly under the influence of the Venom symbiote, and Harry’s butler randomly reveals a huge plot detail seemingly out of nowhere towards the end of the film.
In 2017, Sony announced the release of the Editor’s Cut. While it doesn’t completely fix the film (the cringey dancing Peter is still in this cut), it definitely improves the film. Sandman is given another scene with his daughter, and Peter is shown struggling with the symbiote more. It also cuts out a scene with Harry’s butler, instead having Harry decide to help his friends on his own. This cut doesn’t save the film, but it’s a much better version than the theatrical.
13. RUINED: SUICIDE SQUAD
The production of Suicide Squad (2016) may have been more interesting than the movie itself. Extensive reshoots were ordered on the film, and according to rumors, this was mainly due to the negative reaction to Batman V Superman (2016). The reshoots were apparently intended to give the film a lighter tone than originally planned. The final result, however, felt like two separate movies crammed into one.
When an extended edition was announced, fans were hopeful that this meant that the original version of the film would see the light of day. Instead, this was just a longer version of the theatrical cut. While more scenes were added, they didn’t do much to fix the film’s problems (lack of character development for Killer Croc, the Joker still feels like a randomly inserted character). The extended cut is just a longer version of a very flawed film.
12. SAVED: BATMAN V SUPERMAN: EXTENDED CUT
While the movie has its fans, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) was a flawed flick. The overly complicated plot failed to connect all of the loose threads, and the end result was criticized by many for being unnecessarily confusing. Characters’ motivations never felt fully defined, and it felt like Superman was a guest star in a Batman movie to many fans.
When the film was released on home video, it came with an extended R-rated cut. This version of the film, which included more violence, also helped flesh out the plot. The main addition was more details about the incident in Africa, and Lex’s attempts to frame Superman. These added scenes also have the benefit of giving Lois actual investigative work to do, making her a much larger, and more central, part of the film.
11. RUINED: FANTASTIC FOUR
While it may not be the best comic book movie ever, Fantastic Four (2005) was a decent attempt to bring Marvel’s first family to the big screen. The film attempted a lighter, more comedic tone that fit the source material. The final result wasn’t a home run, but it was a decent film (and much better than the gritty 2015 reboot). There were, however, some plot holes and issues that could’ve been fixed in the extended cut.
Unfortunately, the eventual extended cut instead mostly added more scenes of the characters examining their powers, including an odd scene where Reed transforms his face to look like Wolverine. There’s also a creepy scene of Johnny using his flame powers to heat up an elevator to get women to take off their clothes, which really doesn’t help the supposedly family-friendly tone of the film.
10. SAVED: X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST: THE ROGUE CUT
Released in 2014, X-Men: Days of Future Past was a return to form for the film series. It brought together the casts from the original movies with the newer cast from the reboot X-Men: First Class (2011). The film was well received, with many praising it for using time travel to deal with the series’ many continuity problems. The only real issue with the movie was that Rogue, played by Anna Paquin, was famously cut from the film after filming had wrapped.
This was remedied in 2015 with The Rogue Cut, which reinserted the character’s subplot into the film. This cut shows the ramifications of Kitty being wounded by Wolverine, and also shows more of the dark future and the sentinel’s base of operations. All in all, this movie fills in some of the blanks on an already improved narrative.
9. RUINED: SIN CITY
In 2005, Robert Rodriguez released Sin City, one of the most unique comic book movies ever filmed. Based on the series by Frank Miller, the director filmed the movie to look just like the noir styled, black and white comics. He also brought Miller on to co-direct the film with him. The film was visually stunning and told four different, unconnected stories from Sin City, instead of trying to tie everything together into one, cohesive plot.
The film was a success, and a special edition was quickly announced for home video. This version included the theatrical version, along with extended versions of each segment. Instead of one movie, this version presents each segment separately. While the added scenes are nice, the new version just felt like four mediocre short films as opposed to one great movie.
8. SAVED: DAREDEVIL
Back when comic book movies were just starting to take over movie theaters, Daredevil (2003) was released to unenthusiastic responses. While the casting of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner as Daredevil and Elektra wasn’t super popular, the main issue seemed to be with the movie’s story, which attempted to cram the entire Elektra saga into one film, along with the fall of the Kingpin.
A director’s cut was released in 2004, and while it didn’t fix every issue with the film, it did flesh out some of the plot points. Mainly, a new subplot is introduced about Matt defending a wrongly accused man, whose trial ends up revealing evidence that takes down the Kingpin. This made the ending, where Wilson Fisk ends up in jail, feel a lot less random than it did in the theatrical version.
7. RUINED: ELEKTRA DIRECTOR’S CUT
It’s hard to say that the director’s cut of Elektra (2005) ruined the movie, because the original was already so lackluster. It definitely didn’t help, however. Spinning off from Daredevil (2003), the movie saw Elektra returned to life after her death. The plot involves the assassin being hired to kill a little girl, but then becoming her friend and taking on the Hand. Almost every aspect of this film was criticized, whether it was the stiff acting or the poorly written script.
Unlike the Daredevil director’s cut, which added almost a half hour of footage, the Elektra director’s cut only added about three minutes. These few extra moments barely changed the film, and didn’t fix any of the major issues. All they did was take a bad movie and make it slightly longer.
6. SAVED: SUPERMAN II: RICHARD DONNER CUT
During the production of Superman (1978), director Richard Donner also shot scenes for a sequel concurrently. Unfortunately, issues between Donner and the producers prevented Donner from finishing the sequel. Richard Lester was brought on as the new director, and many scenes (but not all) were re-shot, and Superman II (1980) was more of a Lester movie than a Donner film.
In 2006, however, the original Donner footage was retrieved and was combined with Lester’s footage to create Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. While not a perfect film, it felt more in line with the tone of the first Superman movie, whereas Lester’s cut included more slapstick elements. While it’s not a true director’s cut, it offers a glimpse into what Donner originally intended for the sequel.
5. RUINED: GHOST RIDER EXTENDED CUT
After redeeming himself with Daredevil: The Director’s Cut (2004), director Mark Steven Johnson moved on to Ghost Rider (2007). Starring super-fan Nicolas Cage, the film wasn’t exactly met with a fiery response. While not hated, Cage’s typically over the top performance didn’t blend with the uninspired plot. The movie ended up being financially successful, although it seemed to be quickly forgotten by audiences.
When the film was released on home video, it came with an extended cut. While many were hoping for a repeat of Johnson’s Daredevil, it wasn’t meant to be. This version added 15 minutes to the film, but it was mostly just extended versions of scenes, mostly focused on Johnny’s awkward emotional journey, none of which really landed. The result was a movie with an even slower pace without any real added substance.
4. SAVED: THE WOLVERINE
Out of all the X-Men films, The Wolverine (2013) is the easiest to forget. It’s a shame, because the movie is actually pretty good. The film, based on the work of comic book legends Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, features Wolverine traveling to Japan and facing off against ninjas and the Silver Samurai.
While successful, the film also has the lowest domestic box office of the entire X-Men franchise. The extended edition, however, probably would’ve performed much better. Unshackled from the MPAA rating system, this cut is more violent and full of bloodier action (there’s also more swearing). While those things don’t necessarily make a film better, they definitely work for a character like Wolverine. The extended cut takes a solid story and adds the R-rated violence that Wolverine is meant to bask in.
3. RUINED: SPAWN DIRECTOR’S CUT
When it was first released, Spawn (1997) wowed audiences, though admittedly, not many critics. Since then, Spawn hasn’t aged very well. The film tells the basic origin of the Image Comics character, featuring the murder of Al Simmons, who agrees to come back to Earth for vengeance in exchange for servitude to Malebolgia, a ruler in Hell. Simmons eventually frees himself, finds justice and becomes Spawn.
The film was rated PG-13 when it was released to theaters, so eventually an R-rated cut was released, which was dubbed the director’s cut. While this cut is slightly more violent, it doesn’t add much to the film. Simmons’ death was given more detail, but all this did was add more subpar special effects to a movie that already had too much of that.
2. SAVED: WATCHMEN
It might be one of the most celebrated comic book stories of all time, but Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen (1986) did not make a universally beloved film. Released in 2009, it was met with a mixed response when it first hit screens. Many critics (and audience members) felt that the story was just too massive for one film, and the result was an overly-complicated mess. Also, Zack Snyder’s slick style was called out for not being appropriate for the grim source material.
There have actually been several extended cuts of Watchmen (2009), but the best is probably the director’s cut. The major addition to this version is a subplot about the original Nite Owl getting murdered, which involves a tragic yet beautifully shot segment where the elderly hero flashes back to fighting costumed villains while he’s being beaten to death by modern day gang members.
1. RUINED: THE PUNISHER: EXTENDED CUT
The Punisher just can’t catch a break at the movies. He’s had three theatrical films, and none of them have connected with audiences. The most high profile attempt came in 2004 with The Punisher, starring Thomas Jane. While Jane’s performance was generally well received, the film’s plot and tone were criticized for being overly complicated and inconsistent. Also, there was relatively little action for this type of film.
The extended cut not only doesn’t help these problems, it actually exacerbates some. An animated intro is included that shows Frank’s history in the army, and a subplot is added about one of his friends betraying him to the mob. While it adds more tragedy to Frank’s origin, that was the one thing the film wasn’t lacking. Ultimately, all these scenes do is ruin the pacing of an already slow moving story.
Can you think of any other director’s cuts that changed the movie in question for better or worse? Let us know in the comments!
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