Friday, February 20, 2009

First Shot: The worst cut is the deepest

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 11:34 AM

Yeah, yeah, itâ??s another Watchmen post from me â?? but donâ??t worry; this one has a slightly loftier purpose than sounding the alarm that a project that looked highly promising a mere two weeks ago is starting to show tell-tale symptoms of the suck.

Whatâ??s raised my eyebrow, Spock/Quinto-like, is that so many fanboys are hailing director Zack Snyder as a valiant hero for shooting enough footage for a three-hour-and-10-minute DVD directorâ??s cut. So far, only slashfilm seems to have pointed out the real issue, which is that the theatrical cut has dropped to about two and a half hours â?? when just a few months ago, Snyder was depicting himself as locked in a pitched battle with the studio to keep it at a supposedly essential two and three quarters. (Reportedly, a story beat I personally consider crucial thematically has been omitted â?? I guess to preserve the all-important shots of people running away from exploding objects in slow motion.) In other words, he caved.

And therein lies my cavil. In this post-Lord of the Rings era, itâ??s become perfectly acceptable for moviemakers to edit almost haphazardly, as long as they float a pre-emptive promise that thereâ??s more where that came from. Snyderâ??s own Dawn of the Dead remake represented Ground Zero of this phenomenon: When it was released for home viewing, I heard several renters happily declare that the character arcs that had been im-damn-penetrable in the theatrical version were â??much clearerâ?� now. Well, smack my ass and call me Phreddy Philistine, but I like my movies to make sense the first time.

Frankly, Iâ??m over the â??directorâ??s cutâ?� business anyway. By the time the average modern commercial film has been marketed in every extant format and had the last nickel squeezed out of it, weâ??ve endured so many alternate versions, test endings and deleted scenes that not even the MPAA can remember what was actually in the thing in the first place. You end up performing a kind of mental cherry-picking, preserving the stuff you liked and assembling it in your head as an â??ideal versionâ?� that exists only for you (and which the studios will no doubt be eager to sell you, beamed directly into your brain, as soon as nanobot technology so permits).

Pardon me, but this is supposed to be cinema, not a build-your-own-adventure story. How about this instead: Everybody involved just acknowledges upfront that film is a collaborative art, that neither the directorâ??s nor the audienceâ??s wishes are paramount, and that whatever gets released to theaters on opening day will be the movie â?? now and forever more? After all, thereâ??s a reason Melville did not release Moby Dick in a Deluxe Edition with a coda about Ahabâ??s redemptive friendship with Charlie the Tuna. And it isnâ??t that Star-Kist backed out of the deal when it took a gander at the â??adult content.â?�


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