What makes Superman the world’s greatest superhero? How about the fact that Hollywood tried to screw him over twice, and both times, the Man of Tomorrow emerged from the ashes, better than before.
In 1977, the decision was made to film Superman and Superman II simultaneously, but after the success of the first movie, director Richard Donner was fired and a replacement director was brought in to complete the 1980 sequel. After almost three decades, Warner Brothers called Donner back to piece together his version of the film, retroactively titled Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Out went the comedic tone of the original, and a more refined version that better matched the tone of the first movie.
More recently, HBO Max and director Zack Snyder announced that the much-maligned 2017 Justice League, which has Superman alongside Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg, would be released under the watchful eye of Snyder, who filmed the original, but had to leave the movie during post-production after the death of his daughter. Director Joss Whedon was brought in to complete the movie but what was originally intended as a multi-arc Justice League series of movies was reduced to just one film, with many of the elements teased and set-up in Snyder’s 2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice removed.
Invested fans were not happy and have been clamouring for a #ReleaseTheSnyderCut since then. Slated for release in 2021, it remains to be seen how Snyder will finish his version since no refilming will be done, but it goes to show that the Hollywood system is no match for the Man of Steel.
Since news of the #SnyderCut was announced, fans from all corners of fandom have started to revisit past films that were actively retooled by the studio system, to have the original director’s vision be released. Superman’s journey into Hollywood isn’t new, as there have been numerous movies that have received interference from the faceless Hollywood system, only to fail at the box office.
Of course, some films have had the benefit of receiving a Director’s Cut on home video after the theatrical release, many which have revealed to be far superior to the studio version. The director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Kingdom of Heaven, along with Mark Johnson’s Daredevil are recognised as efforts that are better aligned with the director’s original vision.
In the case of Jackie Chan, who left Hong Kong in the 80s and ended up with the terrible Battle Creek Brawl and The Enforcer films, the action star went home and redid those films into much superior versions, better known to audiences as Project A and Police Story.
But that’s not to say that every director’s cut is appreciated by fans. George Lucas famously retooled his original Star Wars trilogy with updated special effects and changes to the original script (Han Shot First) again and again, much to the chagrin of fans.
And let’s face it – director’s cut of franchise killers, including Batman & Robin (1997), X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019), Fantastic Four (2015) won’t be made, since no one cares enough for them to begin with anyway.
Here are five movies that deserve to be revisited with a director’s cut.
Suicide Squad (2016)
With the announcement of #SnyderCut Justice League, fans of the DC Extended Universe are now approaching David Ayer for his version of his supervillain movie of the same name, Suicide Squad. While it was a massive hit in 2016, the plot and direction were lambasted by fans, as Warner Brothers toned down the violence and drama of Ayer’s original, preferring for a softer approach. Given that Ayer’s assembled an almost finished movie before it was re-edited by the studio, it would cost far less and take less time to reassemble #ReleaseTheAyerCut. Even Suicide Squad sequel director, James Gunn, said he’s open to watching Ayer’s original version. HBO Max, it’s your call.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Everyone knows Star Wars creator George Lucas cannot help but retool his famous franchise, much to the intense hatred by fans, but there is actually a group of fans who want the heavily rumoured but never confirmed 4-hour cut of Revenge of the Sith. What’s even more surprising is that Revenge is actually considered to be the best film from the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. Revenge still left some unanswered questions, like how Leia could possibly remember her mother, Padme, who died at childbirth, and with 15 years of retroactive continuity inserted in the timeline with various animated series, perhaps it is time for a longer, more precise version of the movie. Of course, with Lucas having sold the franchise to Disney, the question is if he would return, or if Disney, who has received harsh criticism for its Sequel Trilogy, even wants to spend money touching something sacred.
Alien 3 (1992)
The second sequel to the Alien franchise had auteur David Fincher in his directorial debut, but studio interference and a lack of creative freedom produced a movie that effectively destroyed a franchise that has since failed to recover from its former glory. Production famously started without complete sets, and an incomplete script, but with a directive to stick with the original release date. Decades later, a new version was assembled that was better received, but it was done without the contribution of Fincher, who has since disavowed the film. In the last two years, William Gibson’s unmade screenplay of Alien 3 has been adapted into a comic book as well as an audiobook, to great response. Meanwhile, fans probably just want a version where Newt and Hicks don’t die.
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
If there’s one thing that Star Wars proves, it’s that fans will never be happy. While some applaud JJ Abrams for successfully concluding a 40-year-old saga, others were not too pleased with elements that felt too rushed, or that denounced Rian Johnson’s 2017 The Last Jedi. There have been rumours of a Abrams cut that Disney reworked as the final version, but if we dial back at the dangling plot lines from The Last Jedi and include the death of Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa Solo), there was only so much JJ could have done, even with #ReleaseTheJJCut. Still, do or do not, there is no trying to make Star Wars fans happy but we can all appreciate what could have been.
In another example of Hollywood neutering the creativity of a famed director, Dune, based on the book of the same name, was a critical and commercial failure that critics and fans say deviated too much from the source material. The funny thing is, director and noted auteur David Lynch has refused to talk much about the troubled production, only to call it the only failure of his career. What is known is that he submitted a three-hour cut of the film but without final cut privileges, the studio effectively mangled the final version. There are at least three versions of the final film, but all were done without Lynch’s approval. And with a new version coming, there are forces who might want to disassociate the 1984 film from the new one, which makes a director’s cut even less of a possibility.