BLOGBUSTERS Whats So Special About Special Editions?

The SFX blogging team try to decide if any sci-fi or fantasy special edition has ever been worth parting with cash for?

THIS WEEK’S BLOGBUSTER QUESTION: Has there ever been a sci-fi or fantasy video, DVD or Blu-ray special edition that has improved on the original movie?

The Abyss DVD Special edition is always worth a mention. Not only does it add a good 20 of so minutes of solid footage, but it fundamentally changes the narrative message of the film towards the end and makes the squidy underwater aliens appear far more threatening than they come off in the theatrical version.
.

.

.

For a “Director’s” or “Special Edition” to work I think you’re talking about re-cutting a film to add scenes that were always intend to be there in the director’s original vision, where there’s been a compromise over narrative and a shorter theatrical run time. When scenes can be woven back into the narrative with care and thought then I think that can sometimes vastly improve a film or at the very least bring a new and more involving version. Several films come to mind straight away; the three Lord Of The Rings special edition DVDs by Peter Jackson would be top of that list. I’d also mention the video/DVD special editions of James Cameron’s Aliens and Abyss films and finally the Blu-Ray Director’s Cut of Watchmen . All the special editions I’ve mentioned are better than the theatrical version in my opinion. These longer versions of already good films add layers of character moment, background and second tier plots that, for me, make a much richer viewing experience and an over all more rounded film. If done well the home viewing market is the perfect medium to slow the pace down and take a bit more time to tell your story. The films I've mentioned are my preferred version of those films and are the version that I choose to watch at home.

That’s not to say that the original version of these films aren’t perfectly acceptable; I think you’ve got to have a good film to begin with for there to be a decent “Director” or “Special Edition” to work. The addition of deleted scenes or re-editing can rarely make a rubbish film suddenly into a masterpiece and can on occasion turn a very good film into a complete mess.

.

So I’ll stick with no. I’m sure someone here will remind me of what I’m forgetting, but I just can’t think of a movie that fits this description. I can, however, tell you of one that dropped the ball. And I don’t mean that recent one, either. Goonies , I’m looking at you. Please, powers that be, put the octopus and the convenience store back into the film itself and not just in the outtakes section. I, for one, would appreciate it.

.

And the thing is for me they never can improve on the original movie because it isn’t just the storyline, it’s the experience. For me – my cinema trips being so infrequent (I have small children ergo if I have a babysitter I am going to the pub!) that the film is just part of the pleasure. The sitting in the dark room (with no children – cinema with small children will involve me having to leave at least twice on toilet and disaster runs so I take my knitting!) with snacks and stupidly large, expensive drinks and immersing myself in the experience, being surrounded by the sound, being caught up in the moment…How can any DVD on my tiny little telly, no matter what features have been added or subtracted, compete or be better than that?

.

Affleck is much better in the role than most people give him credit for, and even the woefully-miscast Jennifer Garner enjoys some decent scenes (their playground tango being a particular favourite). In both versions, of course, Colin Farrell steals every scene he’s in, and his bite marks can be seen whenever he comes into contact with a piece of furniture. Gleeful madness.

So, if you kind of liked Daredevil, try the Director’s Cut. You’ll probably enjoy it a whole lot more.

.

Deleted scenes always fascinate me because they show you some of the other things the film makers were trying, things that worked and were cut for time and things that didn’t. Aliens , it turns out, is an amazingly complete story which was made even more complete, even more nuanced, by the cut material. I love the brief glimpse we get of Hadley’s Hope colony – especially as it’s being run by the mighty Mac Macallister – and I love the little character beats, especially the exchange of first names between Ripley and Hicks, even more.

But the real crowning glory of the Director’s Cut is the robosentry sequence. It’s the quintessential James Cameron, a fundamentally wacky concept delivered with an absolutely straight face and looking for all the world like something real and practical. I’m a total design nut and the functional, tough looking robosentires are one of the best designs in a film crammed with them. However, what makes the sequence fly is the way that it changes the tone of the film. It instills much more of a sense of urgency and imminent threat as the aliens come back at the marines much faster and in much greater numbers. Plus, the actual attack itself is a masterpiece of tension, thanks to Cameron showing the assault but focusing more on the terrified marines watching the ammo counters run down. They are ten rounds, just ten, from death and the moment where the unflappable Hicks grabs his gun and gets ready for a hopeless last stand only drives that home.

Aliens is a masterpiece but the Director’s Cut is a restored masterpiece, the dirt and grim and compromise needed to get it released peeled away to reveal a film that still sits as one of the gold standards for modern science fiction/action movies. Like the marines themselves, Aliens has often been out numbered but it’s never, even now, been outgunned.