In praise of alternate versions…

Writing about Justice League last night made me think about other movies with alternate versions. Usually these are extended cuts and often they come into being because a film suffered some kind of excessive meddling from the studio late in production.

I think my favorite example of the latter is I Am Legend. The theatrical release had a different ending than was originally scripted that has Will Smith’s character blow himself up to save the “cure.” The real ending (yeah, it’s the real one) sees Smith’s Dr. Neville acknowledge the monsters’ right to exist by freeing the subject he’d been studying so she can return to her mate. It’s much more interesting and it preserves the central theme from the novel the movie was based on–that Neville, in trying to restore his world is the monster, the legend, to the others, to the vampires.

For extended cuts, another great example is Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. It’s an often overlooked movie, but one I really enjoy. As a presentation of the actual history of the crusades, it’s utter poppycock, of course, but Scott isn’t doing history. It works as an allegory for our own religious divisions and has some great speeches from the main character played by Orlando Bloom. Of course, that’s all that’s great about Bloom’s, um, shall we say stoically restrained performance, but that’s why the extended edition is so much better as it rightly hands much more of the movie over to Eva Green. Because if you have Eva Green, you give the movie to Eva Green, by God.

But my favorite alternate version has to go to my #2 movie of all time, the Best Action Movie of All TimeTM: Aliens. The extended cut doesn’t change the outcome of the movie like I Am Legend, nor does it transform any characters’ motivations like Kingdom, but it does add such a richer subtext to Ripley’s journey. Really, it’s the only version worth talking about.

Those are the ones that spring immediately to my mind, but maybe I’ll amend this post as I think of others.

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