Although Man of Steel ushered in the DC Extended Universe in 2013, most will agree that 2016 was the year this franchise fully kicked off. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice introduced Superman's future Justice League teammates, while Suicide Squad focused on the more villainous side of this world. While expanding this universe is definitely welcome, there's another thing these two movies share in common: releasing extended cuts on home media. Batman v Superman's Ultimate Edition added 30 minutes of unseen content, while Suicide Squad's Extended Cut will include 13 minutes of extra footage when it's released digitally next month and on Blu-ray/DVD in December. It's too soon to tell whether this is going to be the norm now for DC movies, but it begs the question of whether or not these cuts of the movies should be the one released in theaters rather than be saved for home release. In other words, the only version.
Let's look back on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice fared with its extended cut. Although the theatrical cut certainly had its passionate supporters, it received a lot of negative reviews from both critics and general moviegoers. One of the common complaints was that the movie's story felt disjointed and uneven. To amend that, the Ultimate Edition added a half hour of content, including a longer version of the Africa sequence moments that provided much-needed clarification regarding Lex Luthor's plans. The general consensus was that narratively (if not necessarily tonally), it was an improved movie. So why wasn't this the version shown in theaters? Well, aside from 3-hour-runtime decreasing the number of screenings a theater could show, the extra violence boosted the rating to R, thus making it harder to market to younger audiences.
Ok, that makes sense as a one-time thing, but then that brings us to early August when Suicide Squad hit theaters. Like Batman v Superman, it did well for itself financially, but was earned a lot of negative reception. While director David Ayer proclaimed that the Suicide Squad shown in theaters is "his cut," Warner Bros has decided to give the "extended cut" treatment to the villain team-up adventure. It remains to be seen how much these extra minutes will affect the main Suicide Squad story, although much of the added content looks like it will be those excised Joker and Harley Quinn scenes. However, let's assume that this cut of Suicide Squad is "better," i.e. helps the story flow smoother. Why didn't they just release this version in theaters?
Right now, DC releasing these extended cuts makes it look like they're trying to recover some goodwill from people who were disappointed by what was shown in theaters. Perhaps that could have been avoided had Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad just aired these longer versions on the big screen. If they have a product that's qualitatively better, but they're choosing to air something that's not as good in theaters just so they can squeeze some extra money from fans months later, it's very shifty. Would any of this guarantee exceptional reviews? Obviously not, but if there's a likelier chance that these versions will be better received by all types of moviegoers, isn't it work the risk?
It's true that making a movie longer decreases the number of times it can be screened in a theater, but if said movie is receiving better reception, be it through a written review or through word of mouth, that ideally means more people will flock to see it. More people means more ticket sales, which would eventually even out the difference, if not soar to even higher levels. Plus, most of time when people buy a movie for themselves on Blu-ray/DVD/digitally, they want to re-experience what they saw in theaters. Obviously there are exceptions, like Blade Runner, but if DC keeps releasing extended cuts of their movies on home media which end up being better than the theatrical versions, what's to stop people from skipping that trip to the theater and just waiting a little longer to experience something more enjoyable in the comfort of their own home? Ideally the studio will take all this into account next year with Wonder Woman and Justice League.
What do you think? Should DC and Warner Bros just make their extended cuts the main versions being shown in theaters, or do they only make for a fun watch on home media? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.
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