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The world will finally get to see Zack Snyder’s Justice League later this week after a years-long campaign of fan demand made the seemingly fabled alternate version to Justice League an absolute reality. While it’s a pretty huge benchmark in modern cinema history, it’s far from the only “definitive cut” that fans have debated about on the internet. Everything from the existence of the materials to complete said cuts, to whether or not the alternate version was worth the time, have come into discussion. And because of subjects like that, the following director’s cuts have been in the public eye for some time, whether you can watch them or not.
Suicide Squad: The Ayer Cut
We kind of have to get this in first, because just like Justice League, David Ayer’s Suicide Squad was a DC Extended Universe film that was “ripped to pieces,” according to Ayer’s own words. Even the trailers for the film showed variations of tone and moments that were supposed to be in the film, but found themselves getting the chop. Fans pushed for Zack Snyder’s Justice League and now they seem primed to continue the fight for “The Ayer Cut” of Suicide Squad; with the director himself claiming that this is the cut fans should be allowed to experience.
Batman v. Superman: The Ultimate Edition
If it wasn’t for the public reaction to the theatrical cut of Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, we may not have had to wait so long for Zack Snyder’s Justice League. A film that was dunked on so hard in theaters, the release of an R-rated Ultimate Edition had some people even more wary of the film that had already been savaged several times over in popular culture. But the extra 30 minutes added to the film’s Ultimate cut allowed the picture to breathe better, and fans have time and again voiced a prevailing sentiment that the Ultimate Edition is the superior version. Then again, if you’re not a Zack Snyder fan to begin with, it seems a bit unlikely that evenJena Malone briefly showing up would change your tune.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
All told, there are seven different cuts of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner, and each one tells a story of how it works and how it doesn’t. But Blade Runner: The Final Cut is, as far as Scott is concerned, the one that properly fits his vision. The greatest contribution to the discussion surrounding this film is, naturally, the question of whether or not Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard is a Replicant or not. And no matter what you think, Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott won’t be ending the discussion any time soon, as not even they can agree on a final verdict.
Star Wars: Original Trilogy Special Editions
The “special edition” revisions of George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy are probably one of the most hotly contested trios known to fans far and wide. That fire is only stoked further by the fact that you can’t officially get the “de-specialized” editions of those films, unless you spring for unofficial releases or pay an arm and a leg for their last issuance from the DVD era. Updated visual effects, as well as some questionable additions, make these Lucas-approved versions the black Bantha in the Star Wars family, leaving fans to hold out for hope that the theatrical versions of those films will see the light of day.
Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut
Sometimes the added details of a director’s cut aren’t as universally acclaimed as some would hope. Richard Kelly’s indie hit Donnie Darko is one of those alternate versions that some see as a bit too showy for its own good. The largest difference between Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut and its predecessor is the fact that the actual text to “The Philosophy of Time Travel” is revealed and explored explicitly throughout the movie’s course of events. Some feel that this new layer of knowledge ruins the open-ended beauty that reigned in this spooky, but bittersweet thriller. Meanwhile, if you were looking for the specifics of how the time travel works, and felt that the original cut was a bit light on details, the director’s cut felt like a deeper dive into a world you already loved.
Southland Tales: The Cannes Cut
While we’re on the subject of Richard Kelly’s alternate cuts, his cult favorite Southland Tales found fans longing to see the original version that competed at the Cannes Film Festival. Due to the deafening rejection of the film’s slightly longer version that debuted, Kelly cut the movie down, rearranged some pieces and added a bunch of exposition to fill the audience in on the cinematic universe he was (and still is) planning to unfurl. While the Cannes Cut is now available to fans, it’s not so much a definitive cut as a version that helps explain things a bit better. That said, even Richard Kelly himself is hoping to finally finish his vision with additional filming and some animated sequences.
Event Horizon: Paul W.S. Anderson’s Original Cut
When director Paul W.S. Anderson delivered his first cut of Event Horizon to Paramount, it was for a test screening of a film executives had never laid eyes on until that infamous moment. Containing gore and frights so extreme, some of the test audience allegedly passed out. Anderson was forced to cut the film by about 30 minutes, with the trimmings stored in a Transylvanian salt mine. While a VHS of the test screening version has been rumored to be floating around out there, Paul W.S. Anderson even admits that without some additional filming and de-aging, we’ll probably never see the full vision of the original film.
Alien: The Director’s Cut
Our last alternate cuts of distinction all come from the same universe, as the Alien saga has some rather interesting alternate editions in its history as well. Quite possibly the least controversial, and most widely accepted of the three, is 2003’s Alien: Director’s Cut. Director Ridley Scott actually made his 1979 film a minute shorter, with some tight editing, but also the inclusion of some moments that hadn’t made the final cut. The most notable addition is when Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) find Dallas (Tom Skeritt) in a Xenomorph cocoon, where he begs her to kill him in the name of mercy. It’s a chilling moment that makes a legendary film all the more memorable.
Aliens: The Special Edition
You could kind of say James Cameron was the Zack Snyder of Hollywood back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, especially when discussing the director’s work on the Special Edition of Aliens. With 20 minutes of footage being restored into the film, there’s a mixed attitude as to whether or not these additions really improve the film or not. On one hand, learning about Ripley’s daughter and seeing Sigourney Weaver’s protagonist have an emotional reaction is something people can get behind. However, there’s also a contingent of fans that feel the added scenes showing the lives of the colonists on Hadley’s Hope, specifically the family of Newt (Carrie Henn) ruin the air of mystery that was once present in the theatrical version.
Alien 3: Assembly Cut
If you thought we were going to discuss Alien franchise alternate cuts and not bring up the Assembly Cut version of Alien 3, then you’re sorely mistaken. One of the most stressful productions when it comes to the battle of studio and filmmaker, David Fincher’s personal hell making his feature film debut left him refusing to even take part in an official Director’s Cut for the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set. The Assembly Cut adds a lot of additional context that sets up the various prisoners of Fiorina 161, changes the animal variant that the Xenomorph mutates from in the first act and even reverts Ripley’s death into a Chestburster-free affair. It’s not the magic bullet that fixes everything back to David Fincher’s original vision, but Alien 3’s assembly cut is a definite improvement that shows what could have been.
Whatever the public reaction to Zack Snyder’s Justice League may be, it cannot be denied that the man’s vision will finally be presented once and for all. Now, everyone will be able to debate which version is truly better, where the actual failings of the 2017 film may be and ultimately whether or not the Snyderverse should be restored. Yet another exciting addition to the halls of these long debated alternatives is about to take shape, starting on March 18th with the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League; which will be available on HBO Max, as well as various methods of purchase and rental. Be sure to check out the six-month prepaid subscription discount, should you not already have access to the platform.