DC doesn’t stand for Director’s Cut, ya know...
by Scott Saffran
Staff Extension Enemy
2016 was to be the coming out party for the DC Entertainment Universe. When the Marvel Cinematic Universe was launched with 2008’s Iron Man, DC was still in the process of producing their box office-shattering Dark Knight Trilogy. DC was well behind the ball, and desperately needed to play catch-up to reach the ever-increasing returns of Marvel’s ever-expanding universe of films. 2011’s Green Lantern was the first attempt at producing a film for a DC property outside of Batman and Superman and it was absolute garbage. So, DC readjusted to give it another go in 2013 with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. The end result was not for everyone and diverted significantly from historical presentations of Superman, but it was well-made and certainly fit the bill as a potential foundation for a world of DC films.
Three years later, the two first true entries in this world would be Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS) and Suicide Squad. I had a lot of hope for these two films; in hindsight, I had a stupid amount of hope that promised inevitable disappointment. Suffice to say, they were quite bad. Not as bad as Green Lantern, but pretty damn bad. There were highlights: Ben Affleck presented the singular best movie Batman we have ever seen and the Will Smith/Margot Robbie train pulled their collective weight. But as complete movies, BvS and Suicide Squad fell far short of the many expectations comicbook fans had set out for them.
“Fear not!” the Warner Bros. called, “We can make it all better!”
“How?” we asked, “What could you possibly have to repair these disasters?”
“Extended Editions,” they replied.
Extended Edition Blu-Rays, DVDs, VHS, or what-have-you, are no new concept for cinephiles. Many celebrated films have longer cuts representative of the director’s vision for the film which was just a bit too long for the average theater-going audience. Such releases are often labeled the “Director’s Cut” and may or may not be an improvement upon the original cut. I generally take no issue with this. I would prefer a movie to be a complete piece of the artist’s vision, but I do understand the limits and constraints of modern cinema. This concept of the Extended Edition, presented by Warner Brothers Studios as a way to remedy their failures on the big screen, is what boils my blood.
The Extended Edition is the concession of defeat. It is the last-ditch attempt to make peace with the fans they knew they would disappoint in place of the original effort which they should have made. The Extended Edition is the admission that the artisan was excluded from the process.
Marvel Studios does not release Extended Editions nor Director’s Cuts. While a studio like Marvel may have shorter reigns than some of their peers, they do not snap those reigns back whenever the path seems to give even the slightest bump. I do not endorse Zach Snyder as a director, but I can see clearly where his vision was trampled by the hive mind at Warner Bros. Marvel sets out a canvas and a selection of paints for their artists. What the artist does with those implements is mostly up to him or her; the finished product is what the director conceives given the tools made available. Warner Bros. allows their artists to select the canvas and paints of their liking, but tears away the brush to amend the work to their own pleasure. The inevitably marred piece is a disappointment, and thus Warner hands it back to the artist to restore the original vision. The artist makes his attempt, but the scars cannot hope to be covered in a convincing fashion.
With the announcement of a forthcoming Extended Edition of Suicide Squad, I can only shake my head in melancholic pity. I genuinely feel bad for David Ayer. Had he been given autonomous control over his brush, I’m certain he would have painted a picture worth viewing. The Extended Edition will not miraculously turn this Harley Quinn marketing machine masquerading as a movie into a good film. Sure, we’ll get a few extra scenes to round out the experience a bit more, but it cannot hope to fix the nonsensical plot or the complete misuse of talent. In the end, it remains that admission of defeat.
When I see a DVD branded EXTENDED EDITION, I see a movie by committee. I see a disaster patched up and presented as a novelty. I see a filmmaker crushed by the enterprise. I see a desperate bid to mend a public image so trashed by failure. To the men and women at DC Comics and Warner Bros., I encourage adherence to an old adage: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”.