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The 'Extended Edition' Culture
It's a term that gets thrown around a lot with home releases at the moment. With the current trend in the DC Extended Universe of releasing an extra fifteen to thirty minutes of cut content onto the blu-ray releases of both Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad, I'm starting to notice a trend in home movie releases. One that I've seen before...
One of my biggest hobbies is video gaming. Since I was a kid I've had a thing for turning on a console and fully immersing myself into a 3D platformer, a trend that sticks with me to this day. But, I've stuck mainly to games from the PS1/PS2 era for one very simple reason. You get a complete game.
Since the Xbox 360 and PS3, games have had portions cut out of them and rebranded back to us as DLC, or downloadable content. And since then big developers and publishers have seen at as a way to sponge extra money out of gamers.
One of the worst cases of this was the release of 'Star Wars: Battlefront' for the next generation systems. For a full price game, it came with a barebones single player campaign, and a few multiplayer maps, which were online use only. The season pass for the game was almost the same price as the full release, making the complete package for the game around £100. And no game is worth that much.
But this isn't the only game guilty of it. Plenty of newer release titles like Call of Duty, Battlefield, all of them are packaged and shipped as half a game. The rest is then sold back to you £7-£10 at a time.
And Movie Studios Are Taking Notes...
More recently, movie studios have started to mimic this trend of the video game industry of exorcising parts of the film to then repackage it back to the public as an 'extended edition'. I mentioned the two DCEU movies 'Batman Vs Superman' and 'Suicide Squad' earlier. When both movies were released in cinemas, it didn't take the people at Warner Brothers long to announce that extended editions where being released of each movie. 'BVS' even had an extra scene released on their YouTube page within a matter of hours after the first screenings started running.
Peter Jackson's 'Hobbit' Trilogy is an even better example. One book (shorter than any entry in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) was turned into three films. There are those that like the Hobbit films, and I am included in that demographic. I don't think the Hobbit movies are bad by any stretch of the imagination, especially the second. I just think that - with Jackson's work on the original 'Lord of the Rings' movies in mind - the Hobbit would've been better served as just one or two films at most.
And in true LOTR fashion, only a couple of years after the Hobbit movies finished their theatre run, extended edition of all three films were announced. So if you watch the entire collection of Middle Earth movies in their extended edition formats, you spend over 20 hours across six films.
There Is a Way To Do It Right...
Extended Editions aren't anything new, and people have been doing them right for decades. Possibly the most infamous of the extended edition releases is 'Blade Runner', which has had multiple cuts and extensions over the years. But the beauty of the different versions, for the most part, is that each different edition gives a different outlook on the overall story. Be it an alternative ending or a slant towards a different character, the story of Blade Runner has evolved over time. And that's how extended editions should work.
Another, more recent, Ridley Scott movie is 'The Martian'. 'The Martian' was a superb movie on its own, and the extended edition simply offered explanations on minor questions that were sacrificed answers in the theatrical cut to benefit the story. Did we need to know what Mark Watney was doing for a toilet? No. Are our lives improved by this knowledge after watching the extended cut? Probably not. But there are those that enjoy knowing these answers to those questions, and the extended edition of The Martian silences that particular pub debate.
What Should A Home Release Do?
I enjoy extended editions, as a movie fan and as a writer. It gives me a way to explore the world I enjoyed the first time in a new way, and learn more about it. But, what I object to, is the bastardisation of a movie and creating a mediocre product only for it to then be resold to me simply to make a little extra money.
An extended edition should enrich the experience of an already good film, not try and apologise for churning out mediocrity. The original LOTR trilogy is enriched by it's extended editions, whereas Suicide Squad cut content that was arguably needed.