Up until now I was on the fence, but today’s news made it official. We’ve gone too far.
James Cameron’s latest opus, Avatar, has grossed over $2.6 billion dollars worldwide. It’s the most successful film in the history of successful films. The studio has got to be pleased as punch, right? Well, kinda.
Seems those greedy bastards are whining about Alice in Wonderland taking away a bunch of Avatar‘s 3D screens this past weekend…as if the blue-people-extravaganze didn’t have four months to clean up at the box-office.
But don’t worry…the powers that be have a fix. They hope to re-release the film sometime this fall, complete with extra footage.
Now, we at MovieChopShop have made no bones about the fact that we’re not the biggest supporters of Avatar. While I liked it (but found it fairly standard), Shep and Hans downright loathed the film. We all agree, though, that it is a visual masterpiece.
But I’m going to try and keep my biases and film-criticism self out of this article. The problem I have with the re-release isn’t the content but the trend it’s completing.
It used to be that a studio released a movie in theaters. It finished a long run at the cinemas, then, after a very long gap, got released on video.
That’s all changed. Now a movie is in theaters for what feels like a blink of an eye, and then it gets released on home video almost immediately. AND most “event” movies get a “special edition,” “director’s cut,” or “extended edition.”
While nobody will argue that “extended editions” aren’t cool–the Bladerunner director’s and final cuts are the only way that film works–the gimmick is overblown. When silly comedies get an “unrated” cut and pieces of universally trashed garbage are released on “special edition” three-disc collections, the “extended cut” movement has shifted focus from presenting a director’s true vision to throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks…in order to make a quick buck.
And it’s worked for a long time. I’m guilty of grabbing the “unrated” cut of a movie, too. But the gimmick is wearing thin.
At this point, directors are shooting extra footage they know they don’t need or can’t include in the theatrical cut of the film just to put on the DVD. That hurts my soul. I love the idea of a theatrical film being the director’s best shot at a completed, artistic whole. When it serves as just a precursor to the “really good stuff” in the DVD release, the whole process of filmmaking loses a little credibility, and the movie becomes nothing more than a product. I know this is the reality of big-budget cinema, but I don’t have to like it. And in the past ten years, it’s gotten worse.
Now there is a new trend emerging…that of releasing multiple versions of a movie in the theater. Michael Bay’s Transformers 2 got an IMAX release with additional footage from the “normal” theatrical release. Other movies like the Harry Potter films and even The Dark Knight had either 3D or full-rez IMAX sequences you couldn’t see in traditional theaters. Now, I’m not saying this is in-and-of-itself a bad thing. I loved watching Batman fight bad guys in glorious 70mm, but the trend, itself, is troubling.
Now, Avatar is hoping to take this madness one step farther, releasing its “extended edition” in theaters less than a year after its original release, and AFTER the DVD release of the film. If this continues, will we see Iron Man and Spider-Man gain multiple theatrical releases? Will directors be expected to shoot additional footage for not just DVD special features but for possible additional theatrical releases as well?
More importantly, will big studios hold back the most complete cut of a film just so they can re-release a “better” version later and make a quick buck?
I know all of this is a way for studios to “think outside the box” about how to recoup cash on films that are costing significantly more and more money every year. Me, though, I think the answer is to make sure the quality of stories and characters in your film is above and beyond the normal “product” saturating the market. Make your ONE COMPLETE MOVIE the best it can possibly be, stand behind it as the best version of the movie, and market the hell out of it.
But that’s hard…so why not just throw in fifteen minutes of unnecessary drivel and release an additional theatrical and DVD release of the film. That way you can move your grosses from $2.6 billion to $2.8 billion.
Which gives you enough new cash to finance the next Chipmunks movie, complete with its 3D, extended, director’s, and ultimate cuts. Coming soon to a theater near you.