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On multiple versions of movies


For my class on the history of Hellenistic Greece and Rome, I was supposed to watch Oliver Stone’s Alexander. For some reason, when ordering my texts, I started to purchase it, then realized I already had it and thought maybe I was supposed to order Troy (which takes place in pre-Hellenic Greece) instead, which I did, paying a bit more than I would normally be willing. I tend to get these movies confused because they both came out in 2004 and both are war movies set in the same general era (which is about like confusing King Ralph and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves because they both came out in 1991, were both about the English monarchy and set in the same general era, except more so because Alexander is based on something that definitely really happened). Last night, I went to watch it, then checked the lesson plan and found I was supposed to watched the director’s cut of Alexander. I mentally kicked myself for wasting money, then booted up the PS3 and queued up Alexander.

Before getting into the movie, I decided to watch Oliver Stone’s introduction. He explained the he liked the director’s cut better than the theatrical, but with this version, he got carte blanche to edit the movie however he wanted without any regard for running time, critics or even audiences. I stopped the disk, ran up and hopped on Wikipedia and found out that, sure enough, while the final cut, which I had, was the real director’s there was something called the director’s cut which was more directory than the theatrical release, but less than the final cut. This is what I was supposed to watch.

My professor gave me the okay to use what I have, but waiting for his response wasted many precious hours. This brings me to a pet peeve I have about home video: movies which have multiple versions available, but only put one version on home video or make you buy multiple copies to get all versions. There are plenty of good examples. I have copies of Hancock, I Am Legend, Dark City, Battle for the Planet of the Apes and Blade Runner with the theatrical cut and extended versions (in Blade Runner’s case, there are five cuts of the movie included), and this is just what I have on Blu-ray. On the other hand, besides the aforementioned Alexander, Windtalkers and Live Free or Die Hard have only the theatrical cut, March of the Penguins doesn’t have the French version with the talking birds, Daredevil has only the director’s cut and Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, Superbad, Dawn of the Dead and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby only have the unrated versions. This is particularly frustrating in the case of Live Free or Die hard, because the unrated version is what I really wanted. It’s not a real Die Hard movie without swearing. Daredevil is also frustrating because although the directors cut is far better and actually almost rises to the level of good, the theatrical version is a good illustration of executive meddling gone wrong.

My point is that including all versions seems to be the exception, not the rule. We have seamless branching for a reason and it should be used. A double-layer Blu-ray can hold about four and a half hours of high-def video without looking crappy assuming you don’t go crazy with the audio tracks. This should be enough to fit all versions of most movies on one disc. Special features can go on disc two. If there’s a difference that affects the majority of the footage, like a change in color timing or aspect ratio, get a second disc. Blade Runner has three discs for the movie and two for special features. I didn’t mind.

I’ve been watching “Smallville” on Blu-ray and am now about halfway through season six. It seems that like “Star Trek: Voyager,” it’s a series that took a really long time to hit its stride, but did eventually hit it. It seems the producers are slowly catching on the Superman is supposed to be about helping the little guy, not beating up weirdos. It doesn’t help that the weirdos frequently were the little guy by any reasonable standard. (This is frequently a problem in super hero material: see the theatrical cut of Daredevil) It also frequently annoys me the the writers are clearly big city types who know nothing about small-town America. Smallville’s stated population of 45,000 would put it in Kansas’s top ten largest cities, for instance. Co-creator Alfred Gough is from an actual small town of under 2,000 people, so they should know better.

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