So it was announced in the middle of last week that Suicide Squad, the latest entry into the DC Expanded Universe, would have an ‘extended cut’ released on Blu-Ray at the end of the year. This follows a similar path to their other release this year, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Both films received a mixed response at cinemas, and Suicide Squad even had one of its actors in Jared Leto complaining that many of his scenes were cut. So in theory we’re getting an improved version of the film come December, which should be a good thing. Right?
I’m all for improved versions of movies, and seeing the positive response the extended cut for Dawn of Justice received, I’m sure Warner and DC are hoping for a similar reaction here too. But in doing so DC are setting a very dangerous precedent when it comes to their films. While in the short term being able to boast of an ‘extended edition’ will definitely help boost the home release sales for the Suicide Squad, it could end up doing more harm than good.
We’ve currently had three movies come out in this new DCEU that they’re building. Of those three, two have been ‘improved’ since their stint in the cinemas with these extended cuts. All three of them have struggled to win over both the critics and the audience. Warner and DC are currently setting the stage for people to ‘wait and see’ with their movies. Going to the cinemas these days isn’t cheap, and can you justify spending that kind of money for an incomplete movie?
The whole point of removing scenes from a movie is because they detract from the overall experience. Maybe it hampers or bogs down the story, maybe it’s for a subplot that eventually got dropped, or maybe the joke just didn’t really land. But with Dawn of Justice and apparently Suicide Squad, these deleted scenes are suddenly important enough to the story that they need to be included after all.
This suggests to me one of three things: First, that the team in charge of editing these movies aren’t good enough at their jobs. That’s a bad sign. Second, that there’s too much executive meddling involved that it’s hampering the production of the film – and unless there’s a cultural change here that problem isn’t going to change. And finally, and perhaps most frighteningly: that Warner feel they can make more money by constantly doing this.
Sure Warner might be intending to ‘fix’ mistakes in the theatrical cut. At first. But what if they realise they can use this to their advantage? Us comic book fans are a ridiculous bunch. What if they cut out a character from the film specifically so they can sell their appearance in the home release? I guarantee as the extended cut of Suicide Squad nears release there will be a lot of talk and focus on the additional Joker scenes that will appear there. And it’s entirely possible to cut characters completely out – Dawn of Justice did it with Jenna Malone’s character, who was even rumoured to be famed bat-family member Barbara Gordon.
Think about it. Imagine in Justice League, to build up the Green Lantern Corps movie in 2020, they feature an extended cameo of Hal Jordan or John Stewart, only to cut it from the theatrical cut. But then when it comes time for a home release, they announce an ‘extended cut’ of Justice League featuring this extended cameo. It’d be easy for justifications to be made about cutting it for the sake of time or pacing, but I guarantee you’d have more interest in the home release than there would be otherwise.
Stepping away from my paranoia for a moment, I think it’s important to consider the other dangerous side effect of this movie, in this case dangerous for the company. Both Suicide Squad and Dawn of Justice have enjoyed big opening weekends with equally big drop-off numbers between the first and second week. This can be attributed in part to word of mouth. Everyone wanted to see Batman fight Superman, but after the negative backlash it received people who weren’t there opening week started to have second thoughts. Same with Suicide Squad – the marketing made this film succeed on opening weekend, but those who might have gone to see it later were swayed away by the reviews.
When this happens multiple times to the one franchise, people become skeptical, and are less likely to see it until they start to get a consensus opinion. Well if these movies constantly need ‘extended editions’ people will start to question whether they go to see it in cinemas, only to have to pay to see a second version later (or you know, pirate it). I already know a few people who would normally go to a movie like Dawn of Justice who didn’t because of the reviews, and are properly happy they waited for the full version to get released.
This isn’t necessarily a problem with the ‘hardcore’ comic book fans. You release a Batman movie and I’m going to see that day one almost guaranteed. But the danger is in the mainstream/casual audience, which at the end of the day is making up the majority of these ticket sales. They might think twice if the movie is just going to get an alternate version released later on, especially when cinemas aren’t cheap and there’s so much to choose from.
Would it surprise you to hear someone say they won’t go to see Wonder Woman because they’ll ‘wait for the extended edition’ when their two movies from last year got them? DC’s ‘thing’ might not be post-credit scenes like Marvel, it might be post-cinema scenes. And I wouldn’t blame them if they decided that. I mean what’s the worse that happens – the movie doesn’t get an extended cut release and so they just have to wait a couple of months to see it in the end? Even though I’ll be there day one excited like a kid on Christmas that’s not exactly a big punishment for them.
I liked both Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, and at the same time I’ll admit both are heavily flawed movies that do or will benefit from some additional editing. And given that Suicide Squad had some publicised issues in post production it might just be coincidence that both of these movies are getting alternate versions released. Also, full credit to Warner for not with-holding the extended cuts until after the home release. They easily could have generated some multi-buys from people who bought the original edition who would then go and buy the extended version a few months later. But one way or another they are setting a dangerous precedent with all of these alternate cuts. At best they’re just struggling to find the right formula in post production, but even that isn’t the best sign. The best case scenario isn’t great, but the worst case scenario is far scarier…
…and yes I know I won’t be helping things by going out and buying the Suicide Squad extended cut on Blu-Ray as soon as it comes out, much like I basically did with Dawn of Justice.