The multiple hot takes surrounding HBO Max's decision actually to release the near-legendary "Snyder Cut" of Justice League has got everybody talking about director's cuts once again.
With Zack Snyder's work-print for Justice League a reported three-and-a-half hours long, it will be if nothing else a butt-numbing viewing experience. Not that the director doesn't have form in this arena, previously releasing a version of Watchmen that was a similar 215 minutes (and, to be fair to Snyder, a better piece of work than the one that was put out to theatres, albeit virtually impossible to watch in a single sitting).
But does a director's cut really have to be half as long again as the theatrical feature? Is additional length really the saving grace of a failing movie?
Interestingly, Snyder's DCEU cohort, Shazam! director David F. Sandberg, weighed in to the director's cut debate to suggest that he was so keen to cut material back to the bare essentials that any potential director's cut of his would actually be shorter than the original.
Have any directors actually followed through with Sandberg's suggestion? Are there cuts where the director actually approves of removing some of their precious material to get a tighter edit? It is a predictably rare occurrence, even with special editions, revisits and re-issues of movies becoming ever more common, but here are ten times that filmmakers did make their director's cut shorter than on first release.
Shorter by: 1 minute
Alternate cuts of movies have always been around, but the marketing concept of fixing a flawed movie by reissuing a "director's cut" really blew up with the 1992 release of a new cut of Blade Runner more closely aligned to director Ridley Scott's vision. As a result, Scott has become an enthusiastic champion of the potential in releasing multiple cuts of the same movie.
Scott added around 20 minutes to his 80s fantasy Legend and 45 minutes to Crusades epic Kingdom Of Heaven in later director's cuts (the latter significantly improving a previously underwhelming movie). But he hasn't only relied on adding ever more and more scenes back into his movies.
Unlike Blade Runner, Legend or Kingdom Of Heaven, Alien was an instant hit on its original theatrical release. There had been very little studio interference and Scott had delivered a version of the chilling space horror that both he and audiences were happy with. It didn't need a "fix" from a new cut.
Nevertheless, Alien was earmarked by studio Fox for an "extended edition", adding back in material cut for the original release, in order to provide an extra selling point for the Alien Quadrilogy DVD boxset in 2003. However, on adding the four minutes of additional footage back into his earlier classic, Scott felt that they threw off the pacing of the film. To rectify this, he trimmed a further five minutes off the film, leaving what was intended as an "extended" edition actually a minute shorter than the original.