Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Paying for a 'SMASHED' cut of The Incredible Hulk?

Ok, so let me get this straight... the version of The Incredible Hulk that opens on Friday is obviously not the director's cut. It runs somewhere between 114 minutes and 106 minutes, depending on who you ask. That's normal and that's ok. But, according to this lengthy interview with Louis Leterrier, there was over seventy minutes of footage that ended up on the cutting room floor, ready to be put on the eventual DVD set and BluRay release around November. Character development, backstory, action scenes, etc. Basically, there is enough here to make a third Hulk movie. So the two thoughts that occur to me are:

Will Universal and Marvel have the smarts to let Leterrier play around with his deleted footage and make a second film out of it for the home video release? Allegedly, much of the footage contains more connective tissue between this film and the 2003 Ang Lee original. Wouldn't it be fun to buy the BluRay of The Incredible Hulk and be able to watch a sixty-minute or so mini-movie that serves as a more direct sequel to Hulk, which in turn leads us into this new movie? This gimmick was a goofy treat for Anchorman fans back in early 2005, and it would be even more effective here.

But there is a more troubling issue, and this is something Universal has done before (see or don't see American Wedding). The filmmakers are all but advertising that the film we're paying to see in theatres this weekend, the one we're paying $10 for a ticket, a few bucks for gas, and however much for any babysitting services that may or may not be required, isn't really the 'real' movie. Even negating the seventy-minutes of outtakes (most assembly cuts run obscenely long), there is allegedly an additional fifteen-minutes of character development that was cut out at the behest of Marvel (this is what the gossip about Ed Norton fighting over control of the film was about). So, basically, we are being asked to pay $10 to see an arbitrary 'producer's cut' of a movie that in all likelihood will be released in October or November as an extended, intended version for our home consumption.

Universal has done this several times prior (American Wedding, Chronicles Of Riddick), seemingly intentionally gutting footage from the theatrical release so that they could then add it back in for the DVD and hype an 'extended' or 'unrated' edition for home consumers. It's one thing to release a cut of a film in theaters and then go back after the fact and allow the director to toy around with it a little bit, especially years after the fact. It is one thing to release one version of the movie in theaters, and then allow a token amount of additional violence or sexual content in the DVD version as a bonus of sorts. It is quite another to all but rub our noses in the fact that the theatrical version of a given movie is just the appetizer for the eventual intended cut for home video. At a time when more and more people are forgoing the theatrical experience, and the home theater options are catching up, the last thing that studios need to be doing is denying the paying theatergoers the value of seeing the film as it was likely intended.

Scott Mendelson

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