"Back in my day," I say, recalling the ancient times of 1997, "a movie just sucked." However, thanks to the fact that we now have access to mountains of behind-the-scenes information, we can no longer resign ourselves to shrugging at a terrible movie and moving on. We now must dissect every mistake and figure out exactly who is to blame. And if there's even an inkling that a better version may have existed at some point, we'll become hyper-focused on it. On one hand, there's nothing wrong with this. Fans need stuff to talk about, after all. But on the other, it seems like it's primarily an excuse to remain irrationally angry at a movie for years after it's left theaters.
Unused Screenplays Keep Getting Compared To Finished Movies
Think of the latest franchise blockbuster that disappointed you. Got one? You probably thought of Star Wars. Some of you may have thought of Jurassic Park. And a few of you may have even remembered the quiet whimper that was every Fantastic Four movie. Well, if you're a fan of hyperbole and absolutely hate getting over stuff, you're in luck! Because all three of those properties have screenplays that, if they had been produced, would've saved the series and likely all life on Earth, if the internet is to be believed.
If you've ever used an electronic device on which the words "Star Wars" have been typed, you've heard that Colin Trevorrow's unproduced Episode IX screenplay was GREAT. Seriously, this is a tale that's being passed around like news of impending revolution or the return of the McRib. Or look at the screenplay for a Jurassic Park 4, which has been covered by the goddamn BBC like it was an unearthed lost Mozart symphony. Or the aborted Fantastic Four film that never even got close to being made, but would have been amazing if just given the chance.
Now, screenwriting is a complex and tricky process. Drafts are written, edited, rewritten, passed to new writers, discarded, and reused all the time. And what is on the page of the final draft is never identical to the finished movie, which has to deal with all sorts of real-world limitations, even before the studio and focus groups start building their list of scenes to reshoot. Yet we've somehow reached a point in fandom where even the discarded scribblings of the director of Jurassic World are treated like something worth discussing, as if the guy behind "A giant T-Rex, but invisible!" would've been the magic cure-all to our Skywalker woes.
Different Cuts Of Movies Are Treated Like Causes
If there's one fandom obsession greater than unused drafts of disappointing movies, it's the existence of a better "cut" of a disappointing movie. These actually got filmed, dammit! This is where it goes from a mere discussion topic to an all-out crusade.
Remember Justice League? If you do, it's only because of the vast sadness in your heart that the greatest superheroes of all time got such an underwhelming CGI mediocrity of a film. Enter the so-called "Snyder Cut." That's what fans are calling the unfinished (and unseen) version of Justice League that director Zack Snyder stepped away from due to family tragedy, leaving Joss Whedon to do extensive reshoots and finish the film. There is an honest-to-god movement agitating for the release of what is essentially a saved draft of a movie, because ... well, some people didn't like the one we got?
These fans buy billboards in Times Square and have harassed journalists online. And why? Because the director of Sucker Punch didn't get all the slo-mo they wanted? Because they didn't get to see Mark Wahlberg as Green Lantern in future installments? We've even had actors from the film jumping on the hashtag wagon.
The same goes for the unfortunate Star Wars movie Solo, which, let's be honest, was a letdown. It was poorly paced and had to deal with recasting one of the most iconic characters in cinema. It brought up the weird possibility that Lando Calrissian might have once fucked the brain of the Millennium Falcon. How much of that is due to Phil Lord and Chris Miller being replaced as directors by Ron Howard in the middle of production? Who knows? But we can still scour the landscape for any traces of what the clearly superior Lord & Miller cut would have looked like.
No Real Thing Will Ever Be As Perfect As You Imagine
Just in general, the social media era seems to have given us all sorts of ways to be miserable in the course of supposedly enjoying a thing, whether it's joining a rage mob over a disappointing fantasy TV show or obsessively watching the hive mind endlessly nitpick errors you'd have never even noticed on your own. "If only we could see the real movie!" just seems like the logical endpoint. Now you're not just upset about the movie you got, you're tortured over the movie you were denied.
But the truth is that the perfect version of Episode IX you have in your head doesn't exist, and it never will. Ditto the Snyder Cut and the Miller/Lord Solo. Because even if those films were somehow ever finished and released, they can never compete with millions of individual imaginations. If the script or plot summary you've seen seems better, whose to say the performances wouldn't be worse, or the camera work, or the editing, or any one of the dozens of factors that separate a great movie from a forgettable one?
Even outside of movies and fandom, it's just not great for your happiness in general to obsess over what you almost had, thinking of how much better your life would be if you'd taken that other job, moved to that other city, hadn't pissed on that police car. Sometimes it's better to just move on.
For more, check out 5 Reasons Movies Keep Getting Worse:
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