We’re sorry, Cats fam. Everyone know Cats was going to be messy. When I speak of the prediction of how Cats was going to turn out, I mean messy like a gay bar after your local Pride. Flamboyant, entertaining where you find it, campy where there’s effort made, and absolutely not for everyone. The good news is, that seems to be how it turned out.
But nobody expected Cats to be a mess. In fact, it turns out that they literally didn’t finish the movie’s visual effects. Universal literally has to patch it, like Bethesda scrambling to pretend its engine has ever been usable in the wild. There are major enough differences in each version that keen fans will likely spot them upon viewing the new edition.
This isn’t a new practice at all, though. Studios have been editing films’ “final” releases before and after the flicks for as long as film could be spliced. Here are a few titles you’ve probably heard of that hit the cutting board.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
By today’s standards, 160 minutes (that’s 2 hours 40 minutes) isn’t the worst running time. I mean, most movies run past 2 hours, especially as digital filming and projection rule as the primary option for most filmmakers. But when you throw in the slow, tense pacing of director Stanley Kubrick, the everyday viewer might start picking up some yawns. Throw in that it’s a dense character-focused space drama, and not a shoot-em-up flick, that premiered in 1968, and a few cuts might be in order.
2001: A Space Odyssey originally premiered at the 160-minute mark. For aforementioned reasons, Kubrick ended up splicing out about 19 minutes of footage from the wider release. The new cut takes chops out of a few major parts, with a few threads open, but most of the film intact.
Possibly the most drastic change is a scene in which HAL cuts off an astronaut’s communication with the Discovery before killing him. HAL is asked this later by another character, but the audience may feel more out-of-the-loop given they didn’t witness the actual cut. You could even say the cutoff was cut off! There were also some film cuts made to the original ape sequences in the beginning, plus some more mundane montages throughout. Of course, nowadays, most watch the 160-minute version today with all its continuity and Kubrick-eyed perfection.
Snakes On A Plane (2006)
Ah, yes, the good ol’ vaguely-family-friendly TV edit. Of course, being an R-rated movie, Snakes On A Plane had to get hit with the cable-edition edits to comply with FCC standards. And a movie with Samuel L. Jackson is naturally going to need to drop a few F-bomb drops, right?
Films can’t drop more than one “motherfuckin'” without going into R territory, which this article is now bordering on. But on TV, they can’t be dropped at all. Naturally, editors end up having to work around these moments. The edits for this thriller, though, go down in history as some of the most absurd — and entertaining. You can hear Samuel L. Jackson dropping the most hilarious workaround:
“I’m tired of these monkey-flying snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane!”
You can guess where the cussing would have taken place. And it was clear to everyone else, too! But here’s the bizarre thing: It doesn’t just look like a dub. It looks like they re-filmed the entire shot with the new line.
Basically, the studio probably knew that this was just going to be a solid-enough no-brain late-night television flick and prepared in advance. And I mean, they weren’t wrong; it’s pretty entertaining, if you turn your processing power off. If it ever comes up at 2AM on cable, please let me kn… wait, I don’t have cable anymore. Dammit.
[Honorable mention for TV edits goes to Die Hard’s “Yippie kay yay, Mr. Falcon.”]
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
As we already know from 2001: A Space Odyssey, it’s already pretty hard to adapt grandiose science-fiction space dramas into condensed viewer experience. So how did Star Wars creator George Lucas’s brain not explode from all the potential? Apparently, the answer to that is just… constantly editing the flick. Again and again. Heck, technically, “A New Hope” is a patch title, because it wasn’t originally part of the name until its 1981 re-release.
While fans squabble over the consistency of the Star Wars universe, honestly, it feels like Lucas himself is having trouble with that too. Most recently, the Disney+ edit of the film changed an important detail in a famous scene: the shootout at the Cantina.
When Han Solo talks with Greedo, originally, Han Solo makes a snide comment, then shoots at and kills Greedo. However, for Disney+, the two appear to shoot at the same time. Greedo even makes his own comment: “MACLUNKEY!” So yes, Greedo Says Maclunkey Now.
But this isn’t even the first time this movie — or even this scene! — has been changed.
They’ve edited frames and lines all over the place: in other versions, Greedo shoots first, or they shoot closer together. This is the fourth such edit to movie, meaning there are five versions of this morally-ambiguous scene out there. Whatever floats your boat, Lucas.
Sonic The Hedgehog (2020)
Well, obviously, we have to talk about this one, especially now that there’s less than two months until the actual Sonic The Hedgehog flick hits theaters.
Long story short, The original Sonic The Hedgehog trailer, which came out earlier this year, had an honest-to-god horrible-looking version of Sonic. It looked like Paramount was trying to hop on the “photorealism” train, except they ended up closer to Cats in final effect. Not to mention, the entire trailer was just atrocious.
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But given the film hadn’t come close to release yet, and had even already had a delay, Paramount had time and bent to fan complaints. In a close crunch, months later, Paramount released a new look for Sonic’s big screen premiere. It was even led by Sonic fandom icon Tyson Heese, a former fan artist who ended up drawing official comics for the franchise. Now, Sonic actually looks kid-friendly and appealing to the eye.
The fans ended up happy, but it wasn’t such a happy ending for the studio in charge of the edits. Unfortunately, MPC Vancouver, the visual effects studio that led the redesign, shut down this month at behest of their uppers at MPC. Yes, we’re still in capitalist hell, in which studios can control movies down to a T — and those who worked their asses off to do so get disposed of immediately after.
[Honorable mention for film edits overall goes to Blade Runner, which had a Director’s Cut that wasn’t actually by the director, who made a Final Cut that was a real director’s cut. Science fiction never gets a break, huh?]