Pacing and the Director’s Cut

Awhile back my wife (in an apparent bid to become my ex-wife) loaned one of my DVD’s out without asking me.  The movie was Troy, one I like and watch fairly often.  After a few months of it not finding its way home I just bought a new copy.  But this copy was the director’s cut. 

According to the box there was 30 minutes of added footage.  The footage was not, however, huge swaths of deleted scenes.  There were actually very few scenes that weren’t in the theatrical release.  Instead there were alternate/extended versions of scenes we already had.  Sometimes just a line or two added.  The mechanical change was small but the overall effect was signifigant.  The tense, almost frenzied pace of the original was more measured. 

So which is better?  It’s a surprisingly hard question and very subjective.  Most of the added stuff is character intro and character motivation.  It definitely fleshes out the characters, especially Hector and Agamemnon.  Odysseus and Ajax get proper intros instead of just getting plopped in there.  Those are good things but there’s no question that the longer pace changes the feel.  Instead of the headlong pace of a straight action movie it plays more as a meditation on what drives men to war. 

Personally, I like a longer movie myself but then, I like longer novels as well.  I tend to favor director’s cuts with one exception–comedies.  I saw “The 40 Year Old Virgin” in the theater and it was great.  I have the unrated/extended version on DVD and it’s not as good.  It’s not that the extra stuff isn’t funny, it’s hilarious, but comedy is so much about timing.  There seems to be an ideal length for a funny movie and you know instinctively when they should just get on with it. 

So it would seem that pace (and therefore the lengt of the actual written work) are actually tied in with your genre.  What effect are you going for?

About Eric Bahle

Eric Bahle stopped going to his real job so he could be a full time digital author and storyteller. He loves being in the woods with his bow or on the water in his kayak. He lives in Pennsylvania with his lovely wife and a mongrel dog. He is working on his next bestselling story.


  1. Have you seen the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven? I saw the theatrical release and was really quite bored. I went out on a limb and bought the director’s cut and was blown away. Despite the 3.5-hour run time, I was glued to the screen where I’d been yawning my way through the theatrical version.

    The key difference there was, like you mentioned about Troy, character development and motivation. When the extra time is used for that, I think the extended versions can be really effective (and arguably perhaps the ones that should be in theatres). But if you’re just adding in gags and jokes, it seems maybe those are better left to deleted scenes. They’re amusing, but they don’t improve the story.

  2. When Apocalypse Now Redux came out in theaters, my friend and I saw it. Front row. We came out feeling as close to stoned as I ever had at the time.

    The interesting fact was that I had never seen the original. My friend was a huge fan. So he knew the pace of it without scenes like the dinner with the colonists. To me it all flowed, dragged, but flowed. I liked the lull created by the added scenes. He felt jarred out of what he was used to as “normal”.

    (Another interesting fact was that he *had* been stoned previously and agreed that it felt very similar.)


  3. I always like seeing the Director’s Cut to compare the visions and ideas, but it can be hit or miss as to which is better.

    Dark City Director’s Cut is much better than the original, and also has mostly subtle changes, reordered scenes, etc.

    I also loved the most recent (Final?) Blade Runner Director’s Cut. Like Dark City, though, it was an attempt to undo some of the evils inflicted by the studio. But seeing what the director intended was amazing.

  4. I’m with Jeff. I have Director’s Cut’s of both Bladerunner and Dark City. I like the DC of DC – Look how that worked out. Kinda cool. I digress… – better than the original. As Jeff said, there are subtleties worth noting.

    The best comparison of all, between the studio forced cut and a Director’s Cut, is to be found with Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”. One of the accompanying commentaries is by a Gilliam expert and is strictly focused on how the Studio Cut’s bastardized Gillam’s original vision. A must see for writer’s of all ilks, be they screenplays or novels, as it showcases the power of slight editing decisions.

    Both versions of the film are on this 3-disk Criterion Collection.