This has been one of my favorite films for the last 20 years and it hasn’t lost a bit of charm over time. I suppose I would rate it as one of the most influential films from childhood because of the severe mood. The lighting, set design, acting, and sound scape are all but uninspiring and I think anyone should enjoy the film. Recently I bought the directors cut, okay, a year ago and a half ago, and now I have finally watched it. It took two sittings because of my restless baby, so I will need one more watch to give my thoughts the solidarity they long for.
My initial reactions to the directors cut were not good. I found the first 20 mins. or so much worse than the studio hack job and what was added seemed like clumsy bad acting, poor and repetitive script writing, inclusion of plot points that would lead nowhere, and inserts that fell disharmonious with the past edit’s tempo. I should of course forget and betray my fanboy love of the 80’s styled original, but Goldsmith’s soundtrack did not do anything for me. It felt too cliche, common, and grounded in 80’s half as orchestral experimentation. I hate it, flat out dislike it. Tangerine Dream, the original composers, are not some fluffy 80’s pop band like Ridely Scott makes them out to be. They are Moog wielding weird German’s with coarse beards and trippy hypnotic techno from an age when that shit just didn’t exist. By the mid 80’s they were xeroxed and didn’t seem to fresh, and the addition of vocals helped crystallize the pop oriented drive the studio wanted the film to have- but I still don’t think it undermines their integrity as musical artists and the enjoying fullment of the original edits beat and rhythm.
Once the leads meat up and go to the Unicorn river place, the film starts to get better. Their relationship is immediately more fleshed out and real. Note though, Tom Cruise can’t act at all in this film. Sad, he is awful and it sticks out. I realized quickly that many things were cut out because Ridely was trying to make a serious fantasy film, and the actors couldn’t hack it. It is aloof and unbelievable. The unicorn scene is where the movie gets quit different in tension between light and dark. Small subtle scenes and actions start to tell us a lot more about the characters and how they are the ones in control of their destinies. The original edit makes them out to be more victims than anything else. These differences continue for the next 45 min. and all characters are much more fleshed out and believable, save some acting that grates the mind. Visuals are great, much improved, and it is one of the best restores I have ever seen. The big differences in the film start to taper off after the much improved swamp monster fight with Jack.
Another striking difference is the darkness of the Lord of Darkness, he has much more screen time and I love all of it, even when he repeats stuff. He even has a bubbling evil chair that makes you realize how PG’d the original film was and how hacked up the editing was and therefore the acting from the first edit appears, and should have 20 years ago, as too dramatic and unwarranted. Some of these middle sections have improved music and it works quit well. Goldsmith starts to include noise elements that resemble the Tangerine Dream track- though the dance music doesn’t do it as well for me.
The ending is much improved also and the acting is actually good. The actors look into each others eyes and have a intimate dialogue that is close to sparking an emotion. Considering how much of the original film was lost- this is great. Also, when else did Ridely ever get us to feel empathy or sentiment. Alien and Blade Runner didn’t and Gladiator would only try in the beginning, so this is actually a very good mark in his career. I’m not on the “he’s a genius” bandwagon. Too many plot holes in his starting films and his characters come off clunky to me. Each his own. I wish the set didn’t burn down on this film, it looks like it could have been quit epic, although what is left still remains one of the most remarkable films and pieces of mise-en-scene to date.