The Internet has been awash recently with speculation over Warner Bros’ announcement that parts of the upcoming Suicide Squad movie are to undergo a series of reshoots. According to rumors, these reshoots will add a lot of additional humor and lighter moments to a movie that otherwise would have fit with the grim aesthetic of the existing titles within the DC movie universe.
Considering the negative response that many critics have given Batman v Superman, many commenters are speculating that these reshoots are a desperate attempt by DC to change the direction of the movie. Some have pointed to the recent Fantastic Four movie as an example of how lengthy reshoots often indicate that movie studios are worried about a project and are desperately working to fix a broken film.
In reality, though, almost all movies undergo a period of reshoots – directors will find small moments that can be improved upon with additional scenes, and the reaction from test audiences often help moviemakers to spot little ways of improving a movie. For the most part, these reshoots aren’t noticed upon the release of a movie because they blend in well with the rest of the film, and sometimes a new shot can dramatically improve a movie.
This being the case, here’s a list of 13 Movies That Prove Reshoots Aren’t Always Bad.
13. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
It’s hard to think of what Steven Spielberg’s classic science fiction family movie would have been like with a different ending – the sight of E.T. and Elliot flying across the moon before E.T. is finally able to travel home is one of the most iconic images in cinema.
What’s interesting, though, is that this isn’t the way Spielberg had originally planned to end the movie. An early test screening of the film involved a very bleak ending in which E.T. died in a government facility, and ultimately stayed dead. When test audiences understandably hated a movie in which the cute protagonist died, Spielberg arranged reshoots and expanded the ending to see E.T. return to life before escaping Earth.
12. The Avengers
Joss Whedon’s first superhero team up movie reached significant critical acclaim with its healthy mix of impressive action set pieces, character development and colorful humor. Whedon’s vision for the film came directly out of his experience both reading and writing comic books, and the entire film is laced with his trademark wit.
The movie involved lengthy reshoots, as is standard for a big blockbuster film, but one scene which was shot extremely late in the movie’s development is actually the final shot of the film. The post-credits scene of the Avengers tiredly eating shawarma in a half-collapsed restaurant gave fans who stayed to the very end something to chuckle over, but it wasn’t included in all theatrical releases around the world because it was only filmed immediately before the movie’s premiere.
Whedon had an idea for the final gag very late in editing the movie, and realized that with the movie’s premiere, he would have all of his actors in one place. The actors were asked to suit up and film a few seconds of eating together before heading to the premier – a request which some of them were concerned about. Upon being told of the plans, Chris Hemsworth pointed out that he wasn’t actively working out to the same degree any more, and that his Thor costume wouldn’t fit him. This is why, in the scene, his character is hunched over in an attempt to hide how loose his suit is.
11. The Simpsons Movie
Creating a full length movie full of all the irreverent humor that audiences expect of Matt Groening’s yellow family was a daunting prospect, and one that moviemakers approached with the utmost care. Every joke, every beat and animated element was subject to a great deal of scrutiny, and many elements were reworked or altered either due to test audience responses, or simply because the creators didn’t feel they were as funny as they could be.
One abandoned element of the movie that was left in until very late in editing was Russ Cargill, the film’s antagonist. After the film had been completed, it was decided that the character’s design was too wimpy to be taken seriously, and a new version was drawn up. This meant redrawing every asset for the character, and inserting it into existing scenes or altering some jokes completely.
All of this work took place so late in the movie’s development that the older Russ Cargill design was featured in a variety of promotional materials – most notably, the old design was the basis for a Burger King toy that was given out to millions of children, some of whom were no doubt confused that the character wasn’t actually in the movie.
10. Apocalypse Now
While it’s now considered one of the greatest films ever made, Apocalypse Now ran into so many problems during its initial filming that it’s impressive the movie was ever finished. Crew members succumbed to disease, helicopters kept getting recalled to be used in active combat, and without a clear script, director Francis Ford Coppola had to make up a lot of the movie’s scenes as he went along. What’s more, the movie’s initial leading man, Harvey Keitel, was replaced by Martin Sheen part way through filming, and Marlon Brando refused to learn any of his lines, choosing to improvise dialogue instead.
When a typhoon hit the production, the initial period of filming was shut down. At this point it looked unlikely that the movie would be finished at all, but once the storm had passed, Coppola decided to return to the Philippine jungle for lengthy reshoots. The next stage of filming didn’t go much better than the first, with Martin Sheen suffering from a heart attack at one point due in large part to the stress of filming. Finally, though, the movie was completed, and it remains one of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time to this day.
Steven Spielberg had a lot of trouble filming Jaws – most notably, his production struggled with a mechanical shark that didn’t look remotely realistic. The movie’s initial script was full of a lot more scenes with the monster in the foreground, but no matter how hard he tried, Spielberg couldn’t get convincing shots that didn’t make the entire film seem silly.
After regrouping, and viewing his initial footage, Spielberg decided to take a different approach, showing as little of the shark as possible and relying on suspense to drive the tension of the film. Based on test audience reactions he spotted which moments worked well and expanded on them, aiming to get as many screams as possible from viewers and shooting additional shots for the sole purpose of terrorizing his audience.
Due to the complications the movie faced, Spielberg’s film ended up going over budget and over schedule without much to show for it. At the time, Hollywood executives were feeling increasingly agitated over several cases of cavalier movie directors who were taking a lot of money from the studio to fund raucous parties rather than filming, and assuming that Spielberg was deliberately taking advantage of his budget, they traveled to the set with the intention of shutting the movie. When they met Spielberg – clean shaven, sober and very passionate about the movie he was making – the executives were convinced that they’d misjudged the director. He was given all of the resources he needed to finish the movie, and Jaws remains one of the great success stories of Hollywood to this day.
8. Thor: The Dark World
While not the most widely beloved Marvel movie, the second Thor film is generally accepted as an enjoyable movie – in no small part due to the performance given by Tom Hiddleston as the disgraced Loki. A lot of the movie’s humor and heart comes from Loki’s character, the sarcastic games he plays, and his emotional response to the events of the movie.
The Dark World was subject to lengthy reshoots which, at the time, were subject to speculation from fans who were anxious about the upcoming film. In reality, though, these reshoots added multiple important Loki scenes, such as his initial scene with Odin where he is sentenced to imprisonment, and his playful shapeshifting with Thor during his escape, which brought plenty of laughs to movie audiences.
7. Blade Runner
To this day, there’s still a lot of debate surrounding the definitive version of Ridley Scott’s take on Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction thriller. There are seven known cuts of the movie in circulation from different sources, including the original theatrical release, the director’s cut, and various different releases for home video and television use.
The production on the movie didn’t go particularly well, with rumors circulating that lead actor Harrison Ford wasn’t always happy with Scott’s directorial decisions. What’s more, movie executives weren’t happy with Scott’s initial vision of the movie. Ultimately, the intended ending of the movie was deemed too vague and depressing, and additional scenes were added to give the movie a little more closure. Some of this content, including a narration from Ford, is notable by its absence in various different cuts of the movie, suggesting that Scott wasn’t entirely happy with the compromises he was forced to make. Regardless of which version of the movie audiences see, though, there’s no denying it as a powerful piece of cinema.
6. World War Z
Producer and lead actor Brad Pitt had some strong words to say regarding the production of his monster movie World War Z. Calling initial shooting ‘atrocious’, Pitt has been vocal about the difficulties the production faced, and the extent of the reshoots that were necessary to create a cohesive film.
The most noticeable changes to the movie – and where the plot dramatically deviates from the novel it’s based on – comes in the film’s third act. While the theatrical ending wraps up the story with the discovery of a convenient cure, the original plan was to end the movie on a cliffhanger, setting up additional sequels. What parts of the initial ending were filmed, including a massive battle in Moscow – were ultimately scrapped in favor of a far tighter, neater conclusion to the movie.
5. Superman II
Richard Donner’s original movie about the Last Son of Krypton was well received by critics and audiences alike, and its sequel, credited to director Richard Lester, was also considered to be a solid movie – even if future instalments in the series were less popular. What’s interesting, though, is how much the first two Superman movies were chopped up during post-production.
Both films were originally filmed back to back, in one of the biggest productions of the era, with the intention that Superman: The Movie would end on a cliffhanger to be resolved in Superman II. Concerned at the growing cost for the two movies, however, studio executives elected to cancel the second movie to focus on making sure that the first one worked well before sinking any more money into the project. As the ending for Superman II was already complete, this was attached to the first Superman to tie up the plot.
When the movie turned out to be a massive hit, plans were made to complete the sequel. Richard Donner refused to return to the project, and big stars Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando were also unwilling to film any more scenes for the movie. Richard Lester took over the job of filling in the unfinished parts of the movie, using a body double for Hackman and giving Brando’s lines to a different character. In order to legally get credit as the director of the movie, though Lester had to shoot at least fifty percent of the movie – which meant reshooting large parts of the existing footage without any changes. The reshoots did their job, and Superman II went on to be well received.
4. Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Edgar Wright’s adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley has achieved cult status in spite of falling far below expectations at the box office. Wright and O’Malley became friends after Wright was given a copy of the first Scott Pilgrim book and decided that he wanted to turn it into a movie, but while the first half of the film closely follows the plot of the books (in many cases exactly recreating comic panels), the second half of the movie takes more than a few liberties. This is because O’Malley hadn’t finished creating the series at the time of filming, meaning that Wright had to start generating his own ideas – at one point, the books stopped inspiring the film, and instead the movie ideas influenced O’Malley’s plans for the books.
Without a concrete ending for the story, Edgar Wright decided that Scott should pursue Ramona, the main love interest, until the final battle, when instead he would realize that he belonged with his ex-girlfriend, Knives Chau. This ending was filmed, and all efforts were made to make the character of Ramona feel cold and distant so that viewers would accept the bait and switch. In spite of this, test audiences expressed dissatisfaction with the movie’s ending, feeling that after two hours of battling for Ramona, Scott needed to fulfil his quest.
A new ending for the movie was shot, in which Knives admits that she’s “too cool” for Scott anyway, and he and Ramona disappear together. This ending proved more popular, and when it came time for Bryan Lee O’Malley to end his comic series, he chose to use the same resolution.
With hindsight, it’s difficult to imagine how Sylvester Stallone’s movie about a down and out boxer rising to take on the biggest fight of his life could be anything other than a success. At the time, though, the future of the movie was anything but certain, especially as Stallone simply didn’t have enough money to do his original ending justice.
The movie was meant to end with Rocky Balboa crowdsurfing triumphantly across the audience after his match, but, having filmed this, the scene looked hugely unconvincing because there weren’t enough extras available to comfortably support Stallone, which took something away from the intended power of the image.
Instead, Stallone returned to film the scene again, but this time without the crowdsurfing. Money was so tight that only a corner of the set was rebuilt, and instead of paid extras, the scene was filled with whatever friends and family members Stallone could scrape together. In spite of everything, the scene was good enough to finish the film, and Rocky went on to be a classic.
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
While Michael Bay’s initial run with everyone’s favorite pizza-guzzling amphibians wasn’t to everyone’s liking, it could have been far worse. During the filming of the movie, fans were aghast at the possibility that the movie’s villain, Shredder, might be played by the Caucasian William Fichtner, rather than by a Japanese actor.
At some point in the filming it was decided that the fans had a point, and that for Shredder to be well-received, a more traditional take on the character was necessary. Tohoru Masamune took on the role of Shredder, and scenes were added to change Fichtner’s character into an underling rather than a mastermind behind the Foot clan.
Regardless of mixed audience responses to the finished film and the signature Michael Bay style that runs throughout it, most have agreed that these changes at least went some way to fixing a problem that could have alienated long time fans of the franchise.
1. Back to the Future
Some reshoots are more intense than others. The original Back to the Future is an example of how, sometimes, the decision to rework a movie is essential to creating a piece of solid, enjoyable cinema.
When developing the initial idea for Back to the Future, director Robert Zemeckis and producer Bob Gale decided on Michael J Fox for the lead, who was best known at the time for his work on the sitcom Family Ties. As the show was still filming, though, Fox wasn’t available to shoot Back to the Future, and instead Eric Stoltz was cast as Marty McFly.
It didn’t take long for the crew to realize that Stoltz wasn’t right for the part. The actor provided what has been described as a very “intense” performance, not in keeping with the lighthearted and comedic tone of the movie. After several weeks of filming, it was decided that Stoltz needed to be replaced. Michael J. Fox was approached again about the role, and a schedule was worked out that saw him filming Family Ties by day and Back to the Future at night, with daytime shots being filmed on weekends. As Marty is present in almost every scene of the film, the production had to start again from scratch, reshooting almost everything that had previously been filmed.
Over the course of cinema history, there have been plenty of movies which have undergone drastic, lengthy or otherwise significant reshoots in order to alter their direction. Reshoots are a standard part of most movies, and in most cases they go completely unnoticed by movie audiences.
It’s believed that the intended reshoots for Suicide Squad are in large part due to the reactions the movie’s trailer has received, and a goal of making the movie as a whole better match the humor and tone of what fans have already seen and enjoyed. This being the case, it’s worth remembering how many popular films have been improved by reshoots in the past, and that adding extra scenes to a movie doesn’t necessarily mean that the production is in trouble.