Hollywood behemoths are a bit like boomerangs: just when you've forgotten about them they come rushing back to smack you in the face. Take a gander at the all-time highest-earning films at the worldwide box office and you will notice that two out of the top three racked up their $2bn-plus totals with the help of repeated stints in cinemas. Titanic took 15 years to arrive back in cinemas, but James Cameron's other chart-topper, Avatar, offered a director's cut within 12 months. Star Wars, which is 10th in the standard all-time box-office list but second in the inflation-adjusted rundown, has also paid repeated visits to the big screen. So it is perhaps not too much of a shock that rumours of a return are circling Joss Whedon's The Avengers, which has so far made a staggering $1.4bn globally and currently stands in third place in the all-time list.
US blog SuperHeroAuthority.com quotes unnamed Hollywood sources who say a new cut could find its way into multiplexes as early as the autumn, ahead of the film's DVD/Blu-Ray release. In order for that to happen, filmgoers need an excuse to go to see it again, and fortunately The Avengers has something in the bag. Whedon said in April that he cut at least 40 minutes of material from the film currently in cinemas to bring it in at a not-so-trim two hours and two minutes. The most notable deleted scene is apparently one in which Chris Evans' Captain America, newly arrived in the 21st century after being frozen in ice for 60 years, meets up with long-lost love Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), now an octogenarian.
"One of the best scenes that I wrote was the beautiful and poignant scene between Steve and Peggy [Carter] that takes place in the present," Whedon told the film site Collider.com. "And I was the one who was like: 'Guys, we need to lose this.'" The writer-director also said he wrote "a little sequence built of Cap not relating to the world and feeling his isolation," but added: "As we got closer and closer, we realised, when he's punching that bag, he's pretty much telling us everything we need to know.
"It was killing the rhythm of the thing. And we did have a lot of Cap, because he really was the in for me. I really do feel a sense of loss about what's happening in our culture, loss of the idea of community, loss of healthcare and welfare and all sorts of things. I was spending a lot of time having him say it, and then I cut that."
Mark Ruffalo has revealed that the fabulous scene in which a recently de-Hulked Bruce Banner meets a taciturn security guard played by legendary US character actor Harry Dean Stanton in a hangar was drastically cut. Whedon has said he originally wrote 12 pages in which "Banner falls into a Coen Brothers movie", whereas the final scene cannot be much more than 30 seconds long, so we can probably expect that footage also to make it into any new version.
The big question has to be whether there is any real need or desire for a three-hour The Avengers at cinemas. Evans' Captain America certainly felt like one of the movie's more disposable characters due to a lack of screen time, and it would be great to see more the Stanton scene, but I imagine most people would have been happy enough to watch these on the DVD. There's no reason not to integrate them into the movie proper on the small screen, since deleted scene reels are a bit of a pain to watch out of context, but is a full-scale return to multiplexes really required?
Whedon himself said in April that the excised material was largely "little moments between people" and admitted that a three-hour cut might have been "self-indulgent". He seemed happy enough at the time that Marvel allowed him to keep "so many little moments that I thought, 'They're going to make me squeeze this out,' [but that] they never did", adding: "Once we had the structure down, they really wanted it to breathe and for these things to be as textured as they could be." That suggests the main force behind the rumours of a longer cut may be cold hard dollars rather than artistic validity.
On the other hand, The Avengers has, for me, been the most relentlessly enjoyable event movie this year, and all the above scenes sound a dash more exciting than the meagre eight minutes of pointless additions Cameron made to Avatar before dumping it back into cinemas to squeeze a little more hard cash out of filmgoers two years ago.
Would you go to see a bum-numbing three-hour Avengers movie? Or would you rather poke the Hulk in the eye with a sharp stick?
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