If It Is Broke, Fix It: Why Reshooting a Blockbuster is Not as Bad as Most Assume

June 11, 2012

Call me naive, but I really thought that Paramount was not planning to alter G.I. Joe: Retaliation much during its nine month postponement. I mean, I know it was obviously being converted into 3D, but I believed that the ultimate goal was to position the film in a much better release date rather than "fix" a broken film. As it turns out, there will be some reshoots -- not just to add some cheeky 3D sequences, but to add more Channing Tatum, who previously was elbowed out of the lead role in the G.I. Joe sequel by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Since production on G.I. Joe: Retaliation started, Tatum has become a much bigger name, so Paramount wants to take advantage of Tatum's popularity since so far in G.I. Joe: Retaliation's promo material it appeared that Tatum was barely even in the film (he's not on the poster, for example).

So I stand corrected, but I'm still a bit surprised by the negative reaction to the reshoots. It seems the general consensus on the internet is that if a film is being reshot, it means the film's initial cut is awful. In fact, it's pretty surprising that film fans immediately think reshoots are the kiss of death for a movie when nearly every Hollywood film undergoes some sort of reshoots to "fix" parts of the film that the producers and the studio deem weak, or to add shots or sequences that filmmakers come up with in post-production.

It's particularly silly when one thinks that in other works of art re-doing parts of a work is part of the creative process. Novels go through extensive editing (Hemingway rewrote the last page of Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times) and some of the greatest songs of all time went through hours of tweaking and overdubs until they were considered ready for release (Brian Wilson pieced together the Beach Boys’ song Good Vibrations from ninety hours of recordings). Painters paint over parts of the composition, and television pilots are often totally reshot with new or replaced cast members. Why should filmmaking be any different?

For example, The Avengers had reshoots, as did The Lord of the Rings -- and you won't find many fans of either film to complain about that. Do the films always need reshoots? No, but pick-up shots often can enhance the film by adding a new shot or an alternate shot that the filmmakers think would improve it. As a result, reshoots aren't always "fixes," they can be additions. One of the most famous is the Ben Gardner corpse scene in Jaws, which was actually shot in a swimming pool after shooting wrapped. It is perhaps the movie's biggest scare, and it wouldn't have been there had it not been filmed months later.

Of course, the length of the reshoots can cause alarm. The UK's Daily Mail has reported that World War Z, the upcoming adaptation of the popular novel, has been scheduled for seven weeks of reshoots -- and has been pushed back from December 2012to June 2013. The original shoot lasted from early July to early October 2011, which means the reshoots are scheduled to last about half as long as the entire initial shoot! In that case, one can definitely guess that the film needs a lot of work... but if that's the case, wouldn't seven weeks of additional shooting be a positive thing? Think of it from an artistic standpoint -- if you create something you aren't happy with, wouldn't you try to fix its problems? And from a business standpoint -- if you think a part of your product would hinder its success, wouldn't you go back to the drawing board?

Reshoots have been part of filmmaking since its earliest days, and it doesn't make sense to automatically assume that a film that is being reshot will end up being a patchwork misfire. The list of blockbusters that haven't been reshot is a lot shorter than ones that have, so why assume the worst? 

Chris McKittrick is a New York-based cinephile who also writes for MovieBuzzers.com and DailyActor.com. He is also a published writer of both fiction and nonfiction. Check him out on Twitter at @ChrisMcKit

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