Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Exorcist: The Beginning vs Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist

Head-to-head competitions from almost identical films isn't anything new in Hollywood. Witness the glut of "teenage-boy-switches-body-with-man" fantasy films from 1987/1988: Like Father, Like Son; Big; Vice Versa; and 18 Again. Penny Marshall's Big, starring Tom Hanks, was the clearly the big winner. That was followed in 1988/1989 by Stephen Fears' Dangerous Liaisons and Milos Forman's Valmont -- both based on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereues. (Production delays on the Forman film prevented an actual head-to-head showdown in theaters, and the Fears film went on to multiple Oscar nominations including Best Picture.) Then, in 1992, Hollywood gave us the battle of the Columbus films: Ridley Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise vs Christopher Columbus -- The Discovery. But never before have I heard of a competition like the current one between Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist. Director Paul Schrader (writer of Taxi Driver) was originally hired to direct this fourth installment in the Exorcist series. With nearly the entire film completed, production company Morgan Creek removed Schrader as director and replaced him with director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2: Die Harder) who proceeded to recast and reshoot much of the movie. Harlin's version was released theatrically by Warner Bros. in 2005 as Exorcist: The Beginning. Then, just in time for the DVD release of that film, Warner Bros also released Schrader's version OF THE SAME FILM as Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Both films star Stellan Skargard as the young Father Merrin, who uncovers a deeply buried evil on an archaeological excavation in Kenya (remember the desert scenes in beginning of the first Exorcist?) Both films were shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Both are based on the story written by William Wisher and Caleb Carr (although Exorcist: The Beginning also gives a screenplay credit to Alexi Hawley). Both films are executive produced by Guy McElwaine and David Robinson. Both have music by Trevor Rabin (although Dominion has additional music by Angelo Badalamenti). Both have costumes designed by Luke Reichle and both are co-produced by Wayne Morris. All making for the strangest head-to-head competition in Hollywood to date!

Doesn't this ultimately detract from the storytelling of the film? It is kind of like when there are alternate scenes in DVDs. Which way is it? How is the story supposed to go?

For those of us who enjoy a lively discussion of the symbolism, foreshadowing and use of motif, it is a real downer. All of our discussions are for nothing! How can something be genuinely symbolic if it is easily changed up in another ending or in this case, a whole other cast and story.

I guess it doesn't feel like art if it is so easily changed to meet the buying public's need. And although, that is not the reason mentioned, my guess is that the studio did not believe the original version was marketable and thus made all the changes.
Who's running the studios?
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