Netflix’s Miniseries Version of ‘The Hateful Eight’ Is Very Strange — And Maybe a Turning Point in Film History
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comments from Quentin Tarantino about the creation of this “Extended Version.”
Long before you could stream movies on the internet, in the ancient days before cable television — back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth — it was not uncommon for broadcast networks to break particularly long films into pieces and air them over the course of several nights. The most famous example might be The Godfather Saga, which combined The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, recut both so their stories played in chronological order, and aired for four consecutive nights on NBC in the late 1970s.
Quentin Tarantino would have been about 14 years old when The Godfather Saga premiered. Maybe he has fond memories of it. That’s about the only aesthetic justification I can think of for Netflix’s strange new “Extended Version” of Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, which takes the original film and cuts it into four individual episodes, retrofitting an epic film as a TV miniseries.
Given the way Tarantino designs his movies as long, winding narratives made up of many smaller segments, you might expect his movies to work well chopped up into individual pieces. The Hateful Eight, for example, originally contained six chapters, each with their own title card.
The obvious way to cut it into episodes would be to simply separate each of those chapters. Netflix’s Extended Version, however, condenses the six original chapters into four episodes, each about 50 minutes in length. That leads to some baffling editorial decisions, like ending the first episode in the middle of a conversation about drinks. Will Kurt Russell’s John Ruth get the beverage he wants? What a cliffhanger!
Netflix also changed the title of The Hateful Eight’s final chapter. While moviegoers who caught The Hateful Eight in theaters — or who watched the theatrical cut of the film on Netflix — saw this...
... those who watch the Extended Cut will instead see this...
Although numerous press reports claimed the “Extended Version” was essentially the roadshow version — which played in select theaters around the country, projected in 70mm, prior to The Hateful Eight’s wide release, and ran about 20 minutes longer than the theatrical cut — with opening and closing credits tacked on to each of the four “episodes,” Tarantino told /Film that there is “25 minutes if not more” new footage. And some scenes were also recut, like the flashback sequence that now starts the final “episode.” (The Roadshow cut hasn’t been released on home video, so it’s difficult to compare the two.)
No matter how many “extensions” there are, the film (amorphous content?) is still so great; a claustrophobic nightmare of blood and snow set in a remote Western haberdashery populated entirely by terrific actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, and an unforgettable Jennifer Jason Leigh. But regardless of how extended or unextended this Hateful Eight is, it’s truly bizarre to see a movie awkwardly chopped up into a TV miniseries — particularly one by Quentin Tarantino, a director who obsesses over the theatrical experience and film preservation. Tarantino shot The Hateful Eight in Ultra Panavision 70, a nearly-extinct widescreen celluloid format, and then released that roadshow print, complete with an intermission. In 2015, he called 70mm “film’s saving grace” and said it could be celluloid’s last hope of “actually conquering” digital movies.
Three years later, you watch The Hateful Eight on Netflix like this:
The downside of a beautiful 70mm image like The Hateful Eight’s — and I saw the 70mm roadshow of The Hateful Eight; it was incredible — is that when it’s transferred to home video, the image is so wide that the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen meant to preserve the original aspect ratio can get really big. Then factor in the fact that people are consuming Netflix movies on their computers or tablets, and you have taken what was intended to be this enormous, field-of-vision-filling frame and turned it into something you can hold in the palm of your hand.
Tarantino told /Film that Netflix approached him with the idea of turning the film into “three or four episodes” with new footage. A year after the movie was released, Tarantino said, he and editor Fred Raskin “edited the film down into 50 minute bits, and we very easily got four episodes out of it. We didn’t re-edit the whole thing from scratch, but we did a whole lot of re-editing, and it plays differently. Some sequences are more similar than others compared to the film, but it has a different feeling.”
Still, it is surreal to see something by an artist who prides himself on being a film director broken into chunks you can watch on your phone. Thanks to the rise of streaming, the wall separating movies and television was already getting mighty thin. The extended version of The Hateful Eight is like someone took a sledgehammer to it.
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