Movie-making is a bizarre and chaotic process. Sometimes, the flurry of rewrites and added footage can result in an unlikely masterpiece. But sometimes, test audiences randomly dislike a film, and this leads to ill-advised reshoots. Here are 10 science fiction and fantasy movies that had new footage added, which made them worse.
1) I Am Legend
This movie is one of the poster children of mistaken reshoots — although the final result was financially successful, at least. The film's original ending was somewhat closer to the book ending, and a bit more in keeping with the idea that the "vampires" in the film viewed Robert Neville as a monster. This ending, however, did not test well with audiences in early screenings — so they went back to the drawing board and came up with an ending that undermines the entire message of the film but includes a big explosion. See the original ending above.
2) Deadly Friend
Wes Craven originally planned this film as a PG-rated psychological thriller, which explored complex ideas about artificial intelligence and human-machine interfaces. One working title for the film was even Artificial Intelligence. Alas, test audiences were expecting an R-rated gorefest — basically a rehash of Nightmare on Elm Street. So they had to go back and film some new sequences featuring tons of splatter — including a scene where a woman's head explodes after she's hit in the head with a basketball. In the end, both Craven and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin disowned the film.
3) Little Shop of Horrors
The original ending was much darker — Seymour feeds Audrey to Audrey II, which then eats Seymour and heads off for world domination, thanks to a craze for Audrey II buds. Test audiences didn't care for this "black comedy" ending — but a reshot ending, in which Seymour electrocutes Audrey II and marries Audrey, then moves to the suburbs, is a bit too saccharine and sappy.
4) The Invasion
This remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers was probably never going to be a great film — but it originally ended with a more open-ended conclusion. For one thing, it didn't make clear whether the boy who carries the cure for the alien infestation has survived or not. It was meant to be a darker, bleaker ending, in keeping with the notion of a more talky, artsy movie. But test audiences hated this ending — so the Wachowskis were brought in to write a more action-oriented conclusion, which was filmed by V for Vendetta's James McTeigue.
5) Superman II
This is one of the most famous cases where a director was replaced during filming. Richard Donner had shot 80 percent of the film — but after he was replaced by Richard Lester, the new director had to go back and reshoot almost the entire film, so he wouldn't have to share director credit. The Lester version of the film has its charms, but Donner's slightly less campy version (finally released via the Donner Cut several years ago) seems to be generally regarded as superior.
6) The Descent
In the original U.K. ending, it's revealed that Sarah's escape from the caves is just a dream and she's still trapped in the caves and the creatures are closing in on her. This was deemed to be too dark for U.S. audiences — so a new ending was filmed, in which she gets out of the caves and into her car, only to find the ghost of her dead friend sitting next to her. The darker ending is more in keeping with the rest of the film — but the sequel actually treats the U.S. ending as canonical, even though it's not the ending U.K. audiences saw.
7) 47 Ronin
This is another film that probably wouldn't have been a masterpiece in any case — but the biggest problem with this Samurai fantasy stems from some ill-advised reshoots. The film's producers went back and filmed a ton more scenes featuring Keanu Reeves as a disgraced half-Japanese, half-British Ronin, to beef up Reeves' screen time at the expense of the Japanese characters in the film. This creates some pretty major problems, since most of the plot doesn't actually revolve around Reeves, but he's on screen a lot in any case.
8) Exorcist: The Beginning
This movie started out as something very different, called Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Original director Paul Schrader envisioned it as a psychological thriller — but the producers weren't happy with his version, so they brought in Renny Harlin to reshoot up to 90 percent of the movie. (Above, see a rare trailer for Schrader's version.) Harlin's version was critically panned, and when Schrader's version finally came out on video, it was regarded as vastly superior. You can read a detailed comparison between the two versions here.
9) What Dreams May Come
This existential love story originally had a somewhat dark ending that showed the downside of reincarnation — the husband-and-wife pair of Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra do manage to get reincarnated together, but because Sciorra's character committed suicide, she is forced to suffer in her next life, by dying young and leaving Williams' character a widower. Test audiences felt this ending was too much of a downer, so reshoots resulted in a sentimental new ending, that let the pair live happily ever after in their new lives.
10) Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Test audiences didn't like the original ending of this film, in which Ramona and Knives finally realize that Scott really belonged with Knives all along — so Ramona walks away into the night, and Scott and Knives share a kiss. You can see this original ending, which was shown to test audiences, above. So director Edgar Wright went back and shot a new ending, in which Scott ends up with Ramona. It's easy to find people online who still feel strongly that Scott should have ended up with Knives.
Additional reporting by Ryan Plummer, Jessica Bennett, Madeleine Monson-Rosen and Youssef Shokry.