David Fincher’s Zodiac was supposed to be released in late 2006 in order to be considered for the Academy Awards. Paramount, the studio behind the film, felt it ran too long in its early incarnation of three hours and eight minutes, and requested it be trimmed down.
Fincher, having final cut, eventually got the sucker down to roughly two hours and forty minutes, but not without making some sacrifices, the most prominent of these being a forced release date of March 2, 2007. Smack dab in the middle of dumping ground season, where films go to die. Since then, a lot has been said about Zodiac, like (and I’m paraphrasing here): “It’s got more in common with All The President’s Men than it does with Se7en”. Agreed. “The film is ultimately about obsession.” That sounds about right. “Aside from being one of the year’s best, Zodiac is David Fincher’s masterpiece.” Co-sign.
If you’re at all familiar with Fincher’s work, the first thing you’re likely to notice about the picture is how restrained it feels. This is a good thing. Don’t take that as a knock against his other films, either. I enjoy just about everything in his canon on some level, my favorite being The Game. His style just feels a bit showy at times, which is cool for something like Fight Club (the fan boys are inches from ruining that one), but not entirely necessary for Panic Room (or Zodiac). Somewhere down the line, Fincher realized this. Maybe he saw the faults in Panic Room and decided to alter his craft, or maybe he’s just matured as a filmmaker. Truthfully, the reason behind this transformation is not important. Whatever it was has birthed Fincher 2.0, and that’s all that matters.
When compared to the theatrical version, Zodiac: Director’s Cut is not an entirely new beast, as only six minutes have been added to the film. It is, however, the definitive version for fans and newcomers alike. While the new material doesn’t necessarily alter the experience on a grand scale, it does offer a couple of nice gems, ones which would be sorely missed if swayed to watch the theatrical cut again. Immediately noticeable is two minutes of pitch black screen, accompanied by shifting songs, replacing what used to be a sh*tty title card meant to signify the passing of four years. A scene which details the process of acquiring a search warrant has also been added. In it, Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) present their case against Allen (John Carroll Lynch) to Captain Lee (Dermot Mulroney) using a speaker phone, Charlie’s Angels style.