Based on 30 years of critical assessment, Heaven's Gate stands as one of the worst movies ever made. That's not an exaggeration. After its release in 1980, director Michael Cimino's epic western drew almost unprecedented backlash; not only did it bomb hard at the box office, but the drubbing it received effectively ended the then-up-and-coming Cimino's career, along with the '70s cinematic golden age that let directors like George Lucas get away with Star Wars. It's now regarded as a kind of filmic Icarus myth, and has garnered the fascination of filmmakers ever since. In the case of Steven Soderbergh, the retired director recently tried to fix the failed film by chopping it in two and releasing it on his own website.
Soderbergh's Heaven's Gate: The Butcher's Cut slices the original film's muscular 219-minute runtime in half, removing several major scenes from the film while also moving the film's prologue to the end. The result is a film that skimps on background characters, but still revels in some of the excess and bloodshed that made Cimino's original Western so... memorable, if not wholly enjoyable. On his website, Soderbergh confesses that he become obsessed with the film to the point of violence:
As a dedicated cinema fan, I was obsessed with HEAVEN'S GATE from the moment it was announced in early 1979, and unfortunately history has show that on occasion a fan can become so obsessed they turn violent toward the object of their obsession, which is what happened to me during the holiday break of 2006. This is the result.
Indeed, the film opens with a simple intertitle card that reads, "I acknowledge that what I have done with this film is both immoral and illegal."