SPOILER WARNING: Downsizing minutiae discussed below!
Alexander Payne specializes in comedies, or at least dramedies, so we can understand why he wouldn’t want to delve into post-apocalyptic fare, as it can be a bit depressing. But his most recent film, Downsizing, at least entertained some much darker undertones.
Granted, we know that in the film the action of downsizing — shrinking oneself to a height of approximately 5” — was initially invented as a deterrent to over-population and climate change, but viewers mostly left the theater without seeing the calamitous effects of such environmental strife.
But writer/director Payne recently revealed that Downsizing originally went much darker, including a totally different beginning than the one that made the final cut — which showed the everyday ho-hum life of everyman Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) before he decides to shrink himself to help save the planet’s resources, while at the same time expanding his own material wealth.
But the original beginning imagined a world where efforts to save humanity ultimately failed. According to Payne (in an interview with Cinema Blend):
"There were a few scenes, and a framing device—that all of this is being told like a myth from tiny people 5,000 years in the future. The big extinction did come, wiped everyone out, and then we pick up the story with the tiny people who have repopulated the planet coming out of the vault 5,000 years in the future. And an old storyteller is telling children around a campfire. “Years ago, the world was ruled by giants.” “Ohhh!” “But the giants were always hungry, and they fished all the seas, and killed all the animals, and burned down all the forests, and made the world unbearably hot!” “Ohhh!” And then he starts to tell the story of Paul."
The vault that Payne is referring to is the one that a group of downsized Norwegians happily immerse themselves into, cult like, in the film’s third act. Alas, the filmmakers had to cut the original framing scenes due to time constraints. “The film was running long,” said Payne. “I miss it, and I like it. We still might use it in the future.”
That echoes what producer Jim Taylor told us about the film recently, that the team just had too much material, and had to kill some babies, as the old adage goes. "We had so many ideas and actually wrote so much different stuff that if there's ever a possibility of doing a sequel, we're ready for that. Which has not been the case ever before," said Taylor. "In fact, at one point we actually thought, 'Well, maybe this should be a mini-series or something.' Because there's so many ways you can go, and so many things that we left."
What do you think? Would you like to see what this miniature futuristic world would look like? Let us know in the comments!