So I was just watching the Nostalgia Chick’s look at the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and at one point, she brings up the Extended editions and how they were a great addition extending (duh) the story and fleshing out minor characters and contained many in-depth features on how the movies were made. This suddenly made me realise two things.
1.) I think the Extended Editions maybe my favourite DVD’s ever
2.) DVDs and Blu-ray’s are kind of terrible.
See, here’s the thing. The actual movie on any disc is for the most part fine no qualms about that unless you’ve been screwed over quality wise with a dodgy copy, I distinctly remember Warner Bros. made a hodge podge of Inception DVDs when it was first released that I had to get my copy replaced and there are obivously exceptions, but it’s more of a fault of a scratched disc or a general shoddy manufacturing error. It’s the stuff that goes around it; the cover, the menus, the extras, it’s all part of the presentation. It’s 2013, the Lord of the Rings extended editions came out about 10 years ago and this is the standard that we should be at by this point, and it’s at least the standard I judge all DVD and Blu-ray (especially Blu-ray considering you’re already paying more) formats, high standards? Maybe, because very little has actually reached that level. It’s not uncommon still to have DVD (we’ll refer to Blu-rays as this too unless specified) sets rushed out with very little than the movie poster as cover art, a blank disc with the movie name, and special features that are limited only to “deleted scenes”.
So why is this? Well, it’s most likely in most cases to be a lack of funds to do an audio commentary, going back to the original footage (or in some cases negatives, which then cost even more to develop into digital blahdy blahdy tech babble) to find “hilarious” bloopers, cast interviews and making of documenatries. But whilst with smaller films this is understandable, huge blockbusters (you know the films most people will buy) will pull this trick and give you the consumer a bare bones copy of the movie with little effort put into it. A good example of this is the Blu-ray of Marvel’s The Avengers (Nope, not calling it the UK name because no-one else does and it’s stupid), which is the third biggest movie of all time, and was clearly rushed out to capitalise on that fact. we get a rubbish cover art (One that for a big ensemble movie goes for the three most popular characters, leading to those unaware to think there are no women in the movie), no audio commentary (It’s on the US release though), deleted scenes and a one shot short film, which admittedly was nice, but felt out of place considering its little relevance.
It’s become increasingly common for studios to roll out the DVD release in a considerably shorter time frame than they used to, Skyfall comes out DVD in about 2-3 weeks (18th Feburary) and it’s cinema release was only 3 months prior to that. And this is why these releases are so barren with extras, the companies have to get everything done within a tight deadline in order to allow manufacturing and shipping, which is getting considerably smaller because studios are scared of a little something called The Internet
Movie companies are often pretty quick to demonise the internet, they regularly hound YouTube stopping any unauthorised use of their content and many were keen on SOPA when it was around, but most of all, they think piracy on the internet is killing their profits. (The fact that the second and third highest grossing movies ever were released within the last 3 years tells us that’s not true) and if they don’t officially release the movie soon after the end of the theatrical run, people will head to The Pirate Bay and download it. And whilst that is probably true, it’s still a minority.
Of course maybe this just leads us to consider the future, which is already out there; downloading through services like iTunes and streaming with Netflix/LoveFilm. Obviously there are benefits to this, you pay as much as you would for a DVD once a month and you get a large selection of movies that you can watch anywhere, or you download a from iTunes for a lower price than a hard copy and again, watch anywhere.
But if this is the case, surely a DVD needs to do that extra something, like the Lord of the Rings extended edition, with their decorated art, tome style aesthetic and hours of extras on how they made Hobbit feel in order to sway people to spend that little bit extra on something that ultimately gives the product a bit of personality and charm and shows that they actually cared and put the effort into a product. Now, obviously what that extra something is depends on the movie and it really does suit big blockbuster movies better (I really can’t see something like This is 40 with steelbook packaging) and although it sounds like it, I’m not asking for every movie to have an hour of deleted scenes put back in (because that would ruin pacing, flow etc blahdy blah filmy stuff), or enough special features to keep you till your DVD player breaks of over-use. Films are an artform and I just want our DVD packaging and extras to reflect that and to stand out on your shelves. A good comparison to make is that of CD’s/Vinyl and downloads, sure you can download a copy of, say, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs for £7.99, but buying a copy on CD/Vinyl for a couple pounds more (The Vinyl cost me double that) gives you not only it’s wonderful artwork (AND A CHOICE OF BACKGROUNDS!!) but you get the liner notes with the lyrics and it’s just an extra bit of warmth and luxury that a download can’t provide (Some give you digital booklets, but it’s not the same). You don’t buy an album and expect nothing else but the record itself, why are DVD’s any different?
But this could all just be nostalgia and if people didn’t go out their way for this ten years ago, it’s not going to happen now. It was a good way of getting DVD owners to buy Blu-Ray copies, now it’s an excuse to just download/stream films (which no doubt costs movie companies less so more chance of profit to them), but with The Hobbit films expected to have extended editions, I can at least expect those to look fantastic on my shelf and filled with every teeny tiny detail in regards to the making of them, and if it’s the last hurrah for craft and care before the DVD dies to Netflix, least I’ll get my money’s worth.