Simple enough title, right? Not so simple topic though, but I will try and be brief. Then again, maybe I'll just give you the extended version of this entry, for $10 extra...
Yes, it is indeed time to discuss studio double-dipping, and whether there is reason to shell out more than once for any specific title. I personally always buy the loaded-to-the-gills edition of any movie that gives me the option to do so. Often it doesn't matter what exactly the loaded edition carries with it over the bare-bones edition, I just feel that if I'm willing to spend money to add a title to my collection, then I might as well blow the extra couple of dollars and get everything I can for my money, that's just me. There have been some REALLY worthwhile purchases that I have done this for, and there have been some purchases that have wasted my time, but overall I have been quite satisfied with what I buy when a title first releases.
Mind you, I'm only talking specifically when a title first releases. I am not a subscriber to re-releases that are there simply to get people to reach for their wallets a second time. That, I believe, is mostly studio greed, though in some instances there is in fact a valid and reasonable explanation for said double-dip attempt. Today, I'd like to discuss titles that I've bought special editions for, whether immediate day and date or delayed double-dip attempts, and also the biggest double-dip globally and how I've managed to resist buying it more than once.
First, the good stuff. I have some special editions that cost me a pretty penny, but I feel that the purchases have been justified. However, nothing beats getting more story-line or footage that adds to atmosphere or character development, and though I'm positive that this title is not everyone's cup of tea, the one movie I can highly recommend searching out the special edition for is "Stay Alive." I have this as a solid opinion, and will give you solid reasons for it. First of all though, a bit of plot for you to see where I'm coming from. The movie melds my other favourite time waster, videogaming, and is most simply put about a videogame that kills you in real life if your character dies within the game. Simple horror story, easy to understand plot, yes? It gets more complex, as it turns out the game is based on a real-life (in the movie) urban legend, and in fact the spirit of this ghost the legend is about has somehow been infused into the game. Additionally, the player's souls are linked to the game via the need to recite a spell before playing as a way to start the playthrough. A group of people who played it together (never mind how they got the disc, not important) try to stop themselves from dying, and thwart the actual ghost in the actual places depicted in the game. There is some well thought out action sequences, and ultimately our protagonists save the day, only to find the game being released nation-wide later on.
Now, that's fine, and the movie was good in theatres, but when I found a special edition, I grabbed that instead, and was excited to learn about the length of the movie being extended. Great! More scares? More game playing? No, actually, instead of more frightening stuff being added, stuff that might have been cut in order to lower the harshness of an American 'R' rating, I found that an entire side-story had been removed for time's sake! And this side-story answered so many questions about how the game got created, because the side-story also had the creator of the game in it, who was totally cut from the theatrical release of the film! I told Scott (if you are unfamiliar with my reference to a friend of mine, check out this post on my blog Crap I Think About) about this, but he has yet to see the extended version. He has however seen the theatrical release, and when he sees the difference he'll be shocked.
The same exact thing occurred with another series of titles, which may be overlooked by casual moviewatchers. That would be the "Highlander" movie series. I can't really explain the differences between the movies, except to state that the first movie rocks in either version. I want to be clear on this, the first movie is not, was not, and never will be the problem with this series. No, it is movies 2 and 3 that were the problems. Scott and I saw "Highlander 2" in theatres. What a piece of crap. It was so bad, that we never even bothered with "Highlander 3." When they came out on DVD, I grabbed the special edition, and that was fine - but then I heard people saying that the second and third movies were spectacular on DVD. What? Are you freaking kidding me? Well, I heard this from so many sources that against my better judgment I went and purchased the director's cuts of both two and three, and guess what? They were good. I mean, really good! The director's cuts had taken what were originally completely unwatchable crap and turned them into worthwhile entertainment! They did the same for "Alien 3" as well! Saw that in theatres, huge disappointment, got it in the "Alien Quadrilogy" set, loved the movie because the extra stuff reinserted made the film make sense! Incidentally, get the "Alien Anthology," if you need to choose between the two, it actually has even more stuff loaded into it than the original DVD only version.
So, based on the last two examples above, it can be seen that when studios tinker with a movie against the director's intent, the movie can be a huge box-office disappointment. When the director is allowed final cut, there are obviously times when he/she is SO right that it makes you wonder who is making these horrible decisions at the studio level. Regardless, there are times when a director cuts a movie back himself in order to make a deliberate attempt to thwart the studio from interfering, and thereby creating the need for a double-dip that is actually justified. Though there may be multiple examples of this out there, I am speaking of Peter Jackson and the "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a masterpiece of storytelling, one that had never been done properly in the years between the writing and the Jackson film versions, simply because technology had yet to make the vision truly come to life until then. However, what Tolkien failed to do is make his work accessible to everyone, ie. women. It may come as a surprise to some that the entire love story between Arwen and Aragorn contained within the movies is in fact not in the books beyond minor references. Jackson and his writers added this to give the bones more meat for the female set, and it worked itself into the story seamlessly, improving it wonderfully. He also purposefully removed scenes from the book, and one character (Tom Bombadil, anyone?) which slowed things down. The movies were epic, but the length was getting to be a problem, and thusly he determined that there would have to be two home releases, one of the theatrical experience, and one which was the entire directorial and author experience. He knew it going in, and the majority of film-goers were aware of it when anticipating the DVD release. Jackson was posting video blogs of the progress of the production, and mentioned it multiple times that there were going to be two releases, and therefore people who were interested could avoid the double-dip and simply await the extended versions. Having done so myself (what a surprise, I'm sure) I found that the movies were even more endearing with the added footage. There were no major plot changes as a result of the footage being removed for theatrical release, but the footage that was restored added to character development, patched some minor holes here and there as far as plot development (in the sense that we knew something had occurred, but now we can actually see it occur), and basically enriched the experience. Here truly were cuts made solely for time's sake, because today's audiences can't seem to keep their butts in seats for more than three hours without getting antsy.
Now that you've heard about the good, we must finally come to the bad. The worst, if you will. the biggest case of greed ever to come out of a studio, multiple times. The case of an ego trip surpassing common sense, and the grossest injustice in DVD so far. I talk of the "Star Wars" trilogy on DVD.
You'll no doubt notice that I am including the link to the original Blu-Ray box set only to the left there. I am doing so for a good reason. First of all, I don't think anyone will be shocked to learn that I thought the prequel trilogy was a total piece of shit. That's right, I said it, and as family-oriented as this blog has been up until now, there is simply no other way to describe it. That being said, I must also add that I feel that the changes that George Lucas made to the original trilogy to update them via CGI are for the most part also total pieces of shit. There is a reason why there was a campaign online titled "Han Shot First." If you know the series, you know exactly what I'm on about. No, I'm linking this particular version of the original trilogy because the original movies as people who grew up with them saw them no longer exist, and if you are going to spend money on this series to own it for the most recent technology, then spend this and no more, ever. See, Lucas has made so many versions of these films on VHS, DVD, and now Blu-Ray that it is possible, and I kid you not with this comment, it is possible to own no fewer than seven different versions of the original series, and I might be missing a few. There's the original VHS release, the VHS boxed set, the Special Edition VHS boxed set, the original DVD release, the Special Edition DVD boxed set, the special Anniversary DVD release boxed set, the Blu-Ray boxed set...and don't forget that they are being changed to 3-D for re-release in theatres, which will require yet another release on DVD and Blu-Ray. This isn't double-dipping, this is greed in its most obvious and outrageous incarnation. So don't get suckered in, get them once and once only, or at least sell a previous version towards getting the newer one - don't pay full price to upgrade, whatever you do. That is feeding the beast, and it's too hungry as it is.
Well, there you have it, movies worthy of special editions, and those not. There are tons more examples on both sides of that particular fence, but let's not have you reading for hours, okay? If you want to know my opinions on titles I did not mention, leave a comment and I will respond directly or in a special post addressing them. Otherwise, keep the popcorn warm for next time!