Bonus Is Off the Disc!

Much as been written about how the home entertainment industry is experiencing significant change, initiated by the changing tastes and habits of the entertainment-seeking public and carried out by studios, distributors, and other passionless corporate entities. The trend has pronounced — not long ago I wrote about what seemed to be the sad state of DVD and Blu-ray bonus and how studio home entertainment divisions were being tempted to scale back on the ‘extras’ due to the perception of poor ROI. I argued against its demise, noting that bonus is what made a release ‘special’ to fans and could help drive sales.

Yet I was pleasantly surprised, this morning, to see that there is at least one filmmaker out there who is taking matters into his own hands, innovating and engaging audiences and throwing the home entertainment world a curve ball.

This story from CNET reports that Rian Johnson, the director of the new release Looper has recorded a director’s commentary for theatrical film-goers. Johnson notes that this isn’t the first time he’s done this (The Brothers Bloom), but as his career has flourished, a modest effort such as this is getting more attention from fans and the media. Imagine: A filmmaker is producing ‘bonus’, so to speak, to address the questions and concerns of the fans of his work and makes it generally available via the internet site Soundcloud.

Sidebar: Prometheus could have used something like this. I would’ve seen the movie again if I could have had something like this available. (Hey, Ridley?)

Johnson acknowledges in the first minutes of the commentary that it may be a shallow attempt to squeeze another viewing of his film and cost of a ticket from theater-goers, and cautions against using the commentary with the first viewing. The cynical among us could view it as such, but I choose to look at this as a ‘glass is half full’ kind of situation. Johnson has crafted an intricate, thought-provoking and critically-well-received movie which benefits from insight into his creative process.

In an age where we’re rather conditioned to expect less, this is certainly a nice surprise. I hope the commentary, and perhaps some additional bits of ‘bonus’ make the home entertainment release.

Perhaps this will inspire other filmmakers to do the same. I’m thinking about the next Scorsese release, David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson or James Cameron. (Now wouldn’t this be cool for the next Avatar!)

What a great way to get cinemaphiles into the theater once again! Bravo, Rian Johnson. You’ve made more than a few fans-for-life today.

Me? I’ve been a Rian Johnson Fan since Brick, but I might just be seeing Looper twice.