The 5 Most Useless Features Hollywood Won’t Stop Pushing
When a company decides to distribute their movie on DVD, Blu-ray, or 4K ULTRA HD (which is a format that I've never personally used but it sounds like a robot's lube), they figure that they should probably add some special features to make it worth the purchase. These often come in the form of Director Commentaries, Behind The Scenes footage, and bloopers, because we're obsessed with watching beautiful and wealthy strangers fuck up at their jobs.
However, as with all efforts to make money, sometimes these companies go overboard. Sometimes they add features that no rational human has a want or need for. I totally understand why people torrent their media, because if they torrent, they eliminate any chance that they'll have to sit through stuff like ...
IMMERSIVE BEHIND THE SCENES EXPERIENCES
If you're a big film fan, you don't get tired of people sitting in chairs and talking about movies. I love it. You could add "Christopher Nolan Mutters About Michael Caine's Make-Up Trailer In His Half Sleep" to a new copy of Interstellar and I'd fight my way through a sea of Best Buy employees in order to snag it. Just splice that chair talk with some scenes of the actual movie and you've made my afternoon. I've spent more time watching an indifferent John Carpenter talk about Halloween than I've spent interacting with my own wife. And you know what? I can't find her.
Recently, I picked up the Blu-ray for Watchmen, a movie about angsty conversations and the superheroes that love them. And it was there that I learned that director Zack Snyder had done something called "WB MAXIMUM MOVIE MODE," which sounds like something Zack Snyder would do. That man approaches the superhero genre like a freshman writing class student that got into college on a Monster Energy Drink scholarship, so "WB MAXIMUM MOVIE MODE" is his subtle way of telling us that he's about to drop film trivia on you to the no-holds-barred MAXIMUM. This isn't your grandpa's style of imparting movie knowledge! No grown-ups allowed, dick stains!
"Michael Bay WISHES that he could shoot gloves this well."
And he does impart that knowledge, popping in and out of the movie to talk about the movie, while standing in front of two screens, one playing the movie and the other showing the cool thing he's talking about. And it's ... something. No one likes to sit beside the living, breathing person on the couch who pops his head in during important parts to say "They ACTUALLY shot this on a green screen!" so it's baffling to think that the guy in charge of the special features on Watchmen decided that audiences needed him on their TV set.
"Can we just stop and appreciate how great of a job I did?"
And it isn't just Watchmen. Snyder includes it on his film Sucker Punch, which is bewildering, since movie studios could barely get people in theaters to see Sucker Punch on the merits of it just being a regular movie. How do they expect people to shill out money for the exclusive "Guy Who Made It Talks Over It" Edition? Along with a few other titles, some of the Harry Potter Blu-rays include this feature as well, just in case you were ever reading JK Rowling's classic novels and thought "Man, this would be so much better if someone wouldn't shut the fuck up during it."
There has never been a greater matching of movie and demographic than the matching of fifteen-year-old me and Dodgeball. Around that time, a lot of my friends had become enchanted with things like Zach Braff's Garden State and the Garden State soundtrack, but when I saw a movie that was 90 percent about people being hurt by sports equipment, I finally felt like someone understood me. And then I got the DVD, which included an Easter egg. Every time Ben Stiller snapped his fingers in the movie, you pressed ENTER and secret footage would pop up! It was a perfect scenario! You know your favorite thing? Now there's more of it! It was like DLC for my soul.
And then this happened. You go, me.
I only managed to press ENTER once before I completely forgot about the gimmick, mainly because I ended up paying attention to the movie itself and not sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for some tiny motion to trigger my thumb into action. Following along with a carefully constructed film always trumps anticipating some random, context-less scene that the director already abandoned once. It was stuff that, under any other circumstance, wouldn't have made it within ten feet of the movie. Now, it was Trojan Horse'd into the film under the guise of "Hey Daniel! You like pressing buttons, right?"
The worst problem with other onscreen prompts is that no one plans to make a full movie with the DVD remote in mind. Final Destination 3 gave you a "CHOOSE THEIR FATE" option, which let you choose one of two choices during integral scenes. And that's fun in theory, because every scene in a Final Destination film is like an I Spy book for psychopaths. Characters enter a room, and you go into morbid Sherlock mode. "There's a construction worker with a drill there, a boiling pot of water there, a loose cable there, and a mom who isn't paying attention while she's driving there. One of these things is going to remove a character's head."
They were on a rollercoaster? Fucking BINGO.
Sadly, "SLIGHTLY ADJUST THE SCENARIO WITH LITTLE TO NO CONSEQUENCE ON THE REST OF THE FILM" doesn't look as good on the back of the box and isn't as catchy as "CHOOSE THEIR FATE." Sure, there was new footage, but not once did it improve anything or make anything cooler. Instead, "Choose Their Fate" ended up being "Find Out What This Movie Would Be Like If The Director Hated You." If you're constructing a movie about the thin line between life and death, and you give viewers the choice to randomly make something more boring happen, you might have forgotten why people seek out happiness in the first place.
Heads, you continue with your day. Tails, you regret ever buying this movie.
Any Cool Blu-ray Menu
I know relatively little about new technology, and I am very easy to excite. So it always pains me whenever someone my age tries to explain new formats or "millennial" stuff like their whole generation has been pulled over by the police and they're the only ones without an open alcohol container. Why don't they think that this is as cool as I do? Look at how great this might be! That said, the next paragraph is going to make me sound almost a thousand.
Blu-ray menus, I love you. But can you just take me to a different screen when I want to do something new?
I don't like complex menus, and neither would Superman.
Maybe it's easier this way. Maybe it's less difficult to just stack this array of rectangles up the screen like I got a virus and accidentally downloaded a new toolbar on my damn movie, rather than take me to a new menu altogether. Maybe making the menu look like some weird ecosystem diagram is the future, whether I like it or not.
Get off my lawn.
This is a minor complaint, but just take it as a warning, potential hirers: If you ever want me to write something complaining about millennials, know that my biggest grievance with them is their gosh darn Blu-ray menus. Safe spaces, Instagram, whatever. Do it if it makes you feel better. But easy-to-use menus are an American institution, and you will have to rip them from my equally nimble and patriotic hands.
Any Kind Of Game
Scene It?, the DVD game where you answer trivia about movies, is a great way to let your dad know that your film history degree is, in fact, the shit. They've released multiple versions of it, along with deluxe editions and expansions, and what works about it is that it's super general. Film buffs go home knowing that they've mastered the world yet again, and non-film buffs realize that reading the words "Steven Spielberg" at one point paid off.
But one that is specialized for Pirates Of The Caribbean? Or one that's just dedicated to the craaaaaazy differences between men and women? Amazon tells me that yes, people have indeed bought and enjoyed these things, but the best thing about regular Scene It? is that you can play it multiple times. The only reason to play the Pirates Of The Caribbean Scene It? more than once is if you want revenge on someone that beat you at Pirates Of The Caribbean Scene It? And do you even interact with someone that uses that as their go-to source of joy, or do they just feed you to their basement of snake children right off the bat?
"I've taught them to speak in only Johnny Depp quotes, because death is best when it's infuriating."
A big problem with the good intentions behind some of these is when you base them around an ongoing series, they become outdated by the next second, like the original Marvel and Harry Potter ones. The Harry Potter Scene It? came out in 2005, right around the time that The Goblet Of Fire was released. Four whole movies of fun! The Marvel Scene It? came out in 2006, so you were stranded on an island of Elektra and X-Men: The Last Stand questions. That's not a game. That's something that comes back to life when you accidentally spill blood on it.
And it isn't just the Scene It? franchise that alienates anyone over the age of any age at all. Young kids, especially, get handed these weird consolation prizes for not being able to own an Xbox in the form of interactive DVD games. I could probably go on about how un-fun it is to use a DVD to play an activity book, but I think the ghostly image in the top left of the MARVEL HEROES BREAKOUT DVD game says a thousand words with a single expression:
Putting music videos on the DVD of the movie that the song is featured in is weird points of history and technological advancement all colliding together. For example, on the Spider-Man DVD, you can watch Chad Kroeger shout about how a hero can save u-uh-uhssssss, because in 2002, we'd arrived at a cultural intersection where we deemed Nickelback and Spider-Man to be two pieces of the same important puzzle. When that movie came out on DVD, YouTube and other easy ways to stream video weren't big things yet, so you went back to the library and dreamed about what the internet would be like in 2006.
You dreamed of watching this. Don't deny it.
If you wanted to watch the lead vocalist of Saliva be involved in a Spider-Man movie (Was 2002 real?), you'd have to wait for the video to show up on TV in some way, or you'd buy the Spider-Man DVD. DVD sales were also way bigger back then, and since Spider-Man was the first film to hit $100 million in its first weekend and was the highest grossing superhero film of all time at that point, of course they were going to load it up with Spider-Man related stuff. Through the lens of 2002, it all makes sense.
A lot made sense in 2002.
Through the lens of 2014, not so much. I think it's safe to say that pulling up YouTube is a quicker process than finding the disc, putting the disc in the Blu-ray player, waiting for the Main Menu to show up, navigating through the labyrinthian halls of Menugard, finding the music video, watching the music video, ejecting the disc, and putting it back where you got it from. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray, to continue the theme of inexplicable additions to Spider-Man media, has Alicia Keys' "It's On Again" on it. That is either a scorched-earth approach to collecting disc supplements, or they're utterly convinced that people will appreciate a song they just heard at the end credits of the movie so much that they will immediately want to hear it again.
Kendrick Lamar gets to be associated with a Spider-Man movie and he gets stuck with this one?
Either that, or they're hoping that the Venn Diagram of people who want to meticulously watch through every hour of special features, and people that want to hear a hip-hop song that's vaguely about Spider-Man, has an immense middle oval. Regardless, if the people in any of these demographics exist, I need to talk to them. I need to talk to the guy that wasn't sure about buying the Spider-Man DVD in 2002, but saw that "Hero" would be on it, and then became sold. Those are the people that I think I can learn the most from. Teach me your ways. Teach me what it's like to be happy.
Daniel has a blog.
For more check out 5 Things You Love to Discuss That Nobody Else Cares About and 4 Video Game Gimmicks Nobody Likes Anymore.
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