In the olden days of standard and special edition DVDs, the pattern was simple. For the one-disc bare bones disc, you often had substandard cover art meant to appeal to mass audiences, usually emphasizing either generic elements of the story or a main set piece that people remember enjoying in theaters.
But for the two-disc collector's set, and the BluRay, you got a snazzy replication of the actual poster from the movie itself.
Or, worst case scenario, you got the same image with a token mention that one of them is a two-disc collector's set.
But, of late, the studios seem to be going the opposite route. Let's look at four recent summer releases. The one-disc set for Iron Man (streets next Tuesday) feature the poster art, which highlights the entire cast.
However, for the two-disc set and BluRay, we have simply a stylized, artless picture of the Iron Man suit, something that resembles the start menu for a computer game. If I'm paying extra for the more expensive version, I'd also like the original poster art to go with it.Let's have a look at the just released art for the not nearly as bad as you've heard Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which Warner Bros will street in 1-disc, 2-disc, and Blu Ray versions in November. The standard one-disc set features the poster art, with the main cast in a moody, dimly lit battle-ready pose, suggesting drama, darkness, and turmoil. It's a decent enough poster.
Yet, for the two-disc and Blu Ray, we get a big brightly lit picture of just Anakin Skywalker, looking like he was posing for Tiger Beat. This is pretty terrible art regardless, but why punish consumers who opt for the more expensive option?
Next up is Get Smart, Warner again, which streets on December 4th in 1-disc, 2-disc, and BluRay versions (all three promising 62% more laughs - so that's 4 more laughs?). As you'll notice, the one-disc set gives us profiles of all four of the main stars, which is appropriate since Get Smart was a true ensemble piece that coasted along on the talent and goodwill of its cast.
Yet the 2-disc and Blu Ray version crops out Alan Arkin and Dwayne Johnson, leaving us with only Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. Not a huge deal, but again it seems a case where the more expensive version should have included the original poster art.
Finally, and this is the one that prompted me to write this, we have the covers for Sony's Hancock, which will street in November on 1 d... you get the idea. Anyway, the one-disc theatrical cut contains the poster art.
Yet the two-disc and BluRay extended edition displays $25 photo shopping that not only is ugly and displeasing to look at, but actually constitutes a mild spoiler. I gave Sony major props last summer for actually running an ad campaign for Hancock that didn't reveal the whole movie in the trailers and TV spots, so it's a shame that they had to go and hint at a major scene in the second act of the picture. And besides, if you're going to give Charlize Theron billing above the title, you damn well oughta give the same courtesy to Jason Batemen, who basically stole the film with a warm, subtle, empathetic comic performance.
On the plus side, the just released UK cover art for The Dark Knight seems to be on the right track. The two-disc and Blu Ray sets will include the original poster art, plus the option for covers with Batman or The Joker (the exterior sleeve has Batman, while the case itself has the Joker poster). Of course, both Nolan Batman pictures had so many posters that they could easily do a dozen versions of each film and have a different theatrical one-sheet for each.
Again, not the end of the world, but it doesn't make sense that the studios are making a habit of giving lesser quality presentations to the versions of their discs that the more discerning consumer is likely to purchase. And frankly, I'm tired of having to contend with ugly artwork when I fork over money for the 'more special' version of a given DVD or Blu Ray.
Update - darn it. Warner Bros. just released the US cover art for The Dark Knight, and it's exactly the kind of thing I was complaining about. The single disc version gets the official poster art. Meanwhile, the two-disc set gets the alternate, ugly poster art highlighting the 'way-cool' Bat-Pod. Aside from the fact that Batman is barely visible in the poster, it is easily the ugliest of the many posters, primarily because the center of attention is a giant wheel. How unfortunate.