Rewatching ‘Natural Born Killers’ On Blu-ray and Exploring What is Found

Last week I sat down to watch Natural Born Killers on Blu-ray. It was the first time I had seen the director’s cut since it was originally released on VHS in 1996. I remember how I had anticipated the film prior to its 1994 release and how I pretty much played the soundtrack on a loop when it first came out. However, over time I began to care less and less about the film and started thinking it was more my teen-aged self that found the blood lust of Mickey and Mallory so appealing, coupled with the soundtrack made of Leonard Cohen and Nine Inch Nails tracks (to name a few). It was violent, gritty and dirty and had a message a four-year-old could grab hold of.

I popped the Blu-ray into the player with reservations and knew what was going to happen next in every single scene, but I was loving every minute of it. Sure, the message of the sensationalism and commercialism of the big bad media is still hammered home with zero regard for subtlety, but what makes it even more appealing 15 years later is the fact our society and media outlets haven’t improved since Natural Born Killer‘s release. Instead, it’s only gotten worse and worse.

Just after I got done watching the film I went over to my computer to browse the latest news and a headline from the Associated Press came through with spectacular timing. “Father of Palin’s grandson to pose for Playgirl” read the headline telling a story of how the 19-year-old father of Sarah Palin’s grandchild will pose nude for Playgirl. This is what passes for news nowadays. Only a week or so ago a story detailing the wedding of Khloe Kardashian (who?) and L.A. Lakers forward Lamar Odom was headline news. What’s worse? The presumed media glorification of a pair of serial killers for ratings or 24/7 coverage of the morons in the public eye and what they are up to? Shia LaBeouf smoked a cigarette and Megan Fox went to Starbucks. Oh boy! Can’t wait to see what crazy thing they do tomorrow!

We may no longer be as preoccupied with Geraldo Rivera interviewing Charles Manson as we once were, but instead we turn our presidents into celebrities and dote awards on them before they’ve achieved an inkling of what they promised. Facts are presented with doubt and speculation, no longer allowing for a proper judgment to be made before it’s too late. By the time the real stories are presented the public has already made up their mind and drawn the line.

Should a Mickey and Mallory attempt to make their way across the country on a killing spree now I can only imagine what kind of celebrity they would achieve. Perhaps everyone would group hate them with a hash-tag designation on Twitter. Perhaps a pair of groups would be established on Facebook, one asking you join a group that hates the two serial killers and likely even a group that would ask you to become a fan of their behavior.

The brand new Blu-ray for Natural Born Killers has a featurette looking directly at this exact phenomenon. What would the effect on society be with social media, blogs, YouTube and the like?

I recently had a conversation with someone explaining why I believed people became increasingly grumpy as they got older. It’s because the generation following them are making the same mistakes their generation made and are doing it at a faster rate. The goal of every generation is to hopefully be succeeded by a smarter, more educated group of people. Unfortunately, we have reality show contestants hosting daytime talk shows and the cult of Oprah Winfrey. We care about the wedding of a no name celebrity and a basketball star and consider a naked photo spread of a 19-year-old boy to be headline news. You tell me, if this was the generation you were leaving your legacy to just how grumpy would you be?

For anyone seeing this film 15 years after seeing it for the first time, no matter what your opinion of it was then, I think you will grow increasingly frustrated with the world around you as the film plays on. While the situations presented are over-the-top and highly exaggerated they actually seem more plausible now than they did in ’94. They are representative enough of our current media and societal interests the comparisons are all too easy to make. In Natural Born Killers Mickey and Mallory’s rage was originated as a result of poor upbringing, their rage became more focused and understood the more their love grew until the point their love killed the demons inside of them and the demons infecting our society as represented by Robert Downey Jr. as Wayne Gale. As a result I love this film now more than I did back in the mid-90s and now I believe I am enjoying it for the right reasons.

Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray presentation includes the previously mentioned “How Would It All Go Down Now?” featurette taking a look primarily at how this film would play out in the day of the Internet. It also includes a new introduction by Oliver Stone, saying this is the first time this director’s cut has been seen, but you can still buy the 1996 Director’s Cut VHS release at Amazon so it seems he’s stretching the truth a bit in that respect. Then again, this cut is 122 minutes long, which is 4 minutes longer than the 2000 Lionsgate release of the Director’s Cut. Like I said, I hadn’t watched this film in some time so I can’t tell you what — if anything — is new, but those are the facts of the matter.

Along with this you get the same featurettes as originally included as well as a 44-page booklet featuring information on the film, an introduction by Stone and information on the cast. It’s a nice little addition, but I wish it was in Warner’s cool digi-packaging such as was the Blu-ray release of the theatrical edition last June.

Overall, I would recommend this film in a second. It’s certainly not a perfect film in terms of narration and storytelling, but the ability this movie has to conjure up opinions and conversation can’t be overlooked. Sure, it has moments that go on too long and it works itself in circles on occasion, but I think the content and message of the film works even better now than it did so many years ago, and I absolutely love the performances by Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Downey Jr. and Tommy Lee Jones as they culminate in a spectacular third act.

This Blu-ray hits shelves on October 13 and will also be released on DVD the same day.

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