I'm always baffled by the films deemed worthy of multiple dips by studios and those films, which are equally, if often not more worthy, languish in the vaults and on shelves, doomed to wait while the super-hyped-up-mega-tricked-out-with-11-extra-seconds-of-sexy-footage editions are trotted out. A Knight's Tale is one such flick – while moderately entertaining and worth viewing at least once through, it by no means warrants having had three separate DVD releases in almost as many years.
Writer/director Brian Helgeland's playful revisionist romp through the days of yore, when men proved their worth by strapping on some armor, gathering up a lance and riding full-tilt at each other, features a infectious break-out role for Paul Bettany, as well as winning turns from Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk and Shannyn Sossamon, but the central conceit – jousters as rock star athletes of the Middle Ages – wears thin quickly.
I'll skip summarizing the film's plot (you can find an excellent example of that in my colleague Aaron Beierle's review of A Knight's Tale: Special Edition). I will say however that the main thrust of Helgeland's idea is diverting and his cast is more than up to the challenge – the Seventies/Eighties-centric rock soundtrack also adds an extra kick, making for a fun couple of hours some lazy Saturday night.
As previously mentioned, this release of A Knight's Tale is the third DVD offering of this 2001 film in nearly as many years – the special edition was released Sept. 25, 2001; the Superbit edition streeted Aug. 27, 2002 and this "extended director's cut" dropped almost exactly three years after the inaugural release. Billing this release as a "director's cut" is fairly misleading, in my estimation, since all the studio really did was restore the 10 minutes of deleted scenes that were offered as supplemental material on the first DVD. Basically, if you own the special edition, you've got the director's cut, albeit in a slightly scattered form. The restoration of this cut material only makes an already overlong film even longer (the new running time is 144 minutes) and doesn't really add much to the overall story.
In short, fans of the film who have yet to pick up a copy of A Knight's Tale would probably be content with this latest edition, which didn't lose any of the special edition's bonus features – all's well for now, until, of course, the inevitable HD-DVD version.
A Knight's Tale: Extended Cut is presented in a solid 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer – from what I can tell, this image hews closer to the Superbit release than the first DVD, which is to say it's a sharp, clean image with deep blacks and excellent detail (dig those lances splintering, baby). Those who own the Superbit won't need to upgrade here, but visually, those owners of the first edition may want to consider a re-purchase.
Various flavors of Dolby Digital 5.1 – English, Spanish, Portuguese and French – are on board as well as subtitles in all of the aforementioned languages; I'm certain that much like the visuals from the Superbit release, the Dolby Digital track was likewise ported over. The rock-heavy soundtrack packs a hefty punch as do the jousting scenes; the dialogue comes through clearly with no distortion or drop-out.
Surprisingly, in its third incarnation, A Knight's Tale doesn't boast much in the way of supplemental material and what is offered is recycled from earlier editions: all 11 full-screen featurettes – from "The Rock Music Scene in 1370" to "Stories For The People" – are ported over from the first DVD release as is the 15-minute HBO making-of featurette and the wildly campy Robbie Williams/Queen music video for "We Are The Champions" rounds out the package. Inexplicably, the Helgeland/Bettany commentary track included on the first release has been dropped from this edition, making it the only bonus feature not to be ported over – go figure.
A Knight's Tale: Extended Cut is a restored version of the film that reintegrates roughly 10 minutes of previously deleted footage – if you haven't checked out the film before, I'd suggest picking up the theatrical edition first. Fans of this rock-fueled dramedy who don't have the other two DVD releases should seek out a sale-priced copy of this latest edition. Recommended for rental for the curious and an iffy blind buy for Knight's Tale aficionados.