Dawn of the Dead appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Originally created for HD-DVD, the transfer seemed dated.
Overall sharpness appeared good most of the time, but some exceptions occurred, and those instances became exacerbated by edge haloes. Those weren’t major, but they created distractions and made the imafe looser than I’d like at times. No jaggies or shimmering occurred, and the image lacked print flaws. Zack Snyder loves grain, so plenty of that showed up, but that was a stylistic choice.
Dawn featured a very stylized palette. Much of the film demonstrated a sickly green tone, and it also showed blown-out imagery at other times. Colors looked solid across the board, as long as we examined them within their stylistic parameters.
Black levels also came across as deep and dense, while shadow detail was usually appropriately heavy without excessive thickness. As often occurs, dark-skinned characters got a bit of a raw deal, as some shots that featured them looked a little dense. Overall, Dawn was decent but unexceptional visually.
Happily, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Dawn of the Dead worked better. The soundfield presented a broad and consistently engaging affair. All five channels received a strong workout, as they offered a variety of elements throughout the movie.
Music showed good stereo separation and breadth, and effects seemed to be well placed and accurately localized. These aspects came from logical places and they moved neatly between speakers.
The surrounds played an active role in the film, but the many action pieces provided the best examples of the engulfing audio. All of the speakers came to life and the sound melded together well to create a clear and vibrant impression.
Audio quality also appeared to be top-notch. I thought dialogue always sounded warm and natural. The lines blended well with the action, and I heard no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded bright and showed good fidelity with fine dynamic range.
Effects were the most prominent aspect of the mix, as they presented accurate and bold elements that really created a fine mix. Bass response was loud and tight, and the low-end really shook the house at times – literally. Ultimately, Dawn offered a fine audio track that really added to the movie.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio appeared a bit warmer and fuller, while visuals showed improved clarity. While the Blu-ray topped the DVD, it wasn’t as big a step up as I’d expect due to the Blu-ray’s visual drawbacks.
The Blu-ray drops or alters many of the DVD’s extras. For a repeat component, we begin with an audio commentary from director Zack Snyder and producer Eric Newman, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat.
Don’t expect much from this fluffy discussion. On paper, the piece sounds good, as the pair go over a lot of appropriate topics. They talk about adaptation issues, the changes between the theatrical and unrated editions, the cast and working with them, makeup and visual effects, storytelling, and locations, with an emphasis on challenges shooting in Toronto.
Unfortunately, much of the time Snyder and Newman do little more than praise the flick. This is “cool”, that’s “awesome”, the whole thing is “great”. Their enthusiasm becomes slightly contagious, and they can be fun at times, but unfortunately the track lacks much depth. They simply don’t give us a very good feel for the production.
In addition, we get a “picture-in-picture” piece called U-Control. This mixes behind the scenes footage as well as storyboards and interviews. We hear from Snyder, Newman,
Zombie Survival Guide author Max Brooks, producers Marc Abraham, Richard P. Rubinstein and Eric Newman, screenwriter James Gunn, special makeup effects artist David LeRoy Anderson, production designer Andrew Neskoromny, composer Tyler Bates, and actors Sarah Polley, Inna Korobkina, Scott Reiniger, Jake Weber, Ving Rhames, Tom Savini, Jayne Eastwood, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, and Michael Kelly.
“U-Control” looks at the original movie and its remake adaptation, story/characters, zombie design and makeup/effects, cast and performances, sets and locations, and music. The DVD had a bunch of featurettes, and I suspect “U-Control” cannibalizes these for its purposes.
The Blu-ray should have stuck with the separate featurettes. We get some good info here – mainly about zombie design/execution – but lots of dead spots pop up across the “U-Control”, so it’s an inefficient format. Even with a mix of useful tidbits, it’s too much of a chore to access everything.
Not too many remakes better their inspirations, but the 2004 Dawn of the Dead indeed provides a more satisfying flick than its predecessor. Tight and exciting, it melds the horror and action genres to turn into a lively piece. The Blu-ray boasts excellent audio but comes with inconsistent supplements and flawed visuals. I like the movie but the Blu-ray doesn’t live up to expectations
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of DAWN OF THE DEAD