The Descendants appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Overall, the image looked quite good.
Sharpness was usually solid. A few wider shots showed a little softness, but those instances remained minor. Instead, the majority of the movie seemed accurate and concise. I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Source flaws were a non-factor, as I witnessed no specks, marks or other debris.
Colors were a strong point, as they seemed consistently accurate and well-saturated. The movie featured a warm palette that looked vivid and full, Black levels were appropriately deep, but shadows could be a little off. That occurred primarily due to some ugly “day for night” photography; those shots tended to be somewhat opaque. Nonetheless, the image was strong the majority of the time and worked well.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack suited the movie pretty well but won't win any awards. The soundstage appeared nicely broad at the appropriate times and could be moderately engulfing on occasion. It's a talky little film, so the focus is mainly up front, but the audio expanded when necessary. This occurred mostly via gentle environmental Hawaiian ambience, so the surrounds didn’t have a lot to do. That said, the imaging made sense for the story.
Sound quality seemed fine. Dialogue always appeared crisp and natural, and I had no trouble understanding it. The low-key Hawaiian music that acted as the score was warm and distinctive. Effects also seemed realistic and adequate for the tasks at hand. Descendants won't be anyone's demo track, but it worked well for the film.
When we head to the disc’s extras, we start with two Deleted Scenes. We get the creatively-titled “Scene 41” (1:36) and “Scenes 92-93” (4:14). (Note that the running times include text introductions from director Alexander Payne; in these, he tells us a little about the sequences.) “41” simply adds a little from the dorm supervisor at Alex’s school; it’s minor and not especially interesting. “92-93” gives us more between Matt and Alex as they discuss her status in the face of her mother’s crisis; while this gives Alex a bit more dimensionality, I think it’s ultimately unnecessary.
A slew of featurettes follow. We find Everybody Loves George (7:27), Working With Alexander (13:34), The Real Descendants (12:06), Hawaiian Style (16:47), Casting (8:11) and Working with Water (10:58). Across these, we hear from Payne, co-producer/unit production manager George Parra, director of photography Phedon Papamichael, author Kaui Hart Hemmings, producers Jim Taylor and Jim Burke, Kualoa Ranch president John Morgan, Hawaii descendant Patsy Wilcox Sheehan, associate producer/second unit director Tracy Boyd, production designer Jane Anne Stewart, stunt coordinator Brian L. Keaulana, various members of the Hawaiian Water Patrol, underwater cinematographer Don King, King’s assistant Jai Mansson, and actors Shailene Woodley, Nick Krause, Judy Greer, Mary Birdsong, Rob Huebel, Matthew Lillard, Amara Miller, Beau Bridges, Matt Corboy, Todd Bradley, Robert Forster, Laird Hamilton and Patricia Hastie. The programs cover cast and performances, Payne’s work processes, some history behind the film’s story/characters, shooting in Hawaii and reflecting the culture on film, and filming on/in the water.
“Loves” lives up to its billing and offers little more than a fluffy Ode to the Greatness That Is Clooney; other than a few decent shots from the set, it’s a waste of time. “”Working” veers into puffery at times too, but it’s definitely meatier and more worthwhile. “Real” looks at the inspirations for the flick and gives us a nice take on the facts behind the fiction.
With “Style”, we get another fairly fluffy piece, as it’s essentially just a love letter to Hawaii; though it throws in a few good notes – such as an insight about a blanket used in the flick – it’s pretty superficial most of the time. “Casting” focuses on supporting roles, which makes it intriguing and one of the disc’s better featurettes. Finally, “Water” throws out useful notes about the challenges of dealing with liquid sets. It’s an effective end to an inconsistent collection of featurettes.
Three Music Videos appear. We get videos for “Will I Ever See You Again”, “Postcards from Paradise” and “Honolulu’s Whisper”. All of these offer instrumental music accompanied by footage of Hawaii. From start to finish, they’re dull as can be.
Waiting for the Light runs two minutes, 52 seconds and shows footage from the set as the cast and crew… wait for the light. It’s a modest pleasure but a mildly fun look at the shoot.
We hear more from the director and star via the 11-minute, 58-second A Conversation with George Clooney and Alexander Payne. They discuss other films/influences and experiences, aspects of creating Descendants, Clooney’s character and performance, and some other production elements. Payne and Clooney show an easy connection here and make this a likable and delightful chat; it’s too bad they didn’t do a full commentary together.
A silent movie called The World Parade – Hawaii lasts nine minutes, 55 seconds. This offers a little travelogue reel that shows us Hawaii circa the 1940s, I’d guess; it’s undated but doesn’t look like it came from the silent film era. It’s a decent slice of history.
The disc opens with ads for We Bought a Zoo, Fox World Cinema and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. These also appear under Sneak Peek along with a clip for My Week With Marilyn; the disc tosses in the trailer for Descendants as well.
A second disc adds some value to the set. It delivers a DVD copy of the film as well as a digital copy of Descendants.
The Descendants was my preferred pick of the nine Oscar Best Picture nominees, and a second screening didn’t change my mind. Rich, involving and heartbreaking, it creates a low-key but convincing drama. The Blu-ray delivers very good picture, more than acceptable audio and an erratic collection of supplements. I wish the Blu-ray came with a stronger roster of bonus materials but this is still a fine release for a winning film.