Eight Below appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While no serious concerns appeared, the transfer was a little lackluster at times.
Some light edge enhancement marred the presentation. This led to moderately soft wide shots at times. Though most of the movie offered pretty good clarity and delineation, I saw enough fuzziness to create distractions. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no source defects from this clean image.
Given the snowy setting, colors didn’t play a huge role. The hues we saw looked accurate and concise, at least. They contrasted well with all the whiteness. Blacks seemed deep and firm, and the smattering of low-light shots appeared clear and smooth. Were it not for the softness it caused, this would have been a top-notch transfer.
An action/adventure needs a bold soundtrack, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Eight Below occasionally lived up to expectations. As expected, the movie’s more intense sequences offered the most interesting material. Storms and other frigid fare created a good sense of place and involvement as they could pack a nice wallop. The rest of the film showed nice environmental information that allowed us to feel meshed in the various places.
Audio quality was strong. Speech always remained natural and concise, and the score showed solid range and clarity. Effects also came across as clean and accurate. They displayed punch when necessary and always seemed well represented. This was a consistently positive mix.
As we move to the supplements, we open with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Frank Marshall and producer Pat Crowley, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. They offer a good mix of topics. We hear about working with the dogs, locations and attempts to recreate Antarctica, cast and performances, characters and story, issues with weather, and other production specifics.
I can’t call this a rollicking commentary, but Marshall and Crowley interact well and make the track move at a reasonable rate. They touch on the issues we’d expect and deliver good detail. This winds up as a useful and informative piece.
For the second commentary, we hear from Marshall, actor Paul Walker and director of photography Don Burgess. For the first 35 minutes and 45 seconds, we get a running, screen-specific piece with Marshall and Walker. After that, Walker disappears and doesn’t return until the 1:37:58 mark. In between, the director and Burgess sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion that follows those parts of the film.
Don’t expect much new information here. The topics usually recreate those covered in the first commentary, and we hear more than a few of the same statements and facts. This is especially true during the segments with Walker. The actor adds his own perspective on the shoot and working with the dogs, but we don’t learn much that doesn’t already appear in the first commentary.
The parts with Marshall and Burgess get more technical and broaden somewhat. We still find more than a little repetition along with some dead air, but we get new information about subjects like cinematography and camera specifics, lighting, and dealing with the mechanical challenges of the frigid climate. This commentary includes a smattering of decent notes, but it’s too slow and repetitive to be terribly worthwhile.
A 10-minute and 42-second featurette comes next. Running with the Dogs: The Making of Eight Below includes movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We find comments from Marshall, Walker, Crowley, writer Dave DiGilio, dog trainers Tammy V. Blackburn and Thomas L. Gunderson, animal trainer Mark Forbes, head animal trainer Mike Alexander, sled dog musher Jamie Ross, producer David Hoberman and actors Moon Bloodgood, Jason Biggs, and Bruce Greenwood.
The show looks at attempts to recreate Antarctica in Canada and elsewhere, casting the dogs and their work and training, and logistical and weather headaches. As a short promotional show, there’s a lot of fluff on display in “Running”. That said, we get some nice behind the scenes bits and learn some decent info about the dogs. Though the piece remains oriented at selling the movie, it proves watchable.
Five Deleted Scenes fill a total of nine minutes, 30 seconds. These open with a spoken introduction from Marshall as he lets us know what to expect. The segments themselves include “Breakfast at the Base” (one minute, 28 seconds), “Russian Fish Hut” (4:37), “Jerry Wants to Stay” (1:18), “Cooper Throws Up” (1:17) and “Jerry Meets Captain” (0:50). “Breakfast” offers an alternate introduction to the base’s crew, while “Hut” gives us a little more exposition. “Stay” and “Cooper” add just a bit of broadening as well, while “Captain” shows Jerry’s first encounter with the leader of the ice-breaking ship. All of these clips are pretty lackluster, as they don’t bring out anything that would help the story or the movie.
We can watch these with or without commentary from Marshall. He gives us some general story notes about the scenes and lets us know why he excised the clips. That makes his discussion useful.
This disc begins with ads for releases of The Little Mermaid, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, The Shaggy Dog, and Airbuddies. Meet the Robinsons, That’s So Raven: Raven’s Makeover Madness, and High School Musical. In addition, all of these and previews for Leroy & Stitch The Fox and the Hound, High School Musical and Brother Bear 2 appear in the Sneak Peeks section.
As a dog-lover, I hoped to enjoy Eight Below. Unfortunately, it offered too few shots of the pups and too much time with the boring human characters. This made the overall result slow and less than scintillating. The DVD provides erratic but generally solid picture along with good audio and a few quality extras. Below has its moments but never coalesces into a winner.