Exorcist: The Beginning appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Abandon hope all ye who want to find a flawed transfer - Beginning looked terrific.
At no point did sharpness falter. If any soft segment occurred, I didnít notice them. The movie consistently demonstrated excellent definition and delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no instances of edge enhancement. In addition, the image totally lacked any form of source defects.
Beginning used a very focused palette. Gold dominated matters, as it reflected the sandy setting and spread across much of the film. Merrinís flashbacks went for a cold gray look with heavy desaturation, and shots in the doctorís office took on a green tint. Those were the three major color choices of the flick. The transfer brought them out well, as it represented the tones quite solidly. Blacks were tight and firm, while shadows consistently demonstrated good depth and clarity. I didnít like the movie, but the visuals of Beginning excelled.
In a surprising move, Exorcist: The Beginning includes both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Very few Warner Bros. DVDs toss in DTS mixes, so itís notable when one does. In this case, the presence of the DTS audio clearly occurs because Beginning is a Morgan Creek production. When you examine other WB DVDs with DTS such as True Romance and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, theyíre almost always Morgan Creek flicks. I detected no substantial differences between the two mixes, as they sounded very similar to me.
When it came to the audio of Exorcist: The Beginning, one issue dominated: bass! The movie poured on the low-end, and those elements played too prominent a role in the proceedings. Happily, bass stayed fairly tight and didnít pop or become distorted. The mix simply played up the low-end too strongly, and it occasionally overwhelmed the rest of the audio. I sometimes found it hard to hear anything else because my subwoofer was knocking me against the wall.
Once I got past that issue - and it wasnít a constant problem, as the bass was acceptably restrained much of the time - I found a lot to like about the audio. The soundfield helped accentuate the action. It used the surrounds with reasonable frequency to create an ominous atmosphere and to jolt us with some scares. The forward spectrum dominated and offered a smooth and natural feeling.
Except for the overcooked bass, audio quality fared well. Despite some awkward looping at times, speech remained concise and natural, with no edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were tight and accurate, and music showed good breadth. The score demonstrated nice clarity and vivacity throughout the film. The mix would have worked better if the sound designers had dialed down the low-end, but it was still solid enough for a ďB+Ē.
As we move to the supplements, we find only a smattering of pieces. One disappointment comes from an omission. Rumors abounded that WB would release a Beginning set that also included the original Paul Schrader version. Hopefully such a release will eventually hit the shelves, but this isnít it.
Instead, we locate only a few basic components. The most significant extra comes from an audio commentary with director Renny Harlin. He provides a running, screen-specific chat that goes into a mix of subjects. Harlin talks about the development of the story and attempts to make it connect with the original but not just remake it. He also discusses sets and shooting at Cinecitta in Italy, casting, and cinematography and the movieís visual look.
What you wonít hear is any information about the movieís prior incarnation. Harlin alludes to a rushed production schedule but never mentions the existence of an earlier attempt to make the film or anything else connected to the Schrader version. Thatís a disappointment, especially since Harlinís chat rarely becomes anything very interesting. He covers basic production details in a fairly monotonous manner and doesnít tell us much that seems intriguing. Some dead air occurs, and he also occasionally just narrates the flick. The commentary provides a rudimentary examination of technical topics and little else, which leaves it as a pretty dull undertaking.
Next we get an eight-minute and nine-second behind the scenes featurette. It mixes movie shots, shots from the set, and interviews with Harlin, producer James G. Robinson, and actors Stellan Skarsgard, James DíArcy, and Izabella Scorupco. They offer basic story and character notes as well as generic praise for all involved. Only one interesting tidbit emerges, as Harlin tells us how he broke his leg before shooting. (Wonder why he didnít mention that in his commentary?) Otherwise thereís not a scintilla of useful information in this fluffy promotional piece.
In addition to the trailer for Beginning, we end with Cast & Crew entries. The set includes listings for Harlin, actors Stellan Skarsgard, Izabella Scorupco, James DíArcy, Remy Sweeney, Julian Wadham, Andrew French, Ben Cross, Alan Ford, Antonie Kamerling, Eddie Osei and Israel Aduramo, director of photography Vittorio Storaro, editor Marc Goldblatt, composer Trevor Rabin, and costume designer Luke Reichle. This area presents short biographies for all the crew but only the first four actors mentioned get the same treatment.
While I recognize that itís tough to create an effective follow-up to a classic like The Exorcist, surely someone could do much better than the feeble Exorcist: The Beginning. Nothing more than a standard issue horror flick with some mild religious overtones, it lacks anything to make it involving or effective.
At least the DVD presents excellent picture along with very good audio hampered only by overwhelming low-end material. As for extras, we get only a mediocre commentary and a few other basics. Unless the power of Christ compels you to own everything Exorcist-related, avoid this clunker.