Into the Wild 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. The film boasted a consistently strong transfer.
At all times, sharpness appeared positive. Very little softness crept into the presentation, as even in the widest shots, the image provided nice delineation and clarity. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement remained minimal. Outside of some stylistic grain, the movie stayed clean; no source flaws interfered with the picture.
With all its daylight shots out in nature, Wild featured a rich, natural palette. As with that grain, a few scenes went with some more stylized tones, but for the most part, the colors remained realistic and vivid. Blacks were dark and dense, and shadows looked clear and appropriately visible. I felt quite pleased with this excellent image.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Into the Wild, it also proved to be highly satisfying. With all its outdoor settings, the soundfield enjoyed quite a few chances to create a vivid landscape. These gave us a clear feeling for the various environments and melded together smoothly. The mix used the surrounds in an unobtrusive manner but in a way that accentuated the atmospheric elements. I thought the track worked really well for the story.
Audio quality was consistently good. Music appeared warm and vibrant, as the score and songs seemed well-reproduced. Speech came across as natural and distinctive, while effects were clean and accurate. Both music and effects showed very nice bass response, as the mix featured warm, tight lows. I really liked the soundtrack and found it to be surprisingly effective.
A few ads open DVD One. We get clips for There Will Be Blood, The Kite Runner, Margot at the Wedding and Beowulf.
Otherwise, all this set’s extras appear on DVD Two. In addition to the film’s trailer, we find two featurettes. Into the Wild: The Story, The Characters runs 21 minutes, 53 seconds as it combines shots from the set, movie clips and interviews. We find notes from writer/director Sean Penn, author Jon Krakauer, singer/musician Eddie Vedder, and actors Emile Hirsch, Hal Holbrook, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, and Kristen Stewart. We find out what attracted Penn to the project and how he brought the novel to the big screen. We also learn why Krakauer wrote his book as well as research, casting, performances and aspects of the characters, Penn’s style as a director, and some experiences during the shoot.
Though “Story” doesn’t run long enough to offer great depth, it provides a nice snapshot of a few different issues. We get a decent overview of the actors and the tale across this short show. I’d like more detail, honestly, but what we find informs.
Into the Wild: The Experience goes for 17 minutes, 19 seconds and features Penn, Hirsch, Holbrook, Vedder, Krakauer, producer Bill Pohlad, production designer Derek Hill, art director Domenic Silvestri, costume designer Mary Claire Hannan, production sound mixer Edward Tise, editor Jay Cassidy, producer Art Linson, and actor Catherine Keener. This piece looks at locations and related complications along with Penn’s work during the shoot, physical challenges for Hirsch, visual design, cinematography, and a few other production specifics. “Experience” acts as a good complement to “Story”. It throws out a mix of useful thoughts about the different technical aspects of the flick and entertains as it does so.
By the way, if you wonder why Paramount packaged Wild as a two-disc set when it only includes about 40 minutes of extras, I’d guess this was a bit rate decision. Since the movie lasts almost two and a half hours, the extras would’ve made DVD One awfully crowded, so it’s likely a good thing they put them on a separate disc.
Due to my feelings about its lead character, I maintain some ambivalence toward aspects of Into the Wild, particularly in the way it moderately advances the idiotic notion that someone who craps in the woods is more alive than the rest of us. Nonetheless, there’s a lot to like here, especially since Sean Penn manages to bring a moral ambiguity to the tale that leaves it much more open for interpretation than I’d anticipated.
The DVD comes with excellent picture and audio, but it skimps on extras. That’s a disappointment, as I’m sure there’s much more to tell about this flick and its story; I particularly would’ve appreciated a documentary look at the lead character. Still, the DVD presents the movie itself well, and it’s enough of a quality flick to earn my recommendation.