Red Dragon 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. Though much of the flick looked excellent, a mix of flaws detracted from the experience.
Sharpness usually came across well. Light edge enhancement made some wide shots a little weak, but the majority of the flick appeared concise and distinctive. Unfortunately, I noticed spasms of shimmering and jagged edges, and a smattering of specks and grit also manifested themselves. Grain could be a little heavy at times.
Although I expected a stark palette from Dragon, the movie often featured surprisingly bright tones. These varied, of course, and much of the movie went with subdued hues. The colors consistently appeared appropriate for the story. Blacks were a little flat but usually seemed fine, and shadows were acceptably smooth and clear. This was a good transfer that lacked the extra quality to make it great.
I felt the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Red Dragon also suffered from some minor issues. Speech demonstrated a brittle tone I didn’t anticipate from a brand-new flick; the lines remained easily intelligible but sounded somewhat edgy. Music seemed warm and rich, while effects came across as concise and accurate. When necessary, the mix offered nice bass response.
As for the soundfield, it usually stayed pretty restrained. A few scenes like a storm or helicopters added zest to the mix and opened up the surrounds. The climax also brought out some nice life. Most of the track focused on ambience, however. It made those elements involving and concise, and the mix also gave us nice imaging for the score. Though the track wasn’t stellar, it functioned to bolster the material.
The extras here split into two separate sections. Under Inside Red Dragon, we open with an audio commentary from director Brett Ratner and screenwriter Ted Tally. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss story, script and adaptation, cast and performances, sets and locations, visual design and effects, editing and cut sequences, and general production notes.
At its start, the discussion goes well and throws lots of nice information at us. As it progresses, we still learn a lot about the movie, but the level of happy talk becomes more difficult to take. Ratner almost constantly regales us with remarks about how much he likes this shot or that edit. It gets old quickly and mars an otherwise fine commentary. I still think we learn enough to make the track worth a listen, but it’d work better if Ratner could rein in his gushing.
This area also presents a music score commentary with composer Danny Elfman. Mostly we hear the flick’s music with occasional remarks from Elfman. He pops up infrequently to provide thoughts about themes and his work. The details are good, but they’re so rare that this track works best for fans who want to hear the score, not those looking for a commentary.
Additional Scenes breaks into three areas. We find seven deleted scenes (5:19 total), four alternate versions of scenes (4:27), and three extended scenes (2:21). Do any of these provide material of interest? Not especially. Graham’s family gets a little more screentime, and a few implicit elements – Dolarhyde’s capture of Josh, Lounds’ reading Dolarhyde’s letter – become explicit. The alternates are interesting but inconsequential, and the extendeds fail to provide substance. There’s nothing memorable here.
We can watch these with or without commentary from Ratner, Tally and editor Mark Helfrich. As expected, they give us some background on the clips and tell us why they got the boot. We actually get some disagreement, as occasionally Ratner or Tally questions the cuts and Helfrich has to defend them. Helfrich criticizes some changes as well. The notes help explain the editorial process. I especially like the info about Run from Run-DMC’s method acting in his cut piece.
The “Inside” domain continues with the 14-minute and 19-second The Making of Red Dragon. In this show, we get movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from Ratner, Tally, producer Martha and Dino De Laurentiis, executive producer Andrew Z. Davis, and actors Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Mary-Louise Parker, Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson. The program gives us a plot/character synopsis and then moves into cast and performances, and Ratner’s work.
Purely promotional in nature, the only decent parts of “Making” come from the set. We get some moderately interesting shots of the production, though these fly past so quickly that we don’t see many specifics. The show intends to sell tickets and tells us little about the flick’s creation.
Text elements find “Inside”. We find some good Production Notes along with biographies under Cast & Filmmakers. That collection includes listings for Ratner, Tally, Elfman, Helfrich, Davis, Martha and Dino De Laurentiis, costume designer Betsy Heimann, production designer Kristi Zea, director of photography Dante Spinotti, and actors Hopkins, Norton, Fiennes, Watson, and Harvey Keitel. These contribute perfunctory info about the participants.
With that we Enter the Mind of Hannibal Lecter. This starts with Lecter’s FBI File and Life History. This text component offers an interesting recap of facts about Lecter. It repeats a lot that we already know from the movies and goes with a confusing timeline; for instance, according to the movie the events of Dragon take place several years after 1980, while this piece puts them in 1978. Nonetheless, this is a fun extra.
A program called Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer runs eight minutes, 16 seconds. Hosted by FBI profiler John Douglas, he tells us about his history in the field and his study of killers. From there he discusses the process of criminal profiling, his investigative methods, and some thoughts about related topics. The featurette provides interesting insights and suffers mostly from its brevity; I’d like to hear more from Douglas.
Lastly, Anthony Hopkins: Lecter and Me goes for four minutes and 25 seconds. Hopkins chats about his initial casting as Lecter, elements of his performance, and reactions to his success. This is another short but effective piece.
At times, Red Dragon threatens to be a worthwhile take on the universe best known from The Silence of the Lambs. The movie never approaches that classic’s greatness, but it does enough well to make it entertaining. The DVD offers erratic but generally good picture and audio as well as a reasonably good collection of extras. Lecter fans will want to give this sucker a look.