Dante’s Peak 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. Released less than a year into DVD’s existence, the picture could look worse, but it could also look much better.
Sharpness seemed decent in close-ups and the occasional wider shot, but a lot of the flick tended to be somewhat soft and blocky. Edge haloes added a tentative sense to the image and made it mushier than desired, though again, it wasn’t ever poor. Mild instances of jaggies and shimmering appeared, and digital artifacts could make the picture a bit gritty. As for source flaws, I noticed a handful of specks but no substantial defects.
Colors were decent. The film used a natural palette that could seem a bit heavy much of the time. Nonetheless, the hues were usually fine. Blacks seemed dark and deep, but shadows could be thick. I suspect this connected to the desire to obscure the movie’s dodgy visual effects, as those were the sequences that appeared the most impenetrable. Whatever the case, low-light shots were generally less visible than I’d like. Given its age, this wasn’t a bad transfer, but it definitely had problems.
At least the movie’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seemed more satisfying, though it wasn’t as impressive as one might expect for a flick about a volcano. At its best, the mix opened up the room well, with flying projectiles and other objects all about the spectrum.
However, those sequences occurred less frequently than expected and weren’t particularly intense or immersive. The occasional action bit provided decent punch but the movie never turned into the five-channel butt-kicked I anticipated; the soundfield often remained oddly restrained and didn’t deliver great pizzazz a lot of the time.
Still, the action scenes brought a reasonable amount to the table, and they showed pretty good localization. Movement was less strong, as the elements didn’t pan or integrate with great smoothness. Nonetheless, they created a fairly positive setting.
Audio quality was always solid. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music appeared lively and dynamic, and effects presented great depth and power. The less than dazzling soundfield made this a minor disappointment, but it was still good enough for a “B+”.
A few extras fill out the set. First comes an audio commentary from director Roger Donaldson and production designer Dennis Washington. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at sets, locations and visual elements, cast and performances, various effects, stunts, action and a few other areas.
While I won’t call this the driest commentary ever, it must be in contention for that title. Donaldson and Washington manage to cover the length of the movie and they deliver a reasonable amount of information about the flick. However, it’s a slow track and not one that ever really draws in the listener. Expect it to be tolerable but pretty dull.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a documentary called Getting Close to the Show. It runs one hour, two minutes, 15 seconds as it provides notes from Donaldson, Washington, producers Gale Anne Hurd and Joseph M. Singer, executive producer Ilona Herzberg, volcanologists Norman MacLeod and David Harlow, stunt coordinator RA Rondell, 2nd 2nd AD Christina Stauffer, special effects coordinator Roy Arbogast, visual effects supervisor Patrick McClung, special effects artist Jor Van Cline, special effects engineer Dean Miller, and actors Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton, Jamie Renee Smith, Jeremy Foley, Elizabeth Hoffman, and Charles Hallahan. “Closer” looks at the project’s origins and development, Donaldson’s work on the shoot, cast and performances, research, volcanology and realism, sets and locations, stunts and effects.
With “Closer”, we get a serious “meat and potatoes” documentary. While it hits on the appropriate topics, it does so without much flair. This means we find the necessary basics but don’t feel especially entertained along the way. It becomes a competent piece but not one that seems particularly involving.
Some text elements finish the disc. We get Production Notes that offer a good snapshot of the film’s development and shooting as well as Cast and Filmmakers. This area includes bios of Brosnan, Hamilton, Hallahan and Donaldson. They’re decent, but the absence of a listing for Roughy the dog disappoints. She’s the best thing about the flick!
(My obsession with Roughy actually compelled me to watch the entire credit sequence for further mention of her. Unfortunately, Roughy receives no billing. However, I did notice that at one point Pierce's last name is misspelled "Bronson." Also, the crew of Dante's Peak had some really cool names. Here are some actual names of actual crew members who actually worked on this actual movie: Jeff Frink; H. Durk Tyndall; Gee Dhiensuwana; Syndi Tracton; Gintar Repecka; and my favorite, Bambi Sickafoose.)
When I first saw it in 1997, I thought Dante’s Peak was a mildly entertaining disappointment, and that attitude hasn’t changed since then. It’s just exciting enough to keep me awake but it doesn’t do much more than that. The DVD provides drab picture along with pretty good audio and a few decent supplements. We find an acceptable presentation for a mediocre flick.