Dante’s Peak appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This wasn’t a bad presentation but it came with some issues.
For the most part, sharpness looked fine. Occasional softness affected wide shots, but those instances remained minor. Unfortunately, light edge haloes caused some distractions, and the image sometimes took on an artificial, processed appearance that made it less than film-like. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and print flaws were modest; I saw a few small specks but nothing more.
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. Overall, the movie was watchable but not as appealing as it should have been.
At least the movie’s DTS-HD MA 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+”.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the original 1998 DVD? Audio was similar in scope but the lossless track seemed more natural and offered greater punch and realism. Picture was tighter and better defined as well. Even with its flaws, the Blu-ray created a notable upgrade from the DVD.
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, 16 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. Too bad it lacks any info about Roughy the dog – she’s the best thing in the stinkin’ movie!
(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 Blu-ray provides inconsistent picture along with pretty good audio and a few decent supplements. We find an acceptable presentation for a mediocre flick.
To rate this film visit the DVD review of DANTE'S PEAK