To quote Tom Petty, the waiting’s the hardest part, and for DVD-loving fans of Kevin Smith’s 1999 flick Dogma, this was especially true. When the movie bowed on the format in May 2000, it was as a “bare-bones” package; other than a couple of trailers and some talent files, the disc included no extras.
However, a super-duper special edition was promised in the near future. To the credit of the folks involved, the pending release of this ultimate version was made known to fans well before the more basic one hit shelves. That alleviated the usual cries and moans that occur when studios re-release DVDs with additional content; pretty much everyone who was seriously interested in Dogma knew that a package with superior supplements would arrive soon, so they couldn’t gripe about any potential sliminess from Columbia-Tristar (CTS) or others.
However, the fans could complain about the timeframe involved. When we first learned of the Dogma SE, we were told that it should arrive sometime in the fall of 2000. Nope. Then a new release date popped up that was in the winter of 2001. Nope. After these starts and stops, we finally got the product in late June 2001, about 13 months after the release of the movie-only disc.
Unfortunately, the package took some hits along the way. I’ll discuss those when I get to my coverage of the supplements. As for the movie itself, anyone who’d like to check out my full comments should refer to my original review; after three screenings of Dogma, my feelings about it haven’t changed. As with all Smith films, it’s an inconsistent piece of work, but much of it was fresh, funny and entertaining, and I still like the movie quite a lot even after my third visit with it.
Dogma 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. When I first reviewed the movie-only DVD of Dogma, I opined that some of its problems were due to a lack of disc space. The film runs for 128 minutes, and that was a lot of footage to cram onto one layer of a DVD, which was the case since the old disc also included a fullscreen version of the film on its flipside. Add in a couple of trailers and we can see that CTS really crammed a lot of video onto that platter.
Now that the widescreen version of Dogma is spread across a dual-layered disc, I thought many of the concerns I saw would vanish. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. While Dogma was very watchable and often attractive, the picture showed a number of problems throughout the film, and this disc looked largely identical to the old one; I saw a few improvements, but not many.
Sharpness displayed some frequent concerns. Much of the film looked pretty crisp and well-defined, but I also detected an abnormally high number of scenes that were soft and fuzzy. Wide shots were affected the most greatly; most close-ups seemed clearer, but even those scenes occasionally showed some softness. During this viewing, I saw no examples of moiré effects or jagged edges, two problems that occasionally cropped up during the old disc.
When I wrote about the original release, I noted that I saw digital artifacts. Frankly, I’m often loath to discuss them, because it can be difficult to distinguish them from film grain. In my experience, the two look a lot alike, and I am often uncertain if the effect I see relates to grain or artifacts. In the case of the old Dogma DVD, I went with the latter because of compression issues; the movie was crammed into so little space that I figured the concerns related to artifacts.
Assuming that the new disc used a higher bitrate, that conclusion seems to have been incorrect. I saw quite a few examples of the same concerns throughout the SE of Dogma, which made me think that it really was grain all along. The grain never became pervasive, but it could be pretty noticeable at times. In addition, the print offered a few other problems. Some minor speckling appeared, and I also saw some examples of grit and a few nicks.
Colors seemed pretty bold and well-saturated, though some slight blandness accompanied them at times; while the hues generally looked good, they could also appear more flat than I thought appropriate. Black levels were probably the best part of this image, as they look quite deep and rich, and shadow detail also seemed good. Ultimately, Dogma was a relatively low-budget film, and these roots occasionally showed. The DVD looked decent but it wasn’t as good as one might expect from such a recent movie.
More satisfying was Dogma's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield seemed to be somewhat modest but it worked effectively for the most part. The front channels received the highest level of activity and did a pretty nice job of creating a strong atmosphere. They were at their best during more action oriented scenes like the fight on the train, or the climactic showdown at the church; the rest of the time the sides tended to provide a mild ambience. The rears also mainly offered ambient sounds, and I noted little in the way of split surround usage, but they did a decent job of supporting the mix.
Quality seemed erratic but generally good. Dialogue was the weakest link, as it often sounded artificial and dubbed; it was clear and intelligible, but the lack of natural qualities distracted me. Effects were always pretty crisp and realistic, and the track lacked distortion. Music sounded best of the bunch, especially because of the terrific low end. The effects also boasted this solid bass, but that factor did more to push the music and make it power the soundtrack. However, some effects will shake the walls; for example, when the Metatron first appears, or when the Golgothan stomps through the bar, the bass seemed deep and loud. Overall, I thought Dogma provided a very solid and satisfying soundtrack.
The prior two sections of this review largely duplicated what I said in my original article; the transfer appeared to be fairly identical with the old DVD, so there was nothing to change. However, once we get to the supplements included for Dogma, the situation becomes radically different. Instead of a couple of trailers and some talent files, the 2-DVD special edition of Dogma contributes a wealth of extras.
On DVD One, we find two separate audio commentaries. Other Smith films feature group tracks rather than just Smith on his own, and Dogma is no exception. The first commentary includes Smith, actors Ben Affleck, Jason Mewes, and Jason Lee, producer Scott Mosier, and View Askew historian Vincent Pereira. As always with Smith commentaries, all of the participants were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track.
As with almost all of the other Smith commentaries, this was a consistently entertaining piece. (I liked all of the others except for Clerks, which was poorly-organized and nearly incoherent.) Smith and Affleck dominate the piece, something that won’t come as a surprise to folks who sat through their Chasing Amy and Mallrats tracks, and the two offer a fun dynamic. They spend a lot of time cracking on each other, and there’s a generally light tone throughout the commentary. Nonetheless, the piece provides a fair amount of information about the production. Smith and Affleck tend to take the track off-topic pretty easily, and Pereira fights desperately to get things back to the subject at hand. He’s usually not successful, which is why we actually hear some of the guys go over their favorite TV shows and what they’re going to do after the recording session. Whether they talk about specifics of making Dogma or they banter about various subjects, it’s still a loose and funny track that definitely merits a listen.
The “cast and crew” commentary for Dogma resurrects a feature found on the DVD for Mallrats. Here it’s called “Video Hijinks” and it tells you to “follow the Buddy Christ”. What this means is that when you see the image of the Buddy Christ in the lower right corner of the screen, you press “enter” on your remote and you’ll get to see video footage of the recording session. Actually, Dogma broadens the process moderately; instead of the single camera found during Mallrats, we get two angles for Dogma!
Nonetheless, the feature works the same way, and it’s a mildly fun addition. We get a lot more video material during Dogma; whereas Mallrats only offered about 10 minutes of this footage, Dogma has 32-and-a-half minutes of video spread over nine different segments. Each of the clips lasted between 105 seconds and seven minutes, 55 seconds, and they can be found in the following chapters: 1, 4, 9, 12, 21, 22, 24, 26 and 28.
I don’t know if I agree that these are “hijinks”, and to be frank, they don’t add a lot to the proceedings. It’s modestly interesting to get to take a look at the participants, but the additional footage doesn’t really make the production more compelling. Basically we see six guys as they sit and talk, so don’t expect much of a revelation. Still, it’s a nice diversion and change of pace, and since you don’t have to use it, I’m happy to have it here.
Apparently producer Scott Mosier thought that the first commentary lacked enough hard, cold data, so he pushed for the inclusion of a second track. Called a “technical commentary”, this piece involves Smith, Mosier and Pereira. As usual, they were recorded together for this running, screen-specific piece.
Despite its title, don’t expect a dry program that focuses on f-stops and aspect ratios. Actually, the guys do touch on aspect ratios; Dogma was Smith’s first scope film, so we hear why he used the 2.35:1 dimensions and why he went with Super 35. Otherwise, I thought this was another fun and generally loose commentary. The guys cover a variety of issues that include casting, problems on the set, the film’s budget, and quite a few other areas. It may not be quite as wacky as the “cast and crew” track, but I thought the “technical” commentary was still a solid piece.
Note that during both commentaries, you’ll occasionally hear some “bleeps” that cover remarks. These are usually related to Disney, which was the original backer of Dogma. Due to contractual obligations, no one was allowed to discuss their participation - or ultimate lack thereof - on this DVD. That’s a minor nuisance during the commentaries since the participants still talked about them; we just can’t actually hear what they said. This stipulation caused a more significant problem that I’ll discuss when I get to supplements that fail to appear in this package.
A couple of other interesting bits can be found on the first DVD. If you highlight the box called My Opinion By Mrs. Helen Wise, “!?!!?” will appear and if you click on this area, you can watch random bits of complaining from “Mrs. Wise”. These clips also show up when you go to different parts of the DVD, as “Mrs. Wise” tries to save our souls. They’re a funny addition to the set.
Another weird extra can be found in the upper left corner of the DVD’s front page. To the left of “Play Movie” is Don’t Play Movie. Click on that and you’ll find ideas about what else to do instead of watch the film. It’s a small bit but it’s kind of cool.
On the second DVD, we find a bunch of additional extras. The most significant of these are the Deleted Scenes. This area provides 16 different segments, all of which run between 85 seconds and 13 minutes, 45 seconds for a total of 95 minutes, 25 worth of footage. Note that you won’t actually find 95 minutes of unused material. For one, most of the clips represent extended versions of existing scenes. Not all of them elongate bits from the film - one with Bethany at Planned Parenthood is totally new - but for the most part, these are snippets that have shorter cousins in the movie.
In addition, a lot of the 95 minutes shows introductions from Smith and Pereira; others occasionally visit them, but it’s their show. They give us background for the clips and tell us why they didn’t make the cut. Of course, the presentation is fun as always, and these bits help flesh out the details.
As for the unused footage itself, I enjoyed the clips. I didn’t think that any of them were tremendously valuable, and I can’t say that I felt the film lost anything without them; even the famous “Fat Albert” bit didn’t really belong in the movie. In any case, I was very happy to see this wealth of material, as it’s always interesting to have a look at the material that didn’t make the cut.
My biggest complaint about the deleted scenes? Well, they look pretty bad, but that’s not what bothers me the most. For reasons unknown, CTS failed to include a “play all” option, so when one clip ends, we go back to the “Deleted Scenes” menu and have to select the next. Yes, I realize this isn’t the end of the world, and it’s much less annoying here than it is on DVDs with very short clips; since all of the segments are fairly long, at least we get a break between selections. Still, I think the “play all” option should be mandatory on these kinds of packages. It can’t be difficult to add, and it makes the entire set more user friendly.
Additional unused shots appear in the Outtakes section. While some of these were the usual silly goof-ups, most of them were more interesting than that. We get a nice mix of improvisational material and altered clips. Star Wars fans will have a lot of fun, as Smith’s trademark nods to the series pop up all over the outtakes. All in all, we find 13 minutes and five seconds of footage, and these offered a nice addition to the package.
In the Storyboards area we find drawings for three different scenes. Created by producer Scott Mosier, we see boards for the “Mooby Sequence” (38 images), the “Triplet Attack Sequence” (79 images), and the “No Man Attack Sequence” (134 images). The “Mooby” and the “No Man” parts are the most interesting since they included quite a bit of material that didn’t make the film, but all are worth a look; Mosier did a nice job with them.
Click to the left of the “Deleted Scenes” icon and you’ll find a fun piece: an ad for the View Askew store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. Mewes and Smith show up for the promo, though not in character. Yes, it’s shamelessly promotional, but it’s an entertaining 90 seconds, so I won’t complain.
A few other bits round out the DVD. We find the film’s theatrical trailer - which is interesting for no reason other than to hear the incredibly awkward overdub that replaces Rock’s use of the word “nigger” - plus cast biographies in the “Saints and Sinners” section. There you’ll find short but decent listings for Smith, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, Linda Fiorentino, Jason Mewes, Jason Lee and Alan Rickman. For those with DVD-ROM drives, you’ll discover links to www.cthv.com and www.viewaskew.com . Finally, within the DVD’s booklet, we get some very solid notes written by Smith. These were consistently entertaining and they added a fair amount of information not heard elsewhere in the package.
So what’s missing? The major excision involves a documentary that had been created for the special edition. Titled “Judge Not… In Defense Of Dogma”, apparently this approximately 40-minute piece really looked at the controversies that surrounded the film; those aspects involved outside parties like the Catholic League and movie-related folks such as the people at Disney who were scared off by the potential protests. Since Disney apparently retain the video rights to Dogma and have simply licensed it out to others, they vetoed the inclusion of this documentary. From what I’ve heard, the View Askew gang plan to make it available through their website, so check back with them to examine this prospect.
One other surprising addition involved a scene that was never shot for the movie. During the commentaries, we hear of an ad for “Hosties” cereal that was intended to show up when Bethany and the others chat with Cardinal Glick. However, this segment was cut prior to filming because Smith knew the film was running long and there was a good change it’d be dropped anyway; he figured it was a waste of money to animate something that wouldn’t make the final cut.
However, an animatic of the sequence was created, as we’re told on the DVD. We also hear that it should pop up in this set. If it’s there, I couldn’t find it. It’s possible that it’s an Easter egg, but I have a feeling it simply didn’t make the package. This is unfortunate, as I would have liked to take a look at the ad.
Even with those omissions, the new 2-DVD special edition of Dogma is a strong set. The movie itself isn’t Kevin Smith’s best flick, but it’s a nice piece of work that I continue to enjoy. The DVD provides the same adequate picture and fine sound found on the old release but it adds a wealth of good extras. The two audio commentaries are up to the high standards set on other Smith DVDs, and the wealth of deleted scenes also brought a lot to the party. The inclusion of the documentary would have probably made this very good set great, but it’s still a solid package that I’m happy to own.