The Kingdom 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. No serious problems emerged here, but the digital photography left us with a moderately lackluster presentation.
Sharpness generally appeared positive, though those elements could be erratic. Some shots suffered from mild softness, usually when we went indoors; the digital cameras didn’t resolve those settings incredibly well. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no issues, but I did see some light levels of edge enhancement. I saw no signs of grit, speckles, nicks or defects of that sort, but I did notice some digital grain at times. That element never became overwhelming, but it seemed a little heavy on occasion.
Kingdom featured a subdued and stylized palette for the most part. Like most movies set in the Middle East, the tones tended toward the sandy side of the street, and we didn’t get a lot of color breadth. The hues were fine given their stylistic limitations. Black levels seemed a little murky, while shadow detail was appropriately thick much of the time. However, some shots appeared darker than expected and could be a little too opaque. Ultimately, Vice provided a good visual experience but not a great one.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Kingdom, it presented a somewhat laid-back experience. The soundfield didn’t do a ton to exploit its opportunities. The forward channels dominated and usually stayed with general ambience. Stereo music was well developed, and the sides opened up the image to a positive degree. For the most part, the surrounds did little more than reinforce the ambiance. Occasionally they boasted better spread and involvement – such as during a climactic firefight through the streets - but they seemed more passive than I expected from this sort of movie.
Audio quality was usually good. Speech generally sounded natural and concise; a little edginess popped up at times, but the lines were always intelligible. Music was full and dynamic, while effects sounded rich and accurate. Bass response appeared deep and taut throughout the film. The lackluster soundfield knocked my grade down to a “B”.
As we move to the DVD’s extras, we start with an audio commentary with director Peter Berg. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Berg looks at the opening credits, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, story issues, camerawork, some history behind the film’s subjects, and a few other bits of production trivia.
Berg provides a very average commentary. On the positive side, he does offer reasonable coverage of the usual subjects, so get a decent overview of the topics. However, he never generates much of a head of steam, and quite a lot of dead air results. This becomes a moderately useful commentary but not one that does a lot for me.
I will acknowledge one particularly interesting part of the commentary: Berg’s discussion of his use of hand-held camerawork. He indicates that he knows folks like me can’t stand it and indicates that he hopes to improve on the jerkiness in the future. I was surprised by his remarks, as I thought he’d be more defiant against his critics.
Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of 11 minutes, six seconds. These include Fleury with Manner’s widow, more of the attempt by Fleury to get authorization for his mission, and additional fighting during the climax. The second segment fills the vast majority of this collection’s time. It doesn’t add much, though, as the extra exposition just pounds the same points. The other scenes are also lackluster, though one could argue the inclusion of Manner’s widow makes sense since we meet his kid in the final cut.
Something unusual follows. Character By Character: The Apartment Shootout breaks into four pieces and lasts a total of 13 minutes, 40 seconds. It examines “Fleury and Al Ghazi” (3:37), “Janet Mayes” (3:55), “Adam Leavitt” (3:25) and “Sykes and Haytham” (2:41). It takes the climax and shows it without the final film’s editing. While the latter cuts between characters, this one shows their perspectives without leaving their sides. That makes it vaguely interesting at best, as I’m not really sure what purpose this alternate editing serves.
Constructing the Freeway Sequence goes for 18 minutes, 17 seconds and features notes from Berg, stunt coordinator Keith Woulard, special effects coordinator Burt Dalton, remote control operator David Waine, remote control driver Tim Walkey, camera car driver J. Armin Garza II, special effects technician David Greene, and actors Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Ali Suliman, Ashraf Barhoum and Jason Bateman. It examines one particular driving stunt from conception to execution. The inclusion of a lot of good shots from the set help make this a strong program.
Next comes a documentary called Creating The Kingdom. This 35-minute and 34-second piece offers info from Berg, Foxx, Cooper, Garner, Bateman, Barhoum, Suliman, Dalton, producers Scott Stuber and Michael Mann, writer Matthew Michael Carnahan, technical consultants Ahmed Al Ibrahim and Richard Klein, production designer Tom Duffield, 2nd unit director/stunt coordinator Phil Neilson, 1st AD/co-producer KC Hodenfield, cinematographer Mauro Fiore, and actor Jeremy Piven. The show looks at the film’s origins and story, attempts at realism, cast and performances, actor training, locations and set design, action sequences, camerawork, and a few character notes.
More than the bland commentary, “Creating” provides a pretty good look at the flick. As expected, the material from the set adds substance, and we get a fairly nice discussion of various subjects. While I wouldn’t call this a great program, it proves informative and interesting.
Some background material shows up via History of The Kingdom: An Interactive Timeline. It follows significant events in Saudi Arabia in terms of the country’s development and its relationship with the US. Obviously this keeps things pretty basic, but it acts as a decent overview.
The usual allotment of ads opens the DVD. We get clips for White Noise 2 and HD-DVD. No trailer for Kingdom pops up here.
A bland thriller that uses its setting for cheap emotional exploitation, The Kingdom aspires to more than it can attain. The film lacks nuance or insight, as it does little more than depict the usual Might Is Right nonsense. The DVD presents reasonably good picture and audio – though neither excel – along with a generally useful collection of extras. I have no major complaints about the DVD but the movie itself is a disappointment.