Miracle 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. The film offered a fairly decent picture but not one that consistently excelled.
Sharpness presented moderate concerns at times. Much of the film came across as nicely detailed and distinctive. However, more than a little softness interfered occasionally, as the movie periodically showed somewhat ill-defined images. Jagged edges and shimmering presented no concerns, but I noticed some mild edge enhancement at times. Print flaws appeared absent, though some light examples of compression artifacts occasionally seemed evident.
To match the color schemes of the era, the palette of Miracle tended toward the somewhat heavy and slightly garish side. It boasted a brownish tone with other hues that were moderately dense. They probably came across as a little muddier than I’d expect, but they generally remained fine. Black levels seemed fairly deep, though they could come across as a bit inky, while shadows tended to appear watchable but somewhat dense. Ultimately, the picture of Miracle suffered from few obvious flaws, but it occasionally seemed a bit too undefined and muddy to merit anything about a “B”.
For the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Miracle, we found a reasonably positive mix. Not surprisingly, the soundfield remained fairly limited except for during the hockey-related sequences. Outside of the rink, the movie focused on character moments, which didn’t lend themselves to much more than vague ambience. Music always depicted good stereo imaging, but except for the hockey bits, the track didn’t do much.
However, the mix came to life pretty nicely when necessary. During the hockey moments, elements moved smoothly across and around the spectrum. The focus remained on the front speakers, but the surrounds added a nice sense of place and dimensionality. Unsurprisingly, the big games became the most active, and they brought the action to us well. It wasn’t a remarkable soundfield, but it did what it needed to do.
Audio quality was mostly fine. Speech seemed somewhat thick and metallic at times. The lines remained easily intelligible, but they didn’t come across as naturally as expected. Music was nicely vibrant and dynamic, though, as they score appeared bright and clear. Effects also seemed accurate and smoothly depicted. Not much about the track challenged the mix, though the hockey sequences added good impact from the body checks and other violent elements. Low-end response was very positive, as score and louder effects demonstrated firm and rich bass. Overall, the audio seemed good, but it didn’t come across as spectacular.
This two-disc set presents a good package of extras. On DVD One, the main attraction comes from an audio commentary from director Gavin O’Connor, director of photography Daniel Stoloff and editor John Gilroy. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. In general, this seems like a good but unexceptional commentary. The participants go into a nice array of subjects. We learn about casting and working with the actors, locations and logistical concerns, visual decisions and storytelling choices, encapsulating history, storyboarding the hockey games and a mix of other subjects. The track moves pretty briskly and the speakers come across as involved and interested. Unfortunately, too much happy talk pops up throughout the film, as we hear a lot of praise for all involved. Nonetheless, Miracle’s commentary mostly seems reasonably informative and engaging.
In addition, we get The Making of Miracle. This 17-minute and 52-second program presents the standard conglomeration of movie clips, archival and behind the scenes snippets, and interviews. We find notes from sportscaster Al Michaels, director O’Connor, director of photography Stoloff, editor Gilroy, producers Mark Ciardi and Gordon Cray, casting directors Randi Hiller and Sarah Halley Finn, sports coordinator Mark Ellis, hockey technical advisor Ryan Walter, sound designer Elliott Koretz, co-supervising sound editor Rob Nokes, re-recording mixers Michael Minkler and Myron Nettinga, composer Mark Isham, original players Rob McClanahan and Jack O’Callahan, and actors Kurt Russell, Nathan West, Eddie Cahill, Noah Emmerich, Patricia Clarkson and Eric Peter-Kaiser.
They chat about Russell’s performance, casting and hockey issues, training, depicting the hockey games authentically, photographic considerations, the effect on editing of the massive amount of footage shot, sound design and music, and a visit from the real players to the set. We hear about most of the same topics during the commentary, but the documentary benefits from visuals. It’s good to see game to movie comparisons and other behind the scenes information. While some of the notes seem redundant, enough new material appears to offer a decent look at the film, and the various visuals appear very interesting.
The disc includes the usual complement of ads at the start of the disc. When you pop the platter in your player, you’ll find promos for Aladdin, Around the World in 80 Days, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and the new animated version of The Three Musketeers. In addition, the Sneak Peeks domain features all of those trailers as well as additional ads for the Lion King II: Simba’s Pride special edition, Teacher’s Pet, ABC Sports, ESPN 25, and ESPN videogames.
We also get the THX Optimizer. This purports to help you set up your home theater to best present the movie on the disc in question. Apparently the Optimizer is unique for each DVD on which it’s included; unlike programs such as Video Essentials, the Optimizer should tweak your set-up differently every time. Frankly, I’ve been very happy with my already-established calibration and I’m afraid to muck with it, so I’ve never tried the Optimizer. If you lack calibration from Video Essentials or a similar program, or if you’re just more adventurous than I, the Optimizer could be a helpful addition.
As we head to DVD Two, we start with From Hockey to Hollywood: The Actors’ Journey. This uses the standard format with movie clips, behind the scenes footage, and interviews and runs 27 and a half minutes. We hear from O’Connor, Finn, Hiller, Ellis, real players Jim Craig, Jack O’Callahan, and Buzz Schneider, and actors Billy Schneider, Patrick O’Brien Demsey, Nathan West, Eddie Cahill, Michael Mantenuto, Eric Peter-Kaiser, Nate Miller, and Chris Koch. They go over the casting, training, biographical information about the performers, and how they fit into their roles. Some of the information appeared in DVD One’s documentary, but this show goes into more detail about the actors and their training. It’s occasionally fluffy, but it presents a nice layer of depth.
In the collection of Outtakes, we get four minutes and 52 seconds of material. This offers the usual assortment of goof-ups and nuttiness. Don’t expect anything out of the ordinary here.
Next comes a featurette called First Impressions: Herb Brooks with Kurt Russell and the Filmmakers. It goes for 21 minutes and 12 seconds as we hear from O’Connor, Brooks, Russell and others. This presents a pre-production discussion among the above as they chat about Brooks’ methods and history, the team, and a variety of the coach’s thoughts and experiences. Brooks heavily dominates this program, which seems appropriate and a lot of fun. It’s great to hear this material from the horse’s mouth and “Impressions” presents a valuable extra.
After this we find a Miracle ESPN Roundtable. It runs 41 minutes and six seconds as host Linda Cohn chats with Kurt Russell, Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig and Buzz Schneider. They discuss Herb Brooks, the team and its chemistry, the games and the playing style, portraying the real-life personalities, and other elements of the shoot. The conversation consistently seems lively and entertaining. Russell gives us some nice perspective about the shoot, but it’s the players who prove most useful. They toss out lots of good information about their experiences and the reality behind the film, and they help make this a fun and compelling program.
Lastly, we locate a featurette entitled The Sound of Miracle. In this 10-minute and 24-second show we hear from O’Connor, editor Gilroy, supervising sound editor Rob Nokes, re-recording mixers Myron Nettinger and Michael Minkler, sound designer Elliott Koretz, and composer Mark Isham. They get into what they wanted to do with the audio and how they executed those plans. We learn lots of details about the various elements. Overall, it’s an informative and interesting piece.
Although the topic naturally lends itself to drama, Miracle tries too hard to force us to feel certain emotions. It lacks depth and comes across as a thin and superficial feel-good flick that fails to deliver any real power. The DVD presents good but somewhat erratic picture and sound plus a pretty nice roster of extras. While the disc seems good enough for me to recommend it to fans, the movie itself is a disappointment.