Sphere appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc.
Though the image was usually pretty good, it never became exceptional.
Sharpness was the main concern. Most of the movie showed good clarity, but a mild amount of softness crept into the presentation. I think some of this stemmed from the smoky settings and the original photography, but I still felt the flick looked less precise than Iíd expect.
I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moirť effects, and edge enhancement remained absent. Source flaws were minor. I noticed a couple of small specks but that was it.
Colors were fine. The film went with a subdued palette, especially given the muted undersea setting. The hues showed good fidelity, though they remained a bit bland. Blacks were reasonably dense and tight, while shadows offered good clarity. The image didnít excel, but it was more than acceptable.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack pleased, though I didn't think it dazzled. The mix worked more to create a sound environment than to impress with effects, and it did so reasonably well. The rear channels could have been used a bit more actively - they seemed quiet through too much of the film - but overall the sound design helped immerse the viewer in the film.
Audio quality was positive. Speech came across as natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music was a little muted but usually seemed reasonably vivid and full. Effects worked fine, as they showed good range and heft for the most part; like the music, I thought they couldíve been a bit more dynamic, but I didnít have any real problems with them. The track was good but unexceptional.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original 1998 DVD? I thought the two soundtracks were fairly similar. The TrueHD version added a little pep but not a lot.
Though I didnít feel especially impressed with the Blu-rayís transfer, it clearly topped the muddy, murky image of the DVD. The Blu-ray boasted stronger definition along with clearer colors, deeper blacks, fewer source flaws, and smoother shadows. The DVDís presentation didnít age well, so the Blu-ray offered a visual upgrade.
The Blu-ray includes most of the same extras as the DVD. We begin with an audio commentary from actors Dustin Hoffman and Samuel L. Jackson. Both sit separately for this edited track. They cover various aspects of their experiences during the shoot.
We donít hear much of Hoffman here, and when he does chat, he tends to complain. Hoffman gripes about how much he dislikes working in effects-heavy flicks and generally mopes about his experiences.
Jackson shows more of a ďwhatever it takesĒ attitude and comes across as more pleasant. He seems to accept the various issues that come during a movie shoot, and he offers some good stories and insights. Thereís way too much dead air for this to be a satisfying piece, but Jackson makes it decent.
The 14-minute, 36-second Shaping the Sphere: The Art of the Visual Effects Supervisor is moderately interesting. Essentially, it's an audio commentary from effects supervisor Jeff Okun as he discusses his trade while images from the film appear on the screen. It's okay, but not terrific.
Other than that, we get some ads. The disc includes Sphere's theatrical trailer and three TV Spots. It drops a few text components and some promos for other films from the DVD.
Despite some big-name talent behind it, Sphere tanked at the box office. I didnít think it deserved such a fate 18 years ago, and I still think itís a decent movie. Would I ever classify it as a great movie? No, but itís better than its awful reputation signifies.
As for the Blu-ray, it presents generally good Ė though not great Ė picture and audio along with some average supplements. New bonus features wouldíve been nice, and nothing about this release really impressed. However, fans will feel pleased with it, as it gives them a good upgrade over the old DVD.