The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Perhaps 224 minutes of footage on one disc was too much, as the presentation seemed to suffer.
The main problem related to sharpness. Quite a lot of the flick appeared moderately soft and fuzzy. The concerns were never extreme, but they persisted through the entire film, as it rarely looked particularly crisp. Some light jagged edges and shimmering also occurred, and I noticed a bit of edge enhancement. Source flaws were absent, but light digital artifacts occasionally created a slightly grainy look to the proceedings.
Movies set in Scotland always seem to go with pale colors, and Deep followed that trend. The film exhibited a quiet sense of green and blue but not much else, as it went with an intentionally wan palette. Within those constraints, the hues looked fine. Blacks were reasonably dark and dense, while shadows seemed acceptable. Low-light shots were occasionally a bit murky, but they usually came across as decent. This wasn’t a bad transfer, but it was too soft and didn’t live up to modern standards.
On the other hand, Deep came with a surprisingly excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I normally reserve “A” grades for action flicks or sci-fi adventures that offer lots of battles to fill the channels. Deep boasted neither, but it still created a consistently dynamic and involving setting. All five channels received a real workout, as the mix used the speakers to great advantage. This went for loud scenes like those with the military as well as quieter ones. For instance, during Angus’s introduction to Crusoe, the creature zipped around the room in a most convincing manner.
Of course, the track became most impressive during the action pieces, but these others were also terrific. I really liked the manner in which the mix created a subtle sense of reality. Take the sequence in which Mowbray talked with Hamilton while Angus searched for Crusoe. The latter aspect of the story was played out in the background, so it didn’t dominate. We just heard Angus call out from the various speakers in a way that let us hear him but not one that called attention to itself. This was just one of the many cool little bits found in this broad and engaging track.
Audio quality seemed just as positive. Speech was consistently natural and concise, with no edginess or other issues. Music was lively and bright, as the score exhibited nice highs and warm lows. Effects appeared equally strong. They were accurate and dynamic, and they boasted real punch in the louder bits. I never expected to give a flick like Deep an “A” for its soundtrack, but it earned that grade as it consistently excelled.
All of the package’s extras appear on DVD Two. Eight Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes, 49 seconds. These include “Angus Listens to the Radio” (0:40), “Caught in the Workshop” (0:54), “Kirstie Smiles at Gunner Corbin” (0:30), “Broken Bust” (0:41), “’Thank God We’ve Got a Navy’” (0:21), “Lewis Helps Angus Escape” (2:41), “Angus Blames Lewis” (0:45) and “Cease Fire” (0:23). As you can tell by their running times, the vast majority of these clips offer insubstantial additions. They’re mostly little comedic bits and not much else. “Escape” offers a smidgen of character information – especially since we find out why the name “Crusoe” means something to Angus – but even it doesn’t satisfy. None of these scenes adds much.
Six featurettes follow. Myths and Legends goes for 10 minutes, 26 seconds as it mixes movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from director Jay Russell, naturalist Adrian Shine, and monster hunter Steve Feltham. We learn a little about the origins of the Loch Ness Monster legend, theories about what it might be, and facts about the famous faked photo of it. “Myths” is an awfully short look at the subject and not a wholly satisfying one. It touches on some interesting topics, but it comes and goes too quickly to offer enough substance.
For The Story, we find 11 minutes and 42 seconds of notes from Russell, producer Charlie Lyons, author Dick King-Smith, and actors Alex Etel, David Morrissey, Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin. We get a few notes about the original book and various thoughts about the film’s tale. Once again, little meat appears in this forgettable piece. The participants mainly tell us how magical the story is but we learn almost nothing about the flick along the way.
Next comes the 15-minute and 30-second The Characters. It features Russell, Etel, Watson, Lyons, Chaplin, Morrissey, producer Barrie Osborne and actor Priyanka Xi. We find notes about casting, the roles, performances and interactions on the set. As with “Story”, a smattering of decent observations crop up here, but not many. It emphasizes happy talk and leaves us without much substance.
Setting the Scene lasts 13 minutes, 29 seconds and includes Russell, Osborne, Chaplin, Morrissey, and production designer Tony Burrough. “Scene” examines shooting New Zealand for Scotland as well as actually filming in Scotland, sets, working the military side of the flick, and a few other production specifics. We still find too many puffy praise in this show, but at least it compensates with some nice glimpses from the shoot. These offer a good look at the sets and whatnot, so they help make the program reasonably intriguing.
When we go to Water Work: Creating the Water Horse, we get 11 minutes, 38 seconds of comments from Russell, Etel, Chaplin, Morrissey, Osborne, and stunt coordinator Augie Davis. This piece looks at the issues related to working in the water. These include training Etel to deal with that setting as well as stunts and making it look like the water and characters interacted with a nonexistent Crusoe. A combination of good behind the scenes images and useful notes combine to create the best featurette so far.
Finally, Creating Crusoe fills 14 minutes, 15 seconds with statements from Russell, Watson, Chaplin, Morrissey, senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, visual effects supervisors Erik Winquist and R. Christopher White, creature FX art director Gino Acevedo, and animation supervisor Richard Francis-Moore. The program covers the design of Crusoe and the methods used to bring him to the screen. Like “Water Work”, “Creating” takes a nice look at its subject. It covers creative and technical decisions to offer a good overview of the film’s lead creature.
A few ads open DVD Two. We get clips for Surf’s Up, Open Season, and Open Season 2. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for Daddy Day Camp, Are We Done Yet?, The Final Season, The Prince and the Pauper, Roxy Hunter and the Mystery of the Moody Ghost, The Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, The Last Day of Summer/Shredderman Rules!, and Storm Hawks.
With The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, we get a reminder of how tough it is to create a truly satisfying family fantasy. The film presents an unconvincing melange of comedy, adventure, drama and sentiment that leaves us unsatisfied and generally bored. The DVD suffers from mediocre picture quality, but it offers excellent audio as well as a mix of sporadically interesting featurettes. I can’t endorse this forgettable flick.