The Zodiac appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film looked fine but unexceptional.
Sharpness generally appeared good. A few wider shots came across as moderately soft, but those sequences failed to create substantial problems. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement seemed apparent. As for print flaws, the image appeared free from defects, though some moderate grain showed up at times.
Zodiac presented a generally subdued palette, as the hues often looked a little faded and pale. The movie went with a slightly golden tone and didn’t favor many more dynamic colors. The hues came across as adequate within the production design but not much better than that. Black levels also varied. Mostly they seemed respectably dense and deep, but they occasionally came across as somewhat inky and flat. Shadow detail was decent but lacked terrific definition. Some shots – especially the nighttime ones – looked rather dark and a little too opaque. Ultimately, most of The Zodiac presented a fairly good image, but it never became anything special.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Zodiac proved to be sporadically active. Much of that resulted from the murder segments. Those offered a good sense of place and atmosphere, especially in the way the creepy elements appeared around the spectrum. These segments made fine use of the surrounds and created a nicely involving environment. Other scenes also worked well. The movie featured good stereo music that blended well with the rears, and quieter sections featured nice atmospheric elements. The soundfield seemed convincing and accurate, though it rarely became terribly ambitious.
Audio quality also was positive. The lines remained reasonably natural and distinct throughout the movie. I detected no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded rich and vibrant, as the score was clear and smooth. Effects lacked any concerns related to distortion and were vivid and dynamic. Bass response played an active role only sporadically, but low-end elements seemed tight and appropriately powerful. Overall, the audio of The Zodiac was perfectly positive for this material.
A mix of extras fill out the disc. We start with an audio commentary from writer/director Alexander Bulkley, writer Kelley Bulkeley and editor Greg Tillman. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They talk about the opening credits, research and efforts to retain accuracy, cast and performances, set design and issues related to making a period film, sets and locations, the story and facets of the Zodiac case, and general production elements.
While more interesting than the film discussed, this never becomes more than a serviceable track. The participants mostly chat about the history behind the story, so we don’t get a ton of info directly connected to the movie itself. This is fine, though the program doesn’t tell us a whole lot beyond what we already know from the movie. The commentary progresses at a decent clip and never bores, but it rarely enhances the experience either. It comes across as a perfectly ordinary chat.
Next comes an 11-minute and three-second featurette called Behind the Zodiac. It features movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and comments from actors Marty Lindsey, Justin Chambers, Brad Henke, William Mapother, Shelby Alexis Irey, Rory Culkin, Robin Tunney, and Phillip Baker Hall. We hear a bit about the characters and the story as well as performances and the director, the script and period setting, the flick’s tone, and some shot specifics. Although we get some good shots from the set, not much substance emerges here. The show offers a few generic notes about the flick but it lacks depth.
A few text features follow. Decoding the Zodiac: Zodiac Ciphers shows four pieces. We get three parts from 8/1/69 and an unsolved code from 11/8/69. These show the raw ciphers and their decoded versions. Chronology of the Zodiac Killings breaks down events into dates and times, while The Zodiac Letters shows missives from 8/1/69, 8/7/69 and 10/14/69. These are all interesting to see, even if much of the material already appears in the movie.
The disc includes the trailer for Zodiac and a few Previews open the DVD. We get ads for Down in the Valley, 10th and Wolf, The King and Awesome: I… Shot That.
In his final letter to the press, the Zodiac wrote that “I am waiting for a good movie about me”. If he’s still out there, his wait continues. Perhaps David Fincher’s upcoming Zodiac will live up to the source material, but The Zodiac sure doesn’t. It mopes and meanders without life or pizzazz as it renders a scintillating story neutered and painfully boring. The DVD presents decent to good picture and audio along with a few mediocre extras. This is an average release for a terrible movie.