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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English DTS 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • French subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Reversible Cover
  • Commentary by Wes Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach
  • Ten deleted scenes
  • "Starz on the Set": behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Theatrical trailer

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Single disc edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, Bud Cort, Seymour Cassel, Seu Jorge
2004 | 118 Minutes | Licensor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.99 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #300
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 10, 2005
Review Date: June 28, 2008

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SYNOPSIS

Internationally famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his crew-Team Zissou-set sail on an expedition to hunt down the mysterious, elusive, possibly nonexistent Jaguar Shark that killed Zissou's partner during the documentary filming of their latest adventure. They are joined on their voyage by a young airline co-pilot, who may or may not be Zissou's son (Owen Wilson), a beautiful journalist (Cate Blanchett) assigned to write a profile of Zissou, and his estranged wife and co-producer, Eleanor (Anjelica Huston). They face overwhelming complications, including pirates, kidnapping, and bankruptcy. Oscar-nominated writer-director Wes Anderson (2001, The Royal Tenenbaums, Best Original Screenplay) has assembled an all-star cast that also includes Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, and Bud Cort for this wildly original adventure-comedy.

Forum members rate this film 6.5/10

 

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PICTURE

Disney and Criterion present The Life Aquatic in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this dual-layered disc. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions. Oddly, though, they have released two different DVDs, a single-disc release (which I am reviewing here) and a 2-disc release, though this is more than likely Disney's decision and not Criterion's.

I'm confused as to who actually does the transfers on these Disney/Criterion releases, whether it's Criterion's team or Disneyís. While both Armageddon and Rushmore present very nice, sharp pictures that are better than the standard releases, the rest (The Rock, Chasing Amy, and The Royal Tenenbaums) always seem to be closer to Disney's standards, which isn't bad, but I guess I expected better for newer films.

Generally the image is quite good. Anderson's film is colourful and the DVD brings this aspect of it out quite well. The colours are bright and bold and jump off the screen. Skin tones are accurate and the red hats (though they can sometimes verge on bleeding) look wonderful. Blacks are deep and bold (best displayed in night sequences) and whites are bright but not overbearing.

The key problem is the image is just never really as sharp as it could be. Long shots can look a tad fuzzy with slight edge-enhancement and close-ups do present some decent detail. One of Anderson's surreal little touches, which involves Murray getting "Crazy Eye" (a close up shows red rings all through his eyes) is sort of lost here. You can make out the rings, but I still found them soft.

It still looks very good and Andersonís look is still well presented. But I have to admit I was expecting a little more.

(Note: The screen grabs below were technically taken from the first disc of my two-disc release as I didnít have the single disc release on me at the time. But the single disc release is the exact same as the first disc from the two-disc set, right down to the disc art having the words ďDisc 1Ē printed on it.)

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The DVD presents two audio tracks: A Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track and a DTS 5.1 surround track. They both sound pretty good but the DTS track is the better of the two.

The film isnít an action packed spectacle, and despite its more adventurous spirit when compared to Andersonís other films itís still a relatively quiet movie. Even the few action sequences there are still present a mild environment when compared to more generic action sequences (gun shots have more of a popping noise rather than an explosion, which we have probably become accustomed to.)

Both tracks are really front heavy, with music, either from the score or the Bowie soundtrack, moving to the backs and filling out the environment nicely. Sound effects sneak back there as well and are crystal clear (I always get a kick from one scene in Zissouís compound where his love birds are chirping in the background to which my own lovebird responds in a very excited, maybe too excited, manner.) Dialogue is distinct and crisp, easy to hear. The ending is where the film gets more lively and the surrounds get a decent amount to do, with sounds moving distinctly through the speakers.

And while the Dolby Digital track is decent, the DTS track is much better. Just comparing some of the filmís ďlouderĒ moments shows some distinct differences. The track is louder, clearer, and has better Bass. Comparing moments where music is more prominent presents the clearest differences.

Two very good tracks but if you can I would recommend sticking with the DTS track.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

As mentioned before Criterion (or more likely, Disney) has released 2 DVD editions of the film. Instead of releasing a regular Disney version and a Criterion version (as they would normally do) it's been decided to release two Criterion versions, one a single disc, the other a double-disc. I am reviewing the single-disc edition here. This single-disc is aimed more for the rental market and the Wal-Mart type stores. The supplements on this version are okay for the most part, but the double-disc release is clearly the way to go, since it only runs a few bucks more.

The first supplement is an audio commentary by Wes Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach. This is an odd commentary track in the fact that it's being recorded in a bar/restaurant (the one they wrote the film in) during business hours so there's all sorts of noise in the background. It's an interesting idea, but I don't think it was too necessary as I sometimes got distracted by what was going on in the background.

I loved the commentary on Criterion's Rushmore DVD, but that was probably because Anderson also had Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman sharing the time. I liked Anderson's solo commentary on Tenenbaums, but I couldn't help but feel maybe less Anderson may be better. Here we get him partnered with Baumbach and this works out better, but I have to admit in missing Wilson. Still the two have a lot to talk about. Anderson loves little details, loves talking about them, and the two also like talking about working on the script, inspirations and general story ideas. A few anecdotes are shared, and in the end the track comes off enjoyable and informative. One interesting note is that whenever the name Jacques Cousteau is mentioned it's bleeped out. It's obvious who they are talking about, so it's not frustrating, but it is rather bizarre, especially since the film is dedicated to Cousteau at the end. And also further showing that this is probably more of a Disney effort, this is the first Criterion effort where the commentary comes with a disclaimer (referring to Buena Vista and not Criterion.) At least we donít get ads at the beginning.

Moving on we also get 10 deleted scenes running about 4 and a half minutes. These are worth checking out as most of them are fairly amusing, especially an extended leech bit which has the best deadpan delivery (not) in the movie, and an extra second after the hotel blows up gives a decent chuckle. These are in somewhat rough shape and have unfortunately not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

There is also a fluff piece, presented in 1.33:1 standard, that is a shame to see on a Criterion release, though I'm assuming stuff like this is more general audience friendly than the stuff found on disc 2 of the 2-disc edition. "Starz on Set" takes a look at The Life Aquatic, giving interviews with various members of the cast, director Anderson and animator Henry Selik. The stuff is all fluff mostly, feeling like everyone is trying to sell the movie, but you can find some good comments from Murray, Wilson, Dafoe, and Anderson. It lasts only 15 minutes, but it can easily be skipped.

And finally you get the original trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Different from other Criterion releases you not only have English subtitles included, but French and Spanish subtitles as well. I'm assuming this was a cost saving measure, as the Tenenbaums release by Criterion only had English subs and an English track, meaning Disney had to put out a separate version in Quebec with a French track (though none of the Criterion extras.) This way they don't have to print separate versions.

Missing (at least from the release I have borrowed) is an insert found in the 2-disc, which includes an interview with Wes Anderson and his brother Eric Anderson on Eric's artwork (it also inludes a map of the Belafonte.) This release does have a rather cool little feature where you can actually reverse the DVD artwork. On one side (which is the side showing when you buy it) is a version of the poster art with your critic blurbs on the back. Flip it around, though, and you get Eric Anderson's artwork (the correct Criterion artwork) with a listing of the few features on the back.

And to save on costs, the disc still has "Disc One: The Movie" printed on the disc art. I guess it was decided not to waste money just to print off a disc missing those words.

And that's it. The extras are minimal here, the commentary and deleted scenes at least being decent, but this release loses out simply because there is a better 2-disc release out there. That release isnít up to Criterionís usual standards for supplements but itís still a good release and it only runs a few bucks more. Of the two I would go with the other one.

4/10

CLOSING

Decent, though somewhat disappointing picture that I suspect Disney worked on, with great sound, this release is okay enough if you're only concerned about the film. But if you want supplements you're best to go with the double-disc release. The first disc on that set is the disc found in this release, then you get another disc loaded with informative supplements.


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