Red Dragon: 2 Disc Edition (2002)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 12-Jun-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
dts Trailer-Piano
Audio Commentary-Brett Ratner (Director) & Ted Tally (Writer)
Audio Commentary-Danny Elfman (Composer)
DVD-ROM Extras
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Anthony Hopkins: Lecter And I
Featurette-The Burning Wheelchair
Featurette-Visual Effects
Storyboard Comparisons-4
Featurette-Brett Ratner's Video Diary
Featurette-Screen And Film Tests
Featurette-Makeup Application
Featurette-FBI Profile: Inside The Mind Of A Serial Killer
Featurette-The Leeds' House Crime Scene
Deleted Scenes-+/- commentary
Short Film-Brett Ratner's Untitled Student Film
Theatrical Trailer-2
Trailer-The Hulk
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 119:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:10)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Brett Ratner
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Anthony Hopkins
Edward Norton
Harvey Keitel
Ralph Fiennes
Emily Watson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Case Amaray-Opaque-Dual-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Danny Elfman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Hungarian
English Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
English Titling
Hungarian Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The retail version of Red Dragon has been released, and, after the bare-bones single disc version which was afforded the rental release, I can happily confirm that this two disc version is packed with extras and retains the dts soundtrack.

    Brett Ratner was on a bit of a hiding to nothing when he agreed to direct the latest film adaptation of a Thomas Harris novel featuring the insane psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. The man responsible for the Rush Hour films and a few music videos was trying to emulate the success Jonathan Demme enjoyed with The Silence Of The Lambs in bringing to the big screen the chilling tale of a serial killer and a cannibal doctor. He could so easily fall victim to the sequel curse and make a film inferior to the original, much like Ridley Scott's effort with Hannibal. On the other hand, the chances of him making a film superior to The Silence Of The Lambs were pretty slim. To further compound the difficulty, he also had to contend with the fact that Red Dragon had actually been made before. In 1986, Michael Mann directed Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter, which was adapted directly from Red Dragon, Thomas Harris' first novel. So not only was Ratner making a prequel to one of the most successful films in history, but it was a prequel remake too. Dangerous ground indeed.

    One of the key ingredients that served The Silence Of The Lambs so well was the superbly crafted script. Featuring exquisite character interactions between Anthony Hopkins' Dr Lecter and Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling, the like we see so rarely in film, at least Red Dragon got off to a solid start when original Lambs scriptwriter Ted Tally was employed to translate the novel to the big screen.

    Anthony Hopkins again returns as Hannibal Lecter. The majority of the story is set just before the events of The Silence Of The Lambs with the opening scenes of the film set way back in 1980 and dedicated to showing just how the FBI captured Hannibal Lecter. Special Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) is nearly killed in bringing Lecter to justice and bears not only near fatal physical wounds, but a deep and unsettling psychological scar that time will not heal. Flip forward several years and Graham has effectively retired to a small town in Florida, the burden of his encounter with Lecter just too much to allow him to continue working. When his old boss Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel takes on the role of the FBI heavy originally played by Scott Glenn in Lambs) comes calling with news of a new serial killer on the loose and seeking Graham's help, his old desire to solve crimes is renewed. It seems a crazed killer, dubbed "The Tooth Fairy" for the bite marks left on victims, has been murdering whole families in particularly gruesome circumstances.

    Graham takes up the challenge to bring this killer to justice, but is reluctant to seek the help of the now incarcerated Hannibal Lecter when that unthinkable suggestion is put forward by Jack Crawford. Graham must overcome his own deep-seated fear and deal with the demons of the past in confronting Lecter. But confront him he does, and while these are no match for the scenes featuring Foster and Hopkins, this is so much stronger than anything in Hannibal simply because Lecter is back where he is at his most tantalising, in that creepy basement cell of his and the gore has been completely erased. Using clues provided by Lecter, Will Graham is able to get a better picture of just who the serial killer might be.

    The killer, Francis Dolarhyde (aka "The Tooth Fairy" played by Ralph Fiennes) exhibits insanity and vulnerability, both of which Fiennes handles very well, although he is certainly not the creepiest killer I have seen on the screen. It is the vulnerable side of him that attracts a flirtatious blind women to him. Reba McClane (Emily Watson) is enamoured of Dolarhyde's strength and the air of mystery that surrounds him. Not able to be put off by his physical disfigurement, she may be about to get more than she bargained for. The small role from Philip Seymour Hoffman as suitably annoying weasel reporter Freddy Lounds is a highlight. He plays a dirt bag with such relish that he could almost become typecast as one. Ed Norton's portrayal of Graham is solid enough, but the story after the second act tends to develop a by-the-numbers feel to it. Norton is at his best early on when he is painstakingly recreating the crimes and searching for the all-important evidence. The latter physical confrontations and limited action scenes are fairly bland, and are nothing you won't have seen before in countless thrillers.

    I did particularly like the way the film neatly dove-tails the ending into the beginning of The Silence Of The Lambs.

    If you want to familiarise yourself with the earlier films, take a look at my reviews of The Silence of The Lambs and Hannibal or have a look at CarlB's very detailed review of Manhunter.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This would appear to be the exact same transfer which was afforded the rental release. The same minor problems are present in exactly the same places, but apart from those it is a mighty fine visual feast.

    Like the last couple of Universal titles that I have had the pleasure of reviewing, the transfer is clean, sharp and overall quite excellent. It is again almost perfect - almost but not quite for reasons I'll explain further. Filmed in Panavision with anamorphic lenses, this transfer is presented in the original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 and comes complete with 16x9 enhancement.

    This is a very sharply detailed transfer. I saw no evidence of any edge enhancement and shadow detail is handled beautifully. Grain is minimal to the point of not being noticed unless you are really looking for it and there is no low level noise.

    Colours are from a similar palette to those found in The Silence Of The Lambs, being very much muted and washed out. Apart from the early pre-credit scenes in Hannibal's house, which are warm and soft, a real grey tone is evident throughout much of the film which lends a chilling aspect to the visuals. There are no problems associated with bleeding or oversaturation. The colours are certainly not vibrant, but then this is supposed to be a chilling tale and that calls for chilling colours. Apparently 2000 ASA film stock was used and was pushed a further two aperture stops. This resulted in a high level of contrast being evident throughout much of the film.

    There are no MPEG compression artefacts. On the film-to-video front, some aliasing shimmer on a few different surfaces, some more noticeable than others, detracts from the otherwise clean print. The most notable examples occur early on at 0:53 on the concert stage, 2:25 and 2:58 on the dinner plates, 7:44 on the bookcase, 37:38 on a shingle roof and a really annoying case on a brick wall at 68:38. There is a fairly dominant moiré effect at 65:11-65:18 on Chilton's plaid jacket. There are few film artefacts of any note to worry about, which given the youth of the source material and the budget is exactly how I would expect it to be.

    There are plenty of subtitle options to keep everyone happy. I sampled the English variety and found them adequate. One point worth noting here is that the same problem that affected The Silence Of The Lambs in regards to the location captions crops up here. There are several cases throughout the film where captions are used to identify the story location. Like those in The Silence Of The Lambs, they were displayed in a very distinctive underlined font and positioned on the screen in a particular place by the director. These have simply been placed in a subtitle stream using the boring white block font so commonly used for this purpose. It does detract from an otherwise pleasing visual experience and I'm going to start favouring the Region 1 versions of titles if this practice is kept up.

    This is a dual layered disc with RSDL formatting. The layer change is extremely well placed at 63:10. It is barely perceptible with no disruption to the flow of the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five audio soundtracks on this disc. In addition to two Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks in English and Hungarian there is a dts 5.1 soundtrack encoded at the bitrate of 768 Kb/s. The two audio commentary soundtracks round out the selection. Both English surround soundtracks are clean, dynamic and powerful, with plenty of directional effects, solid low end, and consistent and well-intentioned rear channel use. There really is little to differentiate the Dolby Digital and dts tracks and either will surely please.

    The dialogue quality is an important aspect of this film, and both audio soundtracks deliver the goods. There are no audio sync problems.

    Danny Elfman's score, while not quite capturing the uniqueness so evident in Howard Shore's magnificent The Silence Of The Lambs effort, is by no means a dud. Paying homage to many of the psychological thrillers from the past, with the most notable being Psycho, it builds tight tension in very many scenes perfectly. Slowly and deliberate at times until it reaches a climax, this is a very good example of a psychological thriller score. The opening credits theme is a gem.

    Surround channel use is consistent throughout, with no real unusual or misplaced effects pushed through to the rears. The opening title sequence offers plenty of enveloping surround as do the early scenes at Will Graham's home in Florida. The latter sees plenty of birds and other wildlife chirping in all corners of the room.

    While this isn't a major action film with lots of large explosions and the like, the subwoofer does see plenty of use. The best example would be at 106:03 where a rather substantial explosion rocks the room.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There's certainly not too much to complain about in the extras department here, with two commentaries on offer plus a second disc packed with bits and pieces. It's worth noting that all the featurettes are supported by English subtitles.

DISC 1

Main Menu Introduction

Main Menu Audio

dts Trailer - Piano

Audio Commentary - Director Brett Ratner and Writer Ted Tally

    Brett Ratner obviously hasn't done too many commentaries. He speaks very fast and is quite animated. Unfortunately, all this enthusiasm can't stop him from dropping into the "This is my favourite scene", "This is my favourite shot", and even "This is my favourite cut!" syndrome. Thankfully, the guiding hand of writer Ted Tally helps him along, chastising him whenever he keeps saying "this is my favourite..." and prompting him with questions and thoughts of his own. He deals with the translation of the novel to the screen and the performances of the cast. Tally's words are more carefully chosen and easily delivered, and his presence alone lifts this commentary above the average and makes it worth a listen.

Audio Commentary - Composer Danny Elfman

    This is really not an audio commentary since Danny Elfman only talks for about twenty minutes scattered throughout the film. What it really is is a very nice isolated score. The dialogue and other effects have been completely muted and we are left with just the musical composition. Elfman pops up here and there and discusses various aspects of his work. He usually waits for the silent moments when his work isn't featured, so he isn't talking over the top of it. Worth a listen if you have the time.

DISC 2

DVD-ROM Extras

Featurette-Making Of

    A 14:20 making of featurette, which is rather brief, rather lame, and a little too self congratulatory for my liking. Mostly fluff, there is little real behind-the-scenes stuff here.

Featurette - Anthony Hopkins "Lecter and Me"

    An all-too-brief 4:26 interview with Sir Anthony Hopkins. He discusses the genesis of the Lecter character and the effect it has had on his life and acting career.

Featurette - The Burning Wheelchair

    Running for 4:10, this is a small featurette on the technicalities involved in making the burning wheelchair scene. It is interesting to note that there is a real person in the form of a stuntman riding the wheelchair as it bursts into flames. There was also a little CGI involved, but not too much. The fire is all real.

Featurette - Visual Effects

    Running for 4:27 this brief and slightly dull featurette shows a before and after selection of several scenes and the visual enhancements that occurred to them. Things like adding blood, changing the sky, and making things more foreboding are all briefly displayed.

Storyboard Comparisons

    A series of storyboard and scene comparisons. The screen shows two windows, the scene as it was filmed at the top and the rough storyboard drawing at the bottom. Four scenes are shown running for 8:40 minutes in total.

Featurette - Brett Ratner's Video Diary

    Now this is more like a behind-the-scenes making of. Detailed and comprehensive, this featurette runs for 39:26 minutes. Filmed by someone who just tagged along with director Brett Ratner every step of the way, it covers location scouting, pre-production, much of the 77 days of filming, and the premiere. Unsanitised with some of the arguments and frustrations of director, producers, and cast showing through, this highlights the painstaking process that is involved in making a big budget film. The highlight is surely the insistence of producer Dino De Laurentis that he wants to burn down the stately old home just for the film's climax. "We'll build you a new one" he says to the incredulous owners. Classic stuff.

Featurette - Film and Screen Tests

    A short 11:43 featurette complete with commentary from director Brett Ratner and director of photography Dante Spinotti. A series of tests using the highly sensitive film stock were taken to ensure colours and lighting were optimal. These are some of the results. Not overly interesting.

Featurette - Make-Up Application

    A warning stating some gruesome scenes prefixes this quick-fire 46 second featurette. It's not that bad, really - it just shows the process used by the make-up artists in providing the murder victims with their 'mirror' eyes.

Featurette - FBI Profile 'Inside The Mind Of A Serial Killer'

    A little more interesting, but still all too brief. This only runs for 8:18 minutes. FBI profiler John Douglas explains his methods for working out who might be responsible for the particular crime and how he builds up a profile of this person using certain tools.

Featurette - Leeds House Crime Scene

    A 3:39 minute look at the recreation of the first Tooth Fairy murder scene. An expert was called in to assist with the various technical details, such as the exact direction and amount of blood one might expect to find when four people are murdered.

Deleted Scenes

    A solid selection of deleted, alternate, and extended scenes are on offer. All come with optional commentary from director Brett Ratner and editor Mark Helfrich. There are eight deleted scenes running for 5:21 minutes in total. Most offer little additional plot development. The four alternate scenes offer some minor story changes which the commentators explain in detail. Total running time for these is 4:29. There are also three extended scenes which run for 2:22 minutes.

Short Film

    This is a slightly bizarre inclusion and perhaps bordering on the self-indulgent. This is a short black and white silent film Brett Ratner made while attending NYU in 1987. A bizarre story that really has nothing to do with Red Dragon or Hannibal Lector.

Theatrical Trailer

    A 2:32 trailer presented in the proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio but without 16x9 enhancement. There's plenty of plot spoilers in here, but they are so mixed and diced within the two plus minutes you'd be doing well to work out any sort of order to them

Teaser Trailer

    A shorter 1:58 minute version of the above trailer. Very similar, though this one is in the modified aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is also not 16x9 enhanced.

Trailer

    The 58 second teaser trailer for The Hulk.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

       There are three different versions of this title available in Region 1, but I'll only mention two since one of them is a pan & scan abomination. The other two are the one disc Collector's Edition and a two-Disc Director's Edition.  It should be noted that the actual length of the film on both versions is the same, it is merely the additional extras on the second disc that earn it the Director's Edition tag. From the information I can gather, the Region 4 version is almost the same as the Region 1 Director's Edition. Almost but not quite.

    The Region 4 version misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    The Region 1 title does not include a dts soundtrack, which certainly swings the pendulum in favour of the Region 4 version, but those rotten location captions are still annoying me greatly. Get it wherever you can get it the cheapest would be the easiest recommendation.

Summary

    While certainly not anywhere near the league of The Silence Of The Lambs, this is a far better film than Hannibal, probably for the sole reason that Hannibal Lecter is back where he belongs, in that creepy dungeon cell, the cheesy gore scenes are nowhere to be seen, and the script had the guiding hand of original Silence Of The Lambs writer Ted Tally. The direction is solid, but lacks any obvious or unique style that was so necessary to elevate this film to anywhere near Jonathan Demme's 1991 classic.

    The video quality on offer here is excellent, though not quite perfect, being let down by some excessive shimmer on a few surfaces.

    The audio quality is excellent. The dts soundtrack is an added bonus, but it hardly differs from the Dolby Digital effort.

    The extras are numerous in quantity but let down a little in terms of quality. The video diary is detailed and unique, but the other bits and pieces could have easily been lumped into one longer making-of style piece.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Saturday, May 31, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

Other Reviews
MovieHole - Clint M
The DVD Bits - Allan H
DVD Net - Jules F
Web Wombat - James A

Comments (Add)
What are location captions? and info on the UK R2 - Bradavon REPLY POSTED
Blocky subtitles in R4 'International' releases - Christopher
Subtitle problem - Anonymous
Re: Blocky subtitles - Alex H (My biography...in 500 words or less!) REPLY POSTED
Give me Blocky Subtitles - damndirtyape182 (You want a Bio, I'll give you a Bio.)
Re: Blocky subtitles - Anonymous
Burned in is better [yet again...] - Neil
Subtitles: burned in to the print or go to hell. - Christopher REPLY POSTED
Re Subtitles: Sorry Darren - Christopher
Burning Wheelchair - Anonymous
Deleted Scenes - Anonymous
DVD-Rom Content - Anonymous
Re: Burning Wheelchair - Anonymous
Elfman's Commentary - Anonymous