Many fans of ABC's paramount series Lost, the Emmy-winning science fiction drama, have endured a bit of a love-hate/love-or-hate relationship with Oceanic Flight 815 for the previous two seasons -- myself included. There's a fine line between watching the show because it's entertaining television and watching just to know about the characters' resolutions, which happened to be the tight-rope that the creators wobbled on while exploring and dissecting the island. J.J. Abrams and crew have played around with this for the past few years, taking us on twists and turns that try to provoke questions about religion, tribal mentality, and the existence of something called the "Dharma Initiative" that, though we've seen square foot after square foot of their grounds, still makes little to no sense. Weaving through the mysterious, metaphysically-enhanced island has been a chaotic trip both enthralling and nonsensical enough to fluster its audience with theoretical jabbering. While still one of the better television series on the air, it has mainly built off of character fondness and the initial ideas constructed by the first season -- while spending a ridiculous amount of time piecing together a dizzying network of clues, including those that might hint at whether the island's inhabitants are even still alive.
With Season Four of Lost, all the ground work laid by two years of batty ideas, character interactions, and historical analysis on the island's story arch finally begins to regain momentum. After a handful of seasons testing the waters, Abrams' crew knows exactly what to do with the tone, direction, and rhythm of this part science fiction/part survival drama. As a result, Lost's Fourth Season packs an unbearable cinema-style punch geared to be intelligent while also being deceptively simple, energetic without showing all its cards, and heartbreaking without approaching melodrama. The Hawaii-based crew knows how to get inside of their audience's head, clearly proven by how intensely they can exploit their ability to do so while accomplishing many more thematic objectives in the process. Though only thirteen (13) episodes long, it doesn't even come close to slowing down (or unnecessarily speeding up) its kinetic rush to baffle and engross both its devotees and straying fans in need of a lure-and-tackle back into the universe.
Disney's Buena Vista line hasn't let Lost fans down in the DVD package department yet, and Season Four is no exception. It comes in a handsome, embossed fold-out digipack that holds all six discs in layered fashion, which actually makes the set a little slimmer than the others due to the lower number of discs. As far as the spine artwork goes, the designs come pretty darn close to lining up -- which certainly shouldn't enough to irk collectors. The digipack slides into the typical floppy plastic slipcase, which peeks through to the inner digipack's design.
In one of my favorite DVD aesthetic moves of the year, they've gotten their art department to draw up a really cool chapter listing. It's in the form of an airline flight manual, made with the same kind of pseudo-laminated material to replicate the authentic feel. Inside, theres a lot of typical airline suggestions, along with a few added pokes from the Dharma Universe (such as an Initiative logo on a shark fin). The little details are what make larger purchases like this worth it, which begs kudos to ABC/Buena Vista for stepping up to make a shorter season's presentation a tantalizing one. P.S -- Check out the front cover of the actual digipack, look at the "6" at the bottom, and see who in the line of characters are highlighted. Pretty slick, ABC/Buena Vista.
Audio and Video Quality:
Those familiar with Buena Vista's excellence in producing digital presentations for the previous Lost seasons will be once again elated here. Offered in its originally aired 1.78:1 image, enhanced for 16x9 televisions, this image looks stellar. Apt color saturation and detail rendering show off the gorgeous Hawaiian landscapes beautifully, while the subtle utilization of slate blues for industrial-style flashback/flash-forward sequences handle the limited color range with plenty of grace. It's not perfect; a little bit of digital noise can be seen against some facial features sporadically, along with mild edge enhancement at a few choice points. However, this visual transfer gets so much right -- and approaches the top shelf of visual quality so closely -- that it swallows up any mild imperfections without thinking twice.
Standing strong with the visuals, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track crafts an engulfing soundstage to accompany the sweeping cinematography. Few audio tracks, not mattering if we're talking from film or television, tackle all three key sound elements the same way that Lost does. It's an exercise in mixing thunderous booms with discreet whispers to create a diverse sound environment. The experience is an onslaught of hair-raising music, well-ranged voices, and explosive sound effects, all of which this audio track presents in bold fashion. Audibility is top shelf, especially in the ambient sound department; with a little separation from reality, it can actually transport you into the aural realm of the island if you're willing. Verbal clarity does push on the upper shelf of the audio track, creating a bit of a raspy, popping sound at high intervals, but overall we're working with a substantially immersive audio track. Subtitles are available in French, Spanish, and English SDH, as are language tracks in French and Spanish.
Lost in 8:15 (8:15):
How do you cram three seasons of Lost into the time it takes to fold a load of laundry? With a quick, easy-to-hear voice and rapid editing, apparently. If you need a refresh of everything that's happened thus far, then this is the way to go. A menu option to view the Lost in 8:15 loads when the first disc is popped in, which is entirely optional. However, watching that blitzed, flashy recap probably feels similar to having a skill set programmed into your brain in The Matrix universe -- and all that material just might be sensory overload.
Audio Commentary for The Beginning of the End:
Evangeline Lilly and Jorge Garcia offer a laid-back commentary here, mainly filled with playful banter about the episode and returning to the rhythm of the series. There's not an awful lot to say about the track, outside of the fact that you can tell that both Lilly and Garcia love what they do and share great, quirky chemistry.
Audio Commentary for The Constant:
If any one episode this season deserved a commentary -- or any episode from Lost, for that matter -- it'd be The Constant. Here, the editing and production crew get together and deliver a bang-up insightful track that analyzes all the clips, cuts, shifts, and techniques utilized in making this stellar addition to the Lost alternate-reality canon. It highlight editor Mark Goldman as one of the stars of this episode's behind the scenes work, and duly so. There's also discussion on actor Fahey, Desmond's popularity, and the potential of Minkowski and a ferris wheel appearing somewhere in the forthcoming episodes.
Audio Commentary for Ji Yeon:
Daniel Day Kim, Yunjin Kim, and Director Stephen Semel attach onto the Sun/Jin-centric episode for a pleasant little chattering commentary. They bring up one of my favorite elements of the show -- the starting open-eye shot that accompanies many of the episodes -- along with a few tricks used throughout the series, like using green screens to display images of Seoul behind the apartments. It's a little stiff regarding how they bring up some nuggets of information, but there's some nice alleviation of ideas from all parties involved. There's also some due praise for Jeremy Davies wiggled in there.
Audio Commentary for There's No Place Like Home, Pt. 2:
Finally, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse get together and record their "first ever" season finale commentary track. They're jazzed to do something they've never done before, which echoes even the crew's adoration for the series -- plus a little bit of blushing modesty. But boy they know what they're talking about, along with knowing what the audience wants to hear about in a season finale commentary. They discuss mythology, spoilers, time constructs ... and Jack's fake beard. They goof around a lot at the beginning of the track, but once they reach the moments directly after the title screen they really dig into the good stuff. Hopefully, this will become a regular motion from Lindelof and Cuse.
On Disc 5:
Lost on Location (41:56):
As the title says, this series of features takes you behind the camera with several of the episodes. It gives you the opportunity to see the directors, producers, and production assistants scrambling about to get the shots that they need. On average, there's around four to five (4-5) minutes of material per episode, which incorporates great visuals that show off the impressive camerawork, stunt coordination, and build designs. The episode break down is as follows: The Beginning of the End, Confirmed Dead, The Constant, The Other Woman, Meet Kevin Johnson, The Shape of Things to Come, Cabin Fever, and There's No Place Like Home, Pt. 2.
The Island Backlot: Lost in Hawaii (17:52):
With the ride range of locales that Lost spreads across, it's sometime difficult to remember that almost every inch of footage is shot at Hawaii locales. They recreate Korea, Africa, Mainland US, everything just by scouting locations and molding to their environment. Interview footage about the experiences filming in Oahu, opinions on other potential locations decided against, and specific location identifications adorn this nice little love letter to Hawaii, while also reminding those of us working our day jobs in less-than-paradise locations that there's still plenty of tiring, tedious work being done at their grand location.
The Right to Bear Arms (11:14):
Though it's become a little less detrimental to keep track of the owners of guns on Lost, there's still plenty of dedicated work in keeping track of who is holding what weaponry at all times. Instead of bargaining chips, they seem plentiful now -- but, as the cast and crew reiterate in this featurette, it's still a lot of stressful work to keep track of the guns. That's the job of Gregg Nations, script coordinator and gun harasser on retainer for Lost.
Soundtrack of Survival (26:20):
Michael Giacchino, composer for Lost, falls into the spotlight here. In so many words, the cast and crew bluntly refer to him with almost deity-like stature. Which isn't off-base; From the first episode when we hear the signature flutters from the orchestra, it's obvious that the intricacy at play with the scoring goes deep into the roots of the development process. That's a taste of what we get to see in this fantastic featurette -- recording sessions, backstage coordination with the producers, and interview time with the composer himself as it illustrates how integral of an element the score is. It's all set against the backdrop of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra's performance of the Lost music. Great, great watch.
Rounding out the first disc of supplements are nearly nine-and-a-half (9 1/2) minutes of Deleted Scenes and three (3) minutes of Bloopers.
On Disc 6:
Course of the Future (56:03):
Ummm, yeah. Wow. In true Memento: Limited Edition form, this little earmark chronologically arranges every single flash-forward sequence for uninterrupted viewing. Seeing as how the series roots intself so much in the future, it's kind of a shock that the runtime is only an hour long. If you're confused and/or curious about the arrangement of future scenes in the show, then this will answer all of your inquiries.
Oceanic 6 -- A Conspiracy of Lies (21:13):
Taken as a mock documentary of the characters that survived the plane crash, this featurette adds a little dash of far-fetched speculation to the fire by suggesting that the plane crash may have been an intricately-orchestrated ploy by these six to grab the settlement money from Oceanic Airlines. It's a fun little slice of fiction-based fiction, with some great utilization of interview footage and such. It's also unique because of the alternate home video style footage of several scenes from the season, all of which adds to the "realism" of the mockumentary.
The Frighter Folk (12:37):
As mentioned in the review, there's a wealth of solid new characters utilized this season, which becomes the focus of this little featurette. I liked how they attached the idea of associating the characters with a Michael Crichton novel, as that roster really does seem like something straight out of Jurassic Park. There's been some successes and some duds in incorporating new characters to the series, but the character solidity is pretty universal this season -- something that the producers and veteran actors of the "well oiled machine" convey in this featurette.
Offshore Shoot (7:48):
Here we've got a behind-the-scenes look at filming on the freighter. It chronicles the shooting complications regarding the helicopter and the infrastructure used during filming on the Kahana, a transport freighter commissioned for rental in Hawaii specifically for this shoot. Typical behind-the-scenes footage accompanies a combo of interview time and footage from the boat episodes.
Lost: Missing Pieces -- Mobisodes (31:22)
Closing out the wealth of special features, ABC has been gracious enough to include the Lost: Missing Pieces series of unique vignettes available on their website. The material ranges, spanning across the entire canon of the series. Part of the mystery is figuring out which piece goes where. It's all shot in a more sterile form than actual episodes, but still sports the same level of polish from all the actors involved -- which range from snippets of Jack and Ethan mulling over medication to seeing a very compelling little piece featuring Juliet and Ben discussing a "child". Each of these are slick little additions to the full Lost universe.
There's one directly underneath the door on the second page of menus. It shows a video of the boat coversation in "Ji Yeon" -- with a speedboat flying in the background.
There's another one directly to the right of the "Freighter Folk" text. It's a short little bit that tries to explain the nature of the island's pull on Jack -- associated with elasticity and such.
Yeah, it's excellent. Now infamous as "the" mindboggler of television series, Lost has come back in the fourth round with a few new tricks up its sleeve: non-stop tension, brand new time mechanics, a handful of quality fresh faces, and a heaping helping of all the regular trimmings that make it one of the best television shows around. This season, interesting enough, it worked on strengthening its appeal as a cinematic piece of television, emphasized by its heightened enjoyment in watching the story of the survivors -- and their wayward rescuers -- unfold. Even for those that typically can't soak into television series for the long haul, Lost will still sucker them in with its film-like panache. Flat out, Lost has stood up and matched its premiere season in energy and smarts both.
In alignment with the now-expected smorgasbord of materials presented to us from ABC/Buena Vista, this Lost: Season Four package comes stuffed to peak capacity with supplements. Four commentaries, making-of docs, webisodes, bloopers, deleted scenes, stuff about the music, stuff about the guns ... name it, and it's covered in this stellar package. Also consider that Lost offers up one of the finest standard-definition presentations around, both in visual strength and aural punch, and you've got an entry into DVDTalk's Collector Series. Honestly, even if you're a pure film lover and have little to no desire for most television shows, you should give Lost a spin -- you won't regret it.