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List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 5, 2000 | E-mail the Author
It's the script that sinks the ship in "Virus", a long delayed sci-fi thriller that was thrown into theaters last January only to leave them a matter of weeks later. Unlike the other silly sci-fi films lately like "Deep Rising", this film actually had potential. It's directed very well by Oscar winning FX supervisor John Bruno, who worked with James Cameron in creating the groundbreaking special effects for "The Abyss" and "Titanic". The robots are created by Phil Tipett, who I believe did the effects for "Starship Troopers". The sets are quite well done as well.

The film revolves around the crew of a boat who stumble onto an abandoned tanker that's been taken over by an alien who takes the form of electricity and possesses all of the electrical appliances, creating a new race of robot/humans from the people it kills. What plays out is a mix of "Sphere", "Event Horizon", "Alien" and bits of just about every other major sci-fi film of memory. Some of the effects and as previously mentioned, a lot of the robot effects, are very well done and as effects go, they're definitely far above average.

Where the film fails is the screenplay, full of cliches and lines that are of the most basic "action" type. The actors, who range from William Baldwin to a very silly Donald Sutherland, don't do too much to help things along. Jamie Lee Curtis does what she can with how little material she has to work with.

VIDEO: An excellent job by Universal creating a very clean and very "film-like" transfer with this 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. A beautiful amount of detail is apparent in an image that is clean, clear and wonderfully sharp throughout. Colors are strong and vivid, rendered naturally and pure. Colors are also well-saturated and there are no instances of color bleeding. Black level is perfect throughout, always very strong and defined. What's really incredible is how strong and well-defined the image is during the darkest of scenes, of which this movie has plenty. Parts of it are similar to "The Relic" in that there's only use of a flashlight in the midst of the darkness and even in those conditions, we're still able to make out a solid amount of the image. Contrast is excellent and flesh tones are accurate, even in the darkest lighting conditions. There's the very slightest bit of artifacts in the darkest scenes, but nothing distracting. Overall, this is an excellent transfer and one of the best I've seen from Universal lately.

SOUND: Two words: Crank it. "Virus" has an extremely active and wide sound stage that really sounds excellent and envelops the listener completely in the scene. Definitely a sound mix to listen to at high volume and definitely one that will wake your neighbors. The bass also packs a powerful punch with quite a bit of subwoofer detail. There are scenes of gunfire and action that sound great, but more than that, there are great details of the ship creaking and shifting. There's quite a few details of the storm that hits the ship as well, with waves crashing all around. Wild, loud soundstage that almost makes the movie somewhat enjoyable. Almost. Dialogue is fine as well, clean and clear.

MENUS: A nice, slightly animated main menu and some cool sub-menus. The rather goofy Universal symbols also make a return appearance along with the help screen to tell you what they all mean. And most annoying, you have to go back to the menu everytime you want to switch from the commentary to the film's audio.

EXTRAS: This is Universal's first test of offering "value-added" materials with a film that's priced less than their usual collector's editions. After looking over what they've offered here, I think this is a very successful effort(well, even if the movie isn't) and I'm quite glad to see them experimenting with different price-points and features. Although this isn't a collector's edition, you still recieve quite a bit.

CommentaryA commentary track with director John Bruno and Marshall Bell is included. What viewers are hoping for in a commentary for a film like this is simply, "how were the effects on a film like this handled and produced?". Bruno, who has won Oscars for his effects work, doesn't dissapoint with a strong portion of this discussion about the way that the effects were built. The other details include talk about the story as well as a lot of the production details. Composer Joel McNeely and actor Sherman Agustus also come into the commentary about 15 minutes or so into the discussion. There are a few very interesting discussions beyond the effects, such as the accuracy of some of the production details such as the eye of a hurricane. Some of the effects talk is fascinating, such as how the shoreline was digitally removed from some of the shots at sea. It's a good commentary, definitely providing a good amount of production and effects info; it's an entertaining track as well. The varying roles of the people involved give the listener a chance to get the perspective from the actors, director and composer and I really think that a group commentary like this gives us the most complete look at what it takes to produce a film like this.

Documentary:A pretty solid documentary called "Ghost In The Machine". For a large part, this contains the usual interviews with cast and crew members, but there are a lot of photos and details given about the production that I found interesting, such as how the mechanical creatures were built. This documentary goes beyond the basics really nicely, showing us quite a bit about what it takes to built a movie like this from the ground up. There's a few drawings shown as well during the feature. It starts off as a few interviews but once the documentary moves beyond that into how the special effects were made, it becomes a highly informative and entertaining look at how effects are produced. This is a very substantial documentary, running for quite a good length. It's always a little sad as well to watch a documentary and see so many people put so much time and energy into a film that spent only a few weeks in theaters.

Featurette: A shorter documentary that seems to cover a lot of the same ground as the documentary, while continuing into further details on how some of the film's effects were built. Still, I liked how both documentaries included on this disc include a lot of production and effects details instead of simply showing us interviews with the cast. These both take us behind the scenes very well and show us how these robots and effects were taken from concepts and drawings to being built to being added into the picture.

Trailer: Of course, the trailer is included.

Text Stuff:: Production notes and cast/crew bios.

DVD-Rom: A "Virus" Screen-saver and web site links.

Deleted Scenes Three deleted scenes and a alternate sequence that were removed from the picture(the 3 deleted scenes were removed to help the pace). They're a couple minutes each and definitely are sequences that aren't needed in the picture and were rightly removed.

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