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Under the DomeBlu-ray Paramount TV Reviews
Nov 11 2013 06:27 PM | Neil Middlemiss in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- Studio: Paramount
- Distributed By: N/A
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
- Rating: TV-14
- Run Time: 9 Hr. 1 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray
- Case Type: Flip case inside Special Packaging
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 11/5/2013
- MSRP: $76.99
The Production Rating: 3/5
“I'm scared. What if the dome lasts forever?”
The quiet rural town of Chester’s Mill, Maine, a sleepy enclave, is thrust into chaos when a barrier mysteriously, and violently, falls around the town. Later determined to be a dome shape that stretches high into the sky, surrounding the town in a ten mile radius, the dome has cut Chester’s Mill off from the entire world. Impervious to sound, electromagnetic in nature but beyond the technology known to man, the dome’s appearance slowly begins to reveal the dirty secrets of the town, and the destiny of several key members of the community.
The town of Chester’s Mill is effectively run by James ‘Big Jim’ Rennie (Dean Norris), councilman and powerful business owner. His unstable son, Junior (Alexander Koch), is a disaster waiting to happen though the young man does not know just how powerful, and corrupt, his father is. The town’s sheriff, Duke (Jeff Fahey), and his deputy friend Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez), along with two other members of the Sheriff’s department, find themselves woefully unprepared for the breakdown of order the dome thrusts upon them. Julie Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre) is the local reporter, looking to uncover the secrets of the dome while searching for her missing husband. But she finds herself drawn to a mysterious man, Dale ‘Barbie’ Barbara (Mike Vogel), who claims to have been passing through the town when the event struck. Barbie has secrets as well, and a darker past than he is willing to reveal. Angie (Britt Robertson) and Joe McAlister (Colin Ford) are brother and sister, who find they are alone when the dome cuts them off from their parents. Angie is the fixation of the unsettled Junior, and Joe is both affected and curious by the nature of the dome. Among the others trapped in the town town are three strangers who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time – apparently. Same sex couple Carolyn Hill (Aisha Hinds) and Alice Calvert (Samantha Mathis), along with their mildly miscreant daughter, Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz), are trapped and scared by the unexplained events, though Norrie finds some comfort in her budding friendship with Joe McAlister.
Nothing is quite as it seems and more terrifying than the dome is the people who are trapped inside.
It’s hard to deny that the premise of Under the Dome (though humorously similar to The Simpson’s Movie), is compelling. Stephen King, author of the book upon which this limited series is based, has always had a knack for distilling intriguing ideas down into consumable entertainment. King’s works have more often than not suffered in translation to other mediums. Of his plethora of books and short stories, it can be counted on one hand the adaptations that have found pride of place in the filmed medium (the list may be different for most, but for me that list is The Shawshank Redemption, The Stand, The Green Mile, The Shining and Stand by Me). And so the odds were largely against Under the Dome striking a chord with viewers on CBS as the highly-promoted series was set to air. However, Under the Dome proved to be an enormous success in the ratings though with regard to quality, it came with some issues.
Besides the differences between the written story and the adapted version for television (of which there are a number of changes, most crucially the expected change in the origin and purpose of the dome), there are several fundamental flaws that become quite apparent once the intrigue and high-production value pilot gives way to the series proper. The most damaging is script expediency, the short line the writer’s frequently drawn between characters actions and the need to progress the plot. Fine dramas will understand the end state but manage the actions and dialogue of the characters in such a way that we get where we need to go but don’t have cause to question the sanity or reasonableness of the characters in getting there. Poor drama will shoot for the plot progression at the expense of the written character, forgoing common sense and believability.
In this way, Under the Dome will allow characters to drift in and out of themselves for the sake of the moment. The role of Sheriff Esquivel is a prime example. A reasonable woman who will see first-hand the skill and will of Barbie, and who will uncover dark things about Big Jim, but will believe Big Jim at the drop of a hat when the plot requires Barbie to be on the wrong side of the law. Or Junior, who is written as a dangerous, obsessed young man who is curiously deputized, who then disregards his duty on multiple occasions, but is not stripped of his badge and gun by the new sheriff. Characters acting out of poor writing, and not as we might perhaps want to believe under the influence of the dome, are common, particularly in the first several episodes following the pilot. Additionally, the show frustratingly dips its toes into solid story ideas – an illness outbreak, a water shortage, and a budding crime underground – but magically resolves or forgets about these things quickly.
Another CBS show, the short-lived Jericho from several years ago, has a surprising amount in common with Under the Dome, but succeeded in creating consistent characters and taking its time feeling out the challenges that would be faced in its ‘end of the world’ style premise. Under the Dome has some work to do in order to find the right footing for its characters so that the consistency of character and compelling complexity of the unique challenges faced by Chester’s Mill fulfill rather than frustrate. Having said that, the mystery of Under the Dome remains compelling; enough of a draw to suffer through bouts of melodrama and soap writing to catch up to that next clue revealed to us at the close of most episodes. Enough to keep us tuned in.
Performances throughout the series are adequate, and though extending the originally planned short-run series into perhaps as many as three seasons (as has been reported) may exhaust our patience before the full-reveal is upon us, Under the Dome could become something quite good with more time taken in fleshing out the characters and ideas, and placing as much effort on these elements as there has been in fashioning some terrific visual effects work. But with compelling numbers of viewers who tuned in week after week, CBS and the producers (including LOST alum Brian K Vaughan who takes the creator credit here) may be loath to tinker with what appears to be a working formula.
The EpisodesDisc One:
Blue on Blue
The Endless Thirst
Thicker Than Water
The Fourth Hand
Let The Games Begin
Speak of the Devil
Video Rating: 4/5 / 3D Rating: NA
Filmed in HD, using the Arri Alexa Plus camera, Under the Dome is a great looking show with a nice, clean image, particularly during daytime scenes. Detail is strong, colors also strong with natural flesh tones across the board. The visual effect of the cow being split in two, as gruesome as it is, shows off the strength of the detail (though it’s a bit much to see it as part of each episodes opening recap).
Audio Rating: 4/5The primary audio option for the series is a crisp English 5.1 DTS-HD master audio (with a secondary English Stereo Surround option for those so inclined). Dialogue is well-balanced in the center channel and a good representation of W.G. Snuffy Walden’s well-suited score. Gunshots and other moderately frequent action sequence sounds are handled well, and appropriately, across the channels. Good, deep bass when called for round out the good stuff.
Special Features: 3/5The selection of special features is broad but not particularly deep. Notably absent are any audio commentaries. The deleted scenes are all quite short but the two tent pole extras, Under the Dome: The First Season and Under the Dome: Filming the Pilot are enjoyably strong, covering a good deal of ground and perspectives from those in front of and behind the camera.
Additional special features are available to those who purchase the special collector’s edition (featuring a Dome collectible) not reviewed here.
Under the Dome: Filming the Pilot
CBS Launch Promos
Stephen King and Under the Dome
Under the Dome: From Novel to Series
The World of Under the Dome
Under the Dome: The First Season