Lost: Season 1 and 2 (US - BD)
Gabe catches up on the series that confounded him months ago...
Steadfast and devoted readers (hi dad!) may remember that I personally reviewed the fourth season of Lost on Blu-ray a while back, and that I was bloody confused the whole time because I hadn’t seen any of seasons one through three. Thanks to retroactive Blu-ray releases I’m now able to watch the insanely popular series from the beginning. I’ll still come at the review as an outsider, who made the choice not to watch the show during its initial release, but hopefully this means I can offer some balance to the hyperbole, while also verifying some of the most positive assessments.
The best aspect of the show isn’t the mystery of the island and all the mythology that’s wrapped up in it, it’s the mysteries of each of the major characters. The first season is at its best when it’s setting up the character personas on the island, only to undercut what was just established by an important fact from the past, told, of course, in flashback. The series itself doesn’t have much of a plot, at least nothing that couldn’t be summed up maybe a few hour long episodes. The island’s mystery can be told in a feature length film, even the bits they haven’t revealed yet (I’m guessing), but the characters all carry their own plots, and those are the plots that separate the show from any other show, and especially from theatrical release movies. I’m not sure if there’s ever been a television series that featured this many ‘lead’ characters, and the flashback aspect is reasonably novel to television entertainment, especially this amount of flashback.
The problem with the first season (and to a lesser degree parts of the second season), which isn’t forced to deal with the latter plot garbling is the early set-up of the characters, who at first fit pretty wide stereotypes. Many archetypes are filled, such as the single parent who doesn’t get along with his kid, the drug addled former star musician, the ‘innocent’ criminal on the run, guilt ridden doctor, etcetera and so on. It takes the writers some time to round these people out into fully rendered human beings (eventually they even invert the tropes), so one has to latch onto the mysterious island aspects, which frankly don’t work once the secrets are known (I have seen season four, you may recall). There’s also the problem of the 40-plus people we never get to know even in a passing capacity. I understand that the series is a serialized one, and 40 some characters would lead to an episodic series, so a choice had to be made in this capacity, but knowing what I know about the fourth season I’m not entirely sure they creators made the right one. Even when they briefly introducing Daniel Roebuck’s character and have him ‘hang a chandelier’ on the situation it doesn’t exactly eradicate the problem.
Still, there is a tantalizing degree of efficiency in the first season, where time probably shouldn’t be wasted on the 40-plus uninteresting people that might as well be donning red Starfleet t-shirts. Things unfold slowly, but not too slowly, especially considering how creaky things get by the time I came in on season four. The directors and writers also utilize a clever trick in not showing us what every character is doing at every minute in the series. There were plenty of moments during this viewing where I thought I’d missed an episode because so many days had passed between episodes, but I was always caught up on what was truly important by the end of the episode in question. This keeps things mysterious without inducing cheap gimmicks or too many ham handed contrivances (though there is an excess of vengeful attacks, which get a little old around the time Shannon takes a shot at Locke).
For the all important record, this particular outsider has developed a quick list of favourite characters. John Locke (who I like to pretend is Jerry Blake from The Stepfather, regardless of his flashbacks) is probably the most memorable for his constant ambiguity, and for Terry O’Quinn’s consistently menacing/endearing performance. Hugo "Hurley" Reyes (Jorge Garcia) is probably everyone’s favourite because he’s the most friendly guy on the island, but the character could very easily have devolved into Jar Jar Binks with extra weight and a silly haircut. The fact that it doesn’t should be commended. Sun-Hwa Kwon (Yunjin Kim) and Jin-Soo Kwon’s (Daniel Dae Kim) flashbacks are probably my favourites outside of Locke’s, even if their marital troubles become a bit trying early on in the series. James "Sawyer" Ford (Josh Holloway) also earns a mention because he pulls off one of the most difficult character tropes, that of the villain that slowly becomes a hero, and he does it with genuine grace. I have a feeling I only really like Charlie Pace because I like Dominic Monaghan, and I can’t help but notice his character is probably the most cliché of them all, but he’s so charming.
Season two is mostly more of the same, so most of my comments hold true, but it’s definitely a second season of a television series, not a movie sequel, which is a good thing. Though the story continues the producers also introduce a whole ‘nuther camp of lost people. This starts as a sort of cheap revelation, then it briefly causes the greater story to lose focus, but in the end the introduction of more characters is an ideal way to keep the character heavy series moving forward without growing stale. I still haven’t seen the third season, so there’s a pretty sizable hole in my knowledge concerning the entire story, but I know these puzzle pieces eventually fit, and by the fourth season the whole story shrinks back to a more manageable and straight ahead plot. The second season episode which catches us up on what happened to the tail end survivors is one of the better episodes in the entire series, and one of the few that can stand alone successfully.
My dimmest and most un-critic-like disappointment in seeing Lost from the beginning is that I’d really rather the ‘monster’ to be a traditional monster. I have reflexive, childlike reactions to things like this, and I don’t believe the series is quite ‘realistic’ enough for my needs to be purely idiotic. My dopey reaction features at least an iota of effective criticism though, the early episodes do set a sort of supernatural precedent that the latter episodes haven’t yet delivered on, all of which continues to make it hard for me to believe this whole thing was planned out as far in advance as the creators have led on. I believe that they had a good series bible, with good character bios, but I’m still unconvinced at the prospect of perfect pre-production (don’t hit me, I’m only saying!).
Big budgets, gorgeous actors and Hawaiian locals are a continued recipe for pretty high definition images, and I’m sure any series fan with a couple hundred extra bucks and a Blu-ray player will want to repurchase both seasons for the definition upgrade alone (trust me, the extras aren’t worth all the cash). The sharpness levels are razor sharp, and the generally wide angle focus leads to virtual vistas of fine detail. The whole print is wonderfully realistic, even when the directors are forced into less than natural lighting. The contrast levels aren’t stylized to be deeper than normal, but definitely help in defining the details, and feature some boundary pressing whites and blacks.
The real story is the colour quality, which is, for lack of a better word, totally radical. The majority of the series is, as mentioned, shot pretty naturalistically, without using a lot of obvious gels or digital grading, which just makes the colourful nature that much more impressive. The ‘real world’ scenes aren’t quite as overbearingly lush, but the production team finds plenty of room for primary highlights and monochromatic backdrops. Season one is clearly grainier than the season four release, but compression noise is mostly absent, save maybe a few minor fizzles in the darkened skin tones. Despite the well used gigantic budget, the shows CG effects never looked very good, and increased definition doesn’t help things. Simply speaking the CG elements just don’t look as real as everything else.
The first episode of Lost opens with a full on aural assault. The sound runs top to bottom with total silence and total bombast. It’s quite the shell shocker, worthy of actually turning down the sound system to levels normally too quiet to hear. Jet engines scream, wing parts creak and break, and explosions pump. The surround and stereo channels are fully vested in the experience, and the LFE throbs with brutality. If it ended here I’d probably still give the collection massive praise. Just the tyco drum title sound is enough to give the system a full workout, and knock your cat off the couch. I’m also particularly impressed with the sound of fire throughout the series, specifically when the raft is burned in season one. There’s a perfect blend of crackle and bass that moves effectively though the channels, and generally sound much more realistic than most digitally augmented fire, which often sounds flat, with too much bass beneath it. The closest I can get to complaining about the track is that it’s ever so slightly more centered on the effects tip than the fourth season release. Another particularly awesome addition of sound is the oddball sound of the smoke monster. There’s a minor issue with vocal inconsistency in the center channel. The dialogue is consistently clear, but its realistic meld in the mix is questionable, as are the volume levels.
I’m happy that Disney decided to go DTS-HD for these releases rather than PCM 5.1 (even if the box art reads ‘English Uncompressed 5.1’, it is, according to the system, DTS), but mostly because my personal system doesn’t handle PCM as well or as loudly. There isn’t a huge difference, but to my ear everything is surely louder, and a bit warmer, especially the musical score (which for the record I am a big fan of).
The folks at Disney haven’t bothered to supply any new extras for all the rabid Lost fans out there. I suppose there’s a precedent set for re-releasing cult series and films without any update at all beyond cover art ( Army of Darkness and Star Trek come to mind), so the fact that these episodes are now in HD is probably enough of a happy change-up to make the double-dip worthy. The box art refers to the ‘Season Play’ option as an extra, which it really isn’t, but I’m thankful for the option anyway. Besides a handful of cast and crew commentaries, which I only skipped through for the sake of time (please give me a break, I had to watch something like 35 hours of show), the season one extras (which are found on the seventh disc in the set) start with a series of six featurettes, found under the ‘Departure’ menu.
‘The Genesis of Lost’ (9:00, SD) covers most of the inception (though nobody mentions the ‘Myst’ videogame series), which was an unsurprisingly rough road to the filming of the first pilot. Also unsurprisingly the producers tried to make the boringest show ever, and were saved by their writers, who had much more interesting ideas to work from. The organic nature behind the build-up of the series bible makes me want to like the show more than I actually do. ‘Designing a Disaster’ (8:00, SD) is a look at the production of the massive, on-location plane crash set. The effort and scale of the set is impressive for a television pilot indeed. ‘Before They were Lost’ (23:00 with casting tapes, SD) is a well produced historic look at the casting, and how the casting actually led to the creation of new characters. Again, the organic production process is intriguing, and the casting tapes are a nice addition to the sharply edited featurette. ‘Welcome to Oahu’ (32:00, SD) is a sort of miniature documentary covering several aspects of the filming of the pilot, and is made up of a mix of raw behind the scenes footage and interviews. ‘The Art of Matthew Fox’ (6:00, SD) is a narrated slideshow of the actor’s panoramic photography book. ‘ Lost at Comic-Con’ (2:00, SD) sort of speaks for itself title-wise, and is very sweet.
Then under ‘Tales From the Island’ are three more featurettes. ‘ Lost on Location’ (44:00, SD) itself is then divided into eight parts, each concerned with a different troublesome aspect of shooting the series. Most of the titles are self explanatory (especially if you’re familiar with the episode titles) – ‘The Trouble with Boars’, ‘White Rabbit’, ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (named after the character Sun, not the celestial object), ‘The Moth’, ‘Confidence Man’, ‘All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues’, ‘Whatever the Case May Be’, ‘Hearts and Minds’, ‘Special’ and ‘Exodus’. ‘On-Set with Jimmy Kimmel’ (6:40, SD) is a brief comedic set tour with the obnoxious late night host. ‘Backstage with Drive Shaft’ (6:40, SD) rounds off the section with a look at Dominic Monaghan’s fake band.
And under ‘ Lost Revealed’ are even more extras. ‘The Lost Flashbacks’ (4:30, SD) houses two deleted scenes from the season finale. This is followed by 15 more deleted scenes, and some bloopers, all presented SD. ‘Live from the Museum of Television and Radio’ (11:00, SD) is a pretty lively and funny roundtable with major contributing members of the cast and crew which repeats a lot of what is said on the extras. The disc ends with ‘Flashbacks and Mythology’ (7:30, SD), a brief look at the story telling aspect that makes the show special.
The seventh disc of season two starts with a fun intro video, and also divides things into several different menus. ‘Phase 1’ start with ‘Fire + Water: Anatomy of an Episode’ (33:00, SD), a super in-depth look at the production of an episode from the scripting process through filming, set dressing, practical effects, choreography, camera set-ups, sound synchronization, editing, and all other means of post-production work. This is followed by another collection of ‘ Lost: On-Location’ (45:00, SD) featurettes, which are again titled in reference to episodes and/or characters (‘Adrift’, ‘Everyone Hates Hugo’, ‘Abandoned’, ‘The Other 48 Days’, ‘Collision’, ‘What Kate Did’, ‘The 23rd Psalm’, ‘The Whole Truth’, ‘Dave’, ‘S.O.S’. ‘Two for the Road’, ‘Live Together, Die Alone’ and ‘Canine Castaway’). The section is finished with ‘The World According to Sawyer’ (4:30, SD), a collection of the one-liners and nicknames the character spits throughout the series.
‘Phase 2’ starts with three ‘lost flashbacks’ and 19 other deleted scenes (23:00, SD), along with a collection of bloopers. There is also a ‘Channel 4 UK Promo’, which I’m assuming is tongue-in-cheek, but is noticeably stylish.
‘Phase 3’ is the most interesting section of extras, delving into the series’ mythology, which I’m guessing is fleshed out quite a bit in season three. ‘ Lost Connections’ gives the viewer a chance to explore the common series theme of ‘Six Degrees of Separation’. It’s sort of a game, which allows the ‘player’ to explore the interlacing timelines of the show’s characters. ‘Mysteries, Theories and Conspiracies’ (10:00, SD) explores both the various theories set forth by everyone from the writers, producers and actors, to everyday fans, who have created fan sites and radio shows to celebrate the series. Interesting, but one gets the feeling that the fans are actually putting more effort into this than the writers. And the geeks are kind of depressing (yes, I see myself in them). ‘Secrets from the Hatch’ (16:00, SD) completes everything with a look at the process of developing the second season’s most interesting aspect, including the story behind the shelter, and the production of the set.
Well, I watched over 2000 minutes of Lost and I’m still not exactly hooked, but I also can’t find a whole lot to really complain about. I’ll probably even be renting season three here soon so I can fill in the rest of the gaps before the inevitable season five review copy comes my way. Each episode is at least better than at least 70% of the movies I review every month, and despite the time allotment required I definitely enjoyed the experience. I understand the rewatch value of the series, and assume that fans will be clamoring their clammy hands over the high-definition prospect. From that standpoint there’s nothing to complain about, the video and audio is pretty close to perfect.
Things I learned from Lost:
1. When wronged it’s important to lash out as violently as possible at the person nearest to you, and to blame them for your predicament.
2. Wild boars live to knock unsuspecting victims off their feet.
3. Plane crash survivors inherently suck at securing prisoners.
4. If you’re lost on a jungle island following a plane crash you’ve probably had a really rough and unfair life.
5. Trust in faith.
6. No wait, DON’T trust in faith.
7. No wait, DO trust in faith.
*Note screencaps do not represent Blu-ray quality. I've taken them from Lost-media.com.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 16th June 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Digital 2.0 French
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese
Extras: Commentaries, Deleted Scenes, The Genesis of Lost, Designing a Disaster, Before they were Lost, Welcome to Oahu, The Art of Matthew Fox, Lost on Location, Fire + Water: Anatomy of an Episode, Lost Connections, More
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Terry O'Quinn, Josh Holloway, Dominic Monaghan
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy and Thriller
Length: 2080 minutes
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