Lost: The Complete Fourth Season (US - BD RA)
Gabe once again finds himself LOST while watching a television series...
My familiarity with the pop culture phenomenon Lost starts with the connections to the ‘Myst’ series of excruciatingly boring video games, and ends with the scene in Venture Bros. where the ‘polar bear from Lost’ attacks a hooker in the Monarch’s lair. I almost always complain at the head of my TV series reviews about my unfamiliarity with a given series’ earlier seasons. Fans of Lost will know exactly how extreme my confusion will be after missing three full seasons. There’s a decent, eight minute (08:15 to be exact) wrap up of the previous seasons on the first disc of this set, and wikipedia is full of answers, but it isn’t the same. This is a review of season four, based on the few things I actually know about the story.
Although Lost is a super-serialized series, the writers have a way of mixing in episodic little standalones, like a particularly enjoyable Slaughterhouse Five inspired episode guest staring Fisher Stevens. I’m not sure if this is consistent for the series, because the stuff I looked at is too overwhelming to gather style from. This could easily be a symptom of the weird back and forth structure that I don’t believe the other seasons suffered through. If I wasn’t already confused by the plot twists, surely the time jumping would do me in. I actually respect the style to an extent, it allows for plot twists in the future or past to have an impact on the present, but it becomes tiring.
For what is supposedly the best writing on network television, Lost has some really ham-handed contrivances set up, and after a while one kind of tires of all the plot twisting. Obviously the point of telling most stories is to keep your audience on the string, and the hope is that the ending will meet with the audiences’ approval. The climax is the pay off for listening, but when there is no ending in sight it’s hard to want to listen to the story anymore. Sometimes television writers will have an arc for a season, sometimes they’ll have an arc per episode, and sometimes only a few characters get an arc per season, but Lost (at least season four) seems like a never ending story for every single character, except the ones that very suddenly die, of course. Though like in comics, an often equally never ending serial style, dead doesn’t always mean dead.
Each episode does look very good at the very least. Lost apparently runs between three and four million dollars an episode, and they probably shot the whole thing like one big movie. It’s been interesting to watch television catch up with film over the last decade concerning the quality of visuals, and filming techniques. Lost is more classically shot, and uses its giant budget better than the other super giant standard station show I’ve watched— Heroes—which has always looked like it was trying too hard to me.
Gigantic, Disney-sized budgets and high definition video will get you some bang for your Blu-ray buck, and Lost season four may have just replaced Mad Men as the best looking television series on Blu-ray I’ve ever seen. Unlike Grey’s Anatomy or Chuck, this is an almost entirely clean presentation. Even dark scenes with lower visibility are clear of heavy grain or noise. Colours are bright, clean, and realistic. Scenes taking place on the island itself look simply exquisite, full of rich and vibrant colours that don’t overlap or bleed. The fine details are about as sharp as they come, though I did notice some light edge enhancement on stuff like close up beard hair, and black silhouettes.
Michael Giacchino’s score is often the most aggressive element of the PCM 5.1 track (which is more or less identical to the Dolby Digital 5.1 track), but for television the scope of the mix is rather impressive. There are a few good shoot outs, featuring some nice whizzing and deflecting bullet effects in the rear channels, and one episode even opens with a loud and squealing car chase. The sound designers are good with minor suspenseful elements too, like rustling in the stereo channel bushes and such. The bulk of the track is devoted to the perfectly centred and largely consistent dialogue track, which comes in crystal clear, even when characters get all whispery. Back to the score—the music is well written, and very spectacularly represented on the track, but Giacchino’s music gives away a little more than it probably should. It would be cruel to call his work cliché, but there is a sense of Herrmann-lite to his wispy strings and eerie dissonance.
Lost treats its fans better than many television series in the extras department. These extras start with a commentary track on the season’s final episode, featuring producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. The commentary is most valuable as a chronicle of the troubles of the writer’s strike, and getting the show back off the ground after more than a hundred days of waiting.
Disc five is the official extras disc, featuring an array of stuff for the Lost fanatic in your household. We start with ‘Lost on Location’, an eight part featurette series, split by episode. Each featurette is told from the cast and crew point of view, but only pertains to a single scene. I’m first struck by how many special effects and location changes are required for the show. I knew it was expensive, but damn. All-in-all these adequate featurettes run just north of forty minutes.
‘The Island Backlot’ is a look at filming in Hawaii (where my mother lives, by the way). I’m surprised myself that the entire thing is shot in Oahu, including the non-island scenes. The eighteen minute featurette goes into reasonably thick detail in showing us the set transformations, including dressing, special effects, and background actors.
‘The Right to Bear Arms’, unfortunately, has nothing to do with escaped polar bears. Well, very little to do with polar bears. This eleven minute featurette is all about the many guns that have starred in the series throughout the last four years. The cast and crew basically chart the journey of the specific weapons throughout each season, which means nothing to me as a new comer who missed the first three seasons.
‘Soundtrack of Survival’ is (clearly) a look at the show’s larger than life music, split into three chapters. The featurette is centred around a concert showing of the music, as played by the Honolulu symphony orchestra, but concerns itself with the history of the scores as well. It’s fluffy, but doesn’t overstay its welcome at about twenty-six minutes. I’m very fond of the use of parts of the original crashed plane as percussion.
Next are separate collections of bloopers and deleted scenes. There are nine deleted scenes in total—each presented in hi-def video, but in temp 2.0 sound—and in all the scenes run about nine minutes. There aren’t any huge revelations in the deleted scenes, they were all obviously cut for time, and the bloopers, I’m sure, speak for themselves.
‘Course of the Future’ is an interactive look at the seasons million and one flash-forwards, which are understandably hard to keep track of. To get into the extra you have to first take a test, and put a series of ten images in the proper order. This took me forever and a day. When you finally finish this task (which will probably be easier for everyone else in the world) you’re offered a few options—you can watch all the flash forwards in chronological order, with or without script excerpts and story direction from two of the writers, or you can follow one of the six characters specifically. It’s actually a pretty cool extra, and a nice way to decode the sometimes meaninglessly convoluted narrative. I just wish I didn’t have to deal with the ‘game’ that opens it.
‘Oceanic Six: A Conspiracy of Lies’ is a pretend, in-universe little video, that sort of spoofs the famous 9/11 conspiracy video Loose Change, and sort of spoofs the disaster exploration programs on cable TV channels like Discovery and the History Channel. The video is amusing, convincingly put together, and it runs a fairly long twenty-one minutes.
‘The Freighter Folk’, a sort of fluffy, twelve minute look at the new characters added to the cast from the freighter sent to ‘save’ them. The featurette mostly exists to heap praise on the new cast, but the writer’s explanations behind the creation of the characters is interesting enough, especially when compared to a Michael Crichton novel, which the show does consistently resemble.
‘The Offshore Shoot’ chronicles the filming of the scenes on the freighter. At this point in my extras slog another behind the scenes featurette is a little painful, but this slice of Hollywood life, including a tour of the boat, a look at sea sickness, and dolphin and whale sightings, is pretty touching and harmless at under eight minutes.
The final extra is called ‘Missing Pieces’, a collection of ‘Mobisodes’ (I don’t know what that means), thirteen in all. These are pretty much a total mystery to me. I guess they’re meant to be deleted scenes that were never filmed, and apparently they span the entire series.
It’s pretty clear that I’ve come into Lost way too late. I’m impressed, but not even close to addicted, or even interested what happens next. If I was with it from the beginning I may be singing a different tune, but I’ve also heard from many sources that season four was not the show’s best year. The impact of the writer’s strike may be a factor too. This Blu-ray set is pretty awesome, but I don’t think I need to tell series fans to snap too it, they’ve probably already got three copies in their collection—one to watch, one to keep in mint condition, and one to lend out to all us heathens that never watched the show.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 9th December 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: PCM 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, DTS 5.1 Italian, DTS 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish
Extras: Commentaries, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Inereactive Flash Forwards, Series Play
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jack Bender, Paul A. Edwards, Stephen Williams, Eric Laneuville, Stephen Semel
Cast: Matthew Fox, Michael Emerson, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Henry Ian Cusick, Terry O'Quinn
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Sci-Fi and Thriller
Length: 598 minutes