- Screen Gems (Columbia TriStar)
by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
119 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced (on
Side A), full frame (1.33:1) (on Side B), dual-sided,
single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, Half
Light music video, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu
screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English and French
(DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned
"What do you look like?"
Mothman: "It depends on WHO is looking."
In my first few reviews for the site, I've reviewed comedies. Yes,
they're enjoyable, but they don't exactly make the most use out of
the DVD format. Films that I call "Cinematic experiences"
such as Star Wars or
Lord of the Rings do, as they
make the most of their widescreen format, fully use the surround
sound, and pretty much put you right in the action forcing you to
get involved and not just react. The
Mothman Prophecies is such a film, and what an experience
Richard Gere plays John Klein, a reporter for the Washington
Post who's recently married and has just bought a house
with his wife, Mary (Debra Messing). On the car ride back to their
apartment, Mary is frightened by something she thinks she sees in
the road, swerves to get out of the way, and hits a telephone pole.
While John suffers very little injury, Mary is traumatized with
brain damage. Though she's rushed to a hospital, she dies only a few
days later (don't worry... I'm not giving anything away. This
happens in the first fifteen minutes). Before her death, Mary tried
to draw the creature she thought she saw in the road. John finds her
notebook full of these sketches - a large man with winged arms and
bright red eyes.
Years later, John can't sleep one night and decides to go for a
drive. When his battery runs out and John goes for some help, he's
shocked to find that he's traveled from Washington D.C. to the West
Virginia/Ohio boarder in two and a half hours (a feat impossible by
car). The local sheriff (Laura Linney) takes notice, and explains to
John that the whole town has had some weird things happen to them
lately. Then she shows John a file full of sketches not unlike his
After some research, John and Sheriff Connie find that this is part
of strange phenomena called "The Prophecies of the Mothman".
These strange coincidences and accidents begin to grow in frequency
and intensity, building up to a major disaster. Soon John and Connie
become quite frightened that the townspeople could soon be finding
themselves in grave danger.
I'm not normally a fan of a filmmaker being REALLY stylistic, but
it's the odd camera angles and cool edits that sell
The Mothman Prophecies. Mark
Pellington directed and, given his track record (which includes
Arlington Road and Pearl Jam's
Jeremy music video), one would
expect such ominous and viscerally cool style. Yet this isn't
style-over-substance, and a while there are a few holes in the plot
every now and then, and some of the characters are underdeveloped,
it's a really intriguing story.
Richard Gere gives a very subtle performance, as a man still
haunted by the death of his wife, who feels this "Mothman"
is responsible for the bad in the world. In fact, most people I talk
to who've seen this film view the "Mothman" as an
antagonist. Rather, I believe the "Mothman" is an alien or
even a facet of god himself. The "Mothman" is trying to
warn these people that the disasters are coming, not causing them,
and "he" communicates through the only ways he knows how,
such as coming to John in visions of his wife. I view the film very
spiritually, and as an agnostic, it opens my mind to the possibility
that while there may not be a god, there may be other forces at work
looking over us or just checking in for time to time. Despite my
analysis, that's not to say the film doesn't have its problems
(including a climax that works but doesn't fit the tone of the rest
of the film). But it's an intriguing and unique film nonetheless.
The downside to The Mothman Prophecies
DVD being presented on a dual-sided disc is that it's only one
layered, meaning that the film has to be compressed to just one
layer to make room for the other side's full frame presentation.
It's very unfortunate, because there is a lot of movement in the
film, and the transfer really could have taken advantage of more bit
space. This is the first time that I've really noticed MPEG-2
compression in a film of this budget. The picture is fine, but it
just could have been a lot more special. I usually don't have too
much of a problem with a cropped presentation for those who "don't
like the black bars," but Mothman
need the disc space badly.
On the other hand, the disc boasts one of the best audio mixes I've
heard recently. Perhaps it's in the nature of the film, but the
surrounds are in constant use. Both the score and the effects make
great use of the rear channels. A great way to test this is to try
this disc's 26th chapter. The scene slowly builds from an incredibly
quiet scene to one that's filled with a cacophony of bending steel
girders and terrifying score. I certainly hope someone at Sony
remembers this film come Oscar time, because this sound mix is
definitely worth an Oscar nomination. Along with
Signs, it's my favorite
soundtrack of this year. I'm also not one to call for a DTS track
for it's own sake, but I'd love to hear this film in DTS.
The extras are a little disappointing, but the lack of them is
mostly due to the disc being single layered on each side. The
moderately interesting trailer is provided (in anamorphic
widescreen), as is a music video of Half
Light, the song played over the end credits, which is
also directed by Mark Pellington. The video is interesting but,
given Pellington's music video track record, could have been more
exciting. Besides, if you like the song, just listen to it over the
end credits as it's played in full surround sound. It's the type-of
song the works well in 5.1 audio (I've somewhat unfairly compared
the song to Massive Attack's Teardrop,
This film didn't do terribly well at the box office (about $35
million domestically), but The Mothman
Prophecies is a very hard sell. Still, it ranks as a
pretty terrifying thriller on a visceral level, and a very spiritual
film on a deeper level. While the disc is a little lackluster, the
audio track is amazing.