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Under the Dome(TV) (2013)
Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel, "Under the Dome" is the story of a small New England town that’s suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an enormous transparent dome. The town’s residents need to survive the deteriorating post-apocalyptic conditions while searching for answers to what this barrier is, where it came from, and how to make it go away.
For more about Under the Dome and the Under the Dome Blu-ray release, see Under the Dome Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 3, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Mike Vogel, Dean Norris (I), Colin Ford, Aisha Hinds, Rachelle Lefevre, Jeff Fahey
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
» See full cast & crew
Under the Dome Blu-ray Review
Read the book instead. It's cheaper and much more satisfying.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 3, 2013
You never know with this damn place.
Stephen King will be remembered not merely as a prolific author, but also as one of the most gifted writers and natural storytellers of his, or any, era. His novels have frightened readers and inspired writers for decades, turning Horror motifs into captivating reads and constructing characters, towns, and even worlds so vivid that reality almost literally falls away around the reader, replaced by King's unique and breathtakingly detailed imaginary constructs. Naturally, his works have fascinated film and television producers just as they have everyday readers, and probably more so considering that they view the material beyond pleasure reading and imagine the possibilities of films or television programs bearing King's name and the easy revenue stream that's almost guaranteed to follow. Indeed, King's name is no stranger to the movie poster, the marquee, and the credits. King saw his first novel, Carrie, published in 1973. Three years later, it arrived on the screen, Directed by Brian De Palma, no less, and an industry all its own was born. Since, there are have been great Stephen King movies, arguably better than the source material (The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me). There have been adaptations right on par with the original written works (The Shining, The Mist). There have also been movies that fall below the standards set in the story (Apt Pupil, Children of the Corn). The latest King novel repurposed for the screen is the epic Under the Dome, a book spanning more than 1,000 pages and, now, a television series thirteen episodes strong. While the book is among King's finest efforts, the CBS miniseries is one of the worst King screen adaptations. It's far removed from the happenings in the book and sometimes painfully overlong. It has its moments of intrigue and, occasionally, borderline greatness, but the entirety of the program fails to capture both the intense superficial realism the book illustrates and harrowing deep-down themes the book explores.
Chester's Mill is the quintessential American small town. It's home to the SweetBriar Rose diner, a small-time radio station, a used car lot, and a handful of good people. It's the sort of idyllic, out-of-the-way place that nobody knows exists save for those who call it home and the few souls who pass through its borders on their way to someplace a little more exciting. That's all about the change. Chester's Mill goes from "nothing" to "world's most famous place" in an instant when a mysterious, transparent, soundproof, impenetrable, and very slightly permeable dome comes down around it. Vehicles crash into it, crumpling or exploding on impact. People bounce off of it. Touching it, at least the first time, sends a light electrical jolt through the body. On the inside are panicked residents. on the outside, soon enough, are military personnel and government spooks. The radio station, operated by Phil (Nicholas Strong) and Dodee (Jolene Purdy), picks up military chatter; neither the feds nor the armed forces have any answers. Dale Barbara (Mike Vogel), a former military man, finds himself stuck under the dome and forced to live with the very people he hurt in a roundabout way while on a clandestine mission. Journalist Julia Shumway's (Rachelle Lefevre) husband is missing. Local politician and used car salesman extraordinaire "Big Jim" Rennie (Dean Norris) takes it upon himself to step up in a new position of leadership. Rennie's son Junior (Alexander Koch) takes the opportunity afforded to him by the chaos to tighten his grip on love interest Angie (Britt Robertson). Angie's brainiac teenage brother Joe (Colin Ford) befriends an outsider named Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz) who is also trapped under the dome. Deputy Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez) finds herself torn between duty, loyalty, and morality as she efforts to keep order in a town on the verge of self-destruction under the awful circumstances of the mysterious dome.
King's Under the Dome is so well written and vivid that the television show immediately springs to life with memories of people, places, and things realized very well and very accurately...until so much of it changes. The establishing shots of Chester's Mill, the horrific moments of the dome's sudden materialization, and the chaos to follow are beautiful opens to a show that's afterwards quickly lost on fans of the book when it becomes clear that some heavy rearranging and re-imagining has taken place, so drastic at times that it's effectively unrecognizable from the book beyond names and basic events, like "Julia Shumway" and the dome covering the town. This will certainly not be a problem for audiences that have not yet read the book, but chances are fans of the novel will be put off by the changes and often angrily so. And it's not just that events don't play out as they did in the book; a little housekeeping in the transition from page to screen is expected and, in places, necessary. It's the core that's so often wounded. Where the book finds a very real sense of wonderment, fear, moral decay, and fictionalized magic, the show, in turn, finds very little. It succeeds as simpleminded entertainment but the characters come across as flat rather than multidimensional. The drama never ascends to the frenetic, uncertain, fearful standards of the book, and the sense of terror -- the pending doom coming not from the dome but rather from the people inside of it -- feels very much lost or, at best, lessened on television. This is a story that's certainly better absorbed with the intimacy, detail, and precision of the book rather than the frigidness, relative simplicity, and clumsiness of the television program.
While the novel proves a true page-turner (or Nook or Kindle e-page swiper), the television program is anything but. It's lethargic and quite a bit bloated, sometimes painfully stretched to fill thirteen episodes and whatever may come beyond with future installments. Raw length certainly isn't the problem; the book is a behemoth but a fast and remarkably satisfying read, and fans of the book can certainly imagine a long filmed adaptation that's every bit its ambitious equal. Whereas the novel consistently reads with an emotionally unforgiving vibe in a morally dubious world and wound so tightly that every minor details promises to explode off the page with physical, emotional, and even spiritual carnage, the TV show ambles along and rarely finds any of the same qualities present in the book, and when it does they're limited to the superficial, failing to find the dark motives and true secrets behind the characters and only moving them along its figurative Checker board (Chess is way too smart for this) towards whatever their end goal may be. Lost is much of the morality tale and vivid representation of how humanity's darker side arises when "normal" is interrupted, when the shelter of everyday is taken away by the dome. That's the core of the story, but in the television show there's simply not much depth to the way the characters change. And it's not only the characters that suffer. When the show isn't chopping up the story, it's holding the audience's hand and force-feeding hints in the way of cutaways to other, pertinent characters in the following scene. When it's not thoughtlessly exposing information to the audience, it's showing characters conveniently hearing exactly what they need to hear over the radio station's equipment. There are a myriad of little things that show neither confidence in the characters and the story nor the audience to figure them out. Under the Dome has effectively taken one of the smartest, deepest, most gratifying reads of King's career and mutated it into a run-of-the-(Chester's)-Mill television program that certainly has its moments but never does justice to King's original masterpiece.
To the show's credit, there are a number of things it gets right; unfortunately most of them exist around the periphery and on the superficial level. The special effects are largely outstanding, whether the subtle effect of touching the dome or the impact of vehicles crunching up against it. There are several more excellent visuals later in the series, too, but discussing them would constitute spoilers to the program. Suffice it to say, the series by-and-large gets its visuals spot-on and they're a sturdy positive in the show's corner. The acting is also quite good all around, from the top down. Rachelle Lefevre, Dean Norris, Mike Vogel, and Natalie Martinez hold serve at worst and dig about as far as the script allows at best. Colin Ford is particularly strong as the resident teenage brain and love interest for Mackenzie Lintz's character. At the top of the heap, however, is Alexander Koch. His portrayal of "Junior" Rennie headlines the show. His is the most dynamic performance, in part because he plays a veritable wild card character who's as inconsistently aligned as the dome is consistently covering the town. Koch benefits from a script that keeps the character evolving (one of the few that truly branches out from a standard trajectory) and he infuses the performance with a slyness, uncertainty, and commanding presence that always leaves the character's intentions, thought processes, and future arc in question.
Under the Dome Blu-ray, Video Quality
Under the Dome fares well on Blu-ray. The HD video photography delivers a very clean, accurate image. Daytime exteriors are particularly stunning. Here, the image reveals pinpoint accuracy across the board, including clothing seams, patches on police uniforms, facial textures, various exteriors around Chester's Mill, and natural vegetation. The image appears very crisp and nearly perfectly defined across the board in the best-lit scenes. Likewise, colors are marvelous. They're realistically balanced and fully accurate, presenting bright blue police shirts, green vegetation, and any variety of colors with splendid, eye-catching authenticity. The image goes a little bit flatter in darker scenes. Noise creeps in, rather heavily, in some such scenes as well. A good example of the heavy noise may be seen in episode eight when Joe returns home with groceries and speaks with Norrie. Also on the down side is the presence of occasional, and occasionally heavy, background banding. Otherwise, black levels are sturdy and flesh tones are accurate, the latter particularly evident in those daylight exteriors. All in all, this is a good but occasionally flawed image from Paramount.
Under the Dome Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Under the Dome features a good lossless soundtrack that's occasionally flawed. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation is generally satisfying and well assembled. Action sound effects are consistently engaging; explosions are deep and accurate, crunching metal heard as cars smash into the dome sounds authentic, gunfire rips and pops with excellent presence, and fires rage with a steady, deep presence. Musical delivery, too, enjoys excellent balance, playing with solid clarity, natural spacing, enjoyable surround support, and a hefty low end support structure. A few directional effects are naturally implemented, too, and the track also expands the listening area with a number of precision ambient effects that help to better define the world inside the dome. Dialogue plays clearly and evenly from the center, but it's the spoken word that's also sometimes cause for alarm. There are several points across the series that appear to have minor-to-severe lip sync issues. The 14-minute mark of episode seven is an example of what appears to be a very slight, barely noticeable example. It's severely off at the 9:00 mark of episode eight when Big Jim approaches Ollie about the coming food problem. Rewinding and ejecting and re-inserting the disc verified the problem on one player, and playback on a second device confirmed the issue. Outside of the sync problem, however, this track is good to go. Note that the collector's edition will soon be reviewed and the scenes in question will be sampled in an effort to replicate the problem. This review will be updated accordingly.
Update: The sync issue has been verified not only on another copy of the disc, but on a completely different system as well.
Under the Dome Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Under the Dome contains supplements across all four discs. The discs are housed in a sturdy fold-open package that is itself housed in a nicely designed two-piece slipcover.
Under the Dome Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Oh, what could have been. What should have been. Under the Dome is an utter disappointment. There's no other way to say it. It's a decent show, a show that gets a fair bit right and even proves largely entertaining throughout. However, it's not the book, not by a long shot. King's epic novel is so much better, so much more refined, so much more emotionally rewarding. It might be one of the heaviest books out there (thank goodness for e-readers) but it reads very fast. The television show is the antithesis in almost every way. It's often slow and meandering, lacking the precision character arcs, faultless interconnectivity, and sense of dread and shriveling morality that plays in the book. Under the Dome is a by-the-numbers television program that's worth a watch, but it's better suited to audiences who haven't had the pleasure to read the book. Paramount's Blu-ray release of Under the Dome features good video and occasionally troubled audio. A fair number of extras are included. The show comes recommended to those who have yet to explore King's world on the written page. Fans of the book would be best served to stay away.
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• Exclusive Giveaway: Under the Dome - October 31, 2013
Blu-ray.com, Paramount Home Media Distribution and CBS Home Entertainment are offering two members the opportunity to win a copy of Under the Dome, the first season of the hit summer series based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. One grand prize winner ...
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