'Lost' Season 5 Blu-Ray Review

Rosebernardjungle.jpgThe holiday season started for many on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. But for " Lost" fans, it starts today, as the Season 5 DVDs hit the store shelves for the first time. ABC was kind enough to send me a copy of "Lost: The Complete Fifth Season Dharma Initiative Orientation Kit" on Blu-Ray, and I'm here with a review. A lengthy review. Here's everything you need to know about the Kit, in handy FAQ form.

What exactly is "Lost: The Complete Fifth Season Dharma Initiative Orientation Kit"?

It's not your typical DVD packaging, for sure. Whether or not you get the DVD or Blu-Ray version of this kit, you'll get your hands on one handsomely produced package.

What's the package look like?

Glad you asked! Because I'm a huge nerd, I took photographs of the kit as I opened it up, which you can view over at our Facebook group or my Flickr page. It looks and feels like an enormous binder handed to new recruits of the Dharma Initiative, replete with maps of the Barracks, job descriptions, meal listings, patches to put on your jumpsuit, a VHS copy of the extended version of the Barracks video, a Geronimo Jackson CD, and the actual DVDs contained within what look like envelopes for floppy discs.

Sounds like a lot. Anything else?

There's a sealed envelope in the pack of the kit marked "Confidential." Opening it up reveals a "Letter of Truce." This document, dated 8/15/73, is a work-in-progress version of the truce between Horace Goodspeed and Richard Alpert. Lostpedia has the full text, along with Alpert's hand-written amendments to it. Really interesting stuff here, including the reason why The DI kept the Swan building site out of the Hostiles' vantage point.

Do the materials in the kit warrant the extra cost above and beyond the normal sets?

If you're a hard-core "Lost" fans, absolutely. If you're on the fence, you're basically paying twice as much. In this economy, I can't see a lot of people going for this particular kit, but clearly a lot of care and creativity went into producing the materials inside this kit. You'll get the bang for your buck; you just need to decide for yourself just how many bucks you can drop this holiday season.

OK, moving on from the packaging: let's talk disc content. Whatcha got?

The Season 5 set contains 5 Blu-Ray discs. The first four are primarily episodes with minimal extra content, while Disc 5 contains "The Incident" and a host of extras.

What are the menus screens like?

Disc 1: POV shot inside Hurley's microwave as he makes a Hot Pocket. Disc 2: Jughead swaying in the breeze. Disc 3: Locke gets taken away after appearing in the Tunisian desert. Disc 4: New recruits arrive during the heyday of the Dharma Initiative. Disc 5: A shot of Tawaret, similar to the one in "LaFleur."

How do the episodes look and sound?

Since I'm an expert on all things visual and auditory, I can only describe the look and sound of the transfer in industry speak: freakin' sweet. OK, you caught me, I'm not an expert: but needless to say, the quality is absolutely outstanding. Your eyes and ears will be extremely happy.

So let's talk extras. Any audio commentaries?

Only two, surprisingly. If ever a season needed more commentaries, this is the one. Damon Lindelof/Carlton Cuse provide commentary on "Because You Left," and Edward Kitsis/Adam Horowitz give insight to "He's Our You."

Either one worth a listen?

Darlton's commentary is noteworthy for its description of the writer's minicamp, in which they plan the arcs of the upcoming season, in addition to them pointing out several key moments in "Left" designed to be a book-end with "The Incident." Kitsis and Horowitz have interesting things to say about how the audience reaction to Nikki/Paulo informed the way in which they slowly integrated Ilana into the story.

Any other extras on the first few discs?

Disc 1 features a "Lost Starter Kit," which sums up the show for newbies in five minutes. Why on earth this feature is here, I'll never know. Who in their right mind would start watching this show starting with Season 5? Disc 4 contains "Lost 100," which features footage from that "Ace of Cakes" episode in which they made a cake in honor of the show's 100th episode spliced into a short documentary surrounding the making of "The Variable." The "Variable" footage is uniformly great, while the party itself seems a little awkward. But this feature's worth it for Jeremy Davies' final quote: "Of all the shows in production, the one show you want to do on is 'Lost.' Because does anyone ever really die?"

Alright, let's get to the meat of the extras. What's first?

What's first is actually what I'm going to talk about last.

Wow, you've spent far too much time delving back into time travel, haven't you?

Perhaps.

Alright, what CAN you tell us about?

OK, all the features on the final disc, along with brief descriptions...

Mysteries of the Universe: You might have already seen these videos online, and they make more sense as Part of a S5 DVD set rather than a promo for S6. The conceit is that you're watching an old TV program akin to "Ripley's Believe it Or Not!" that investigates The Dharma Initiative. It's not terrifically fun to watch intentionally grainy footage on a high-def TV. A few bits are amusing (one of the DI interview questions: "Who is your constant?") but you can easily skip this without worrying that you've missed anything.

Making up for Lost Time: All about time travel, although this documentary deals with the topic more in terms of the production headaches it created versus the way in which the writers deployed it in the story. I got a bit frustrated with the lack of concrete application/analysis of the story, until I realized that the vague nature of the documentary was intentional. They HAVE to be vague in that the final moments of Season 5 would be spoiled if they actually revealed what happened after Juliet detonated Jughead. It's a decent documentary. Just don't expect any new revelations about the story.

An Epic Day with Richard Alpert: A camera crew follows Nestor Carbonell around during the final, hectic shooting day for Season 5. Two things to take away from this documentary. One, we get definitive answers regarding his use of eyeliner. Secondly, the woman that played a young, pregnant Eloise Hawking? Actually pregnant in real life during the filming of Season 5!

Building 23 and Beyond: Michael Emerson introduces the various members of the Los Angeles production staff. What's interesting is realizing that Michael Emerson has never met most of these people before, including a good chunk of the writers. What's downright hysterical is that Michael Emerson keeps introducing himself to everyone, as if they have no clue who he is. Just priceless. (I also give bonus points to Brian K. Vaughn referring to his precarious stack of old drafts as his "Obelisk of awesomeness.")

"Lost" on Location: Learn how the flaming arrows in "The Lie" were attached to wires for safety and accuracy. Learn that Locke and Company fended off that mysterious canoe in "The Little Prince" from inside...a swimming pool, in which crew members make waves the way we all did as kids. Learn about the difference between "acting action" and "acting dialogue" in "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham." Learn about Evangeline Lilly's background in car repair in "Namaste." Learn about the original idea for the burning diversion in "He's Our You." Learn what's REALLY on the other side of the Temple walls in "Whatever Happened, Happened." Learn the logistics of constructing the set for the Swan site in "The Incident."

Deleted Scenes: Eight scenes in total, of which four are must views ("Breakfast Time," "I Think He's One of Ben's People," "Locke's Promise," and "Stones and Boulders") one is interesting-but-not-vital ("Jill the Butcher"), and three shouldn't have ever seen the light of day ("No Police," "Finding LaFleur," and "Phil's Theory"). In particular, "Breakfast Time" does a better job of explaining Jack's Season 5 motivation than almost anything that actually aired, and "I Think He's One of Ben's People" gives further credence to the notion that the Barracks found by Sun and Lapidus may be the by-product of an altered time line.

Bloopers: Surprisingly decent. I especially like Rebecca Mader's dance skillz and a certain prop assistant's propensity for nudity.

So what's the extra that you avoided earlier?

It's "Lost University," which is a Blu-Ray ONLY feature. Whether you get the souped-up kit or not, you get this feature. Sorry, DVD owners: you don't get it.

But I though "Lost University" was a website?

There is indeed a website for "Lost University," and you can sign up there and partake in certain aspects of the experience. But you won't get the WHOLE experience.

But, doesn't that severely limit the number of people that can actually enroll?

I'm with you. Honesty, I'm unclear how this is all going to work. I get the gist of this extra: a person gets to enroll in a fictitious university and take courses, tests, and ostensibly have study sessions with other fans about "Lost"-related topics such as physics, zoology, and philosophy. But how it's all gonna play out is a mystery. This extra didn't actually launch until December 8th, so I've been unable to see it play out.

So how can you accurately review this portion of the set?

I'm going to give it a week and come back with a full report. If you happen to be on, you can find me under the handle "Zap2itRyan." I'll be the guy tossing a Frisbee around the virtual quad. In the meantime, I managed to snag a few preview clips of what's in store for potential students.







So what's the bottom line?

If you're a completist, you already know that you're buying the set. Having the episodes readily on-hand, especially in glorious high-definition, is a must for "Lost" fans. However, due to the secrecy surrounding Season 6, there's not a whole lot of meat in terms of analyzing Season 5 to be found in any of the extras. Compared with the extras of seasons past, I felt this iteration felt a little on the lean side.

Now, "Lost University" potentially solves this problem. The idea of what's essentially downloadable content for "Lost" is intriguing, given the static set an ever-expanding set of content. However, as mentioned before, only those that have a Blu-Ray enabled player plus a connection to the Internet can use it. So while it's a potentially great feature, it will only reach a small sliver of the show's fans.

As far as the kit goes: if you're a hard-core fan, absolutely splurge for it. A lot of love went into its construction, but I can see why a lot of people in this particular point in economic history might shy away from purchasing it. It's not like you're going wrong buy purchasing the normal set, either on DVD or Blu-Ray. It all depends on your particular level of "Lost" fanaticism.

Let's put it this way: if you're still reading this review, get the kit. If you've made it to the end of this review, you're the kind of fan that will love owning it.
 
What are your purchasing plans for Season 5?



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Photo credit: ABC