Image Courtesy of Amazon.com
Paul Walker……….Jerry Shepherd
Jason Biggs……….Charlie Cooper
Gerard Plunkett……….Dr. Andy Harrison
Wendy Crewson……….Eve McClaren
2006 is positioned to go down in the books as one in which Paul Walker might have had a number of good movies. Running Scared got good reviews and minimal box office receipts to show the effort. With the Clint Eastwood helmed Flags of our Fathers poised for an Oscar run, Walker’s string of massive box flops outside of the first two Fast and the Furious films came to an end with the shockingly successful Eight Below.
Walker really doesn’t star in the film per se; as Jerry Shepherd, Walker’s main role is to sit around and pout over his missing sled dog crew. Having abandoned them in the midst of an Arctic blizzard against his wishes, Shepherd sits and waits while the dogs do something miraculous: they try and make their way through the Arctic in subzero temperatures.
It’s a different sort of action-adventure film for Walker, as he sits out most of the action in the film while the dogs do the work. Walker is much more of an actor than an action star and it’s pretty surprising how effective he can be; this isn’t Shakespeare and this isn’t a command performance but it’s a good one that stands out in a genre that generally doesn’t have it. Shepherd is a nicely fleshed out character who wants nothing more than to find his dogs.
This is also a well-written and well-directed film as well. Using animals as main plot devices as well as for the story is a difficult task, as trying to convey things like dialogue and emotion is tough when not using talking animals or animation, and the film is able to use the dogs effectively to convey what is going on. Frank Marshall had some excellent dog trainers on hand as the animals convey emotions and dialogue, coordinating on some complex maneuvers and group activities that are fascinating to watch. The dogs are also able to bring out some great emotions as well; Marshall is able to bring out genuine emotions and heartfelt situations from his animals without having them say a single word. It’s the way they look at each other which makes it more meaning then if they said anything. The dogs are great-looking creatures, and the film is well shot as well. This is a bleak film with lots of white and few colors but it looks great all the same. Marshall has a simple story with lots of emotion he wants to tell and does it to a wonderful degree.
In an era where animal films generally involve extreme sports, whacky shenanigans and/or animated creatures with celebrity voices, it’s nice to see a film involving animals that doesn’t pander to our lesser instincts.
Score : 8 / 10
Presented in a widescreen format with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the film looks great. There are few colors and mainly shades of white and dark colors, making it a film that doesn’t standout from a visual perspective, but everything is clear and flawless. You can tell the difference in color variations on the animals’ fur.
Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format, Eight Below sounds excellent as well. The sound is clear and separated as the howling wind and the animal movements come through clean and separated well.
Deleted Scenes come complete with commentary by the director. Completed with the same great audio and video transfer, it’s clearly obvious why they were removed and Marshall states that most of them were cut for pacing as well as storyline purposes.
Running with the Dogs: The Making of Eight Below is your basic making of feature about how the film was created. Filmed north of Vancouver in an area able to double for the arctic, the sheer amount of animals used is impressive as eight dogs doubled for the main dogs featured for things like stunt work and repetitive shots. Using Greenland as well as a well-designed set for enhancement shots, it’s interesting to see the sort of work involved in using dogs to tell a story. It runs around 10 minutes.
Sneak Peeks at releases of Leroy & Stitch, Brother Bear 2, High School Musical, The Fox and the Hound 25th Anniversary Edition DVD, Airbuddies, The Shaggy Dog remake, the special edition of The Little Mermaid and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
Audio Commentary with Director Frank Marshall and Producer Pat Crawley
Audio Commentary with Director Frank Marshall, Actor Paul Walker and Director of Photography Don Burgess
Score : 2.5 / 10