Mimic: The Director's Cut Blu-ray ReviewSeptember 22, 2011
I've never been a big fan of director's cuts, and the reason is that they tend to end up in the same place: At the end of the day, they're typically longer but seldom better.
Lionsgate's release of Mimic: The Director's Cut has set out to buck that trend. And it has succeeded most, most admirably.
Mimic, originally a Miramax release via Buena Vista Home Entertainment, is not a great film, but it is certainly a seminal film inasmuch as it is among the films that marked Miramax (then owned by Disney) and the Weinstein brothers turning the corner from Hollywood's artist's retreat and taking a hard right to become big-time box office players.
As such, the studio significantly interfered with the movie's production to the point that director Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy) disowned the released film, which contained a great deal of second-unit footage to meet Miramax's demands.
Now, with Miramax no longer under either the Weinsteins or Disney, del Toro has been given the opportunity to present a film that, while not a perfect replica of the story he imagined, steers closer to his original vision.
As Mimic opens, New York City is caught in the grip of a roach-borne epidemic that has claimed the lives of hundreds of young children. CDC official Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) calls upon geneticist Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) to engineer a breed of cockroach, dubbed the Judas Roach, to wipe out the disease carrying pests.
Three years later, the roach population has long since been controlled, and Peter and Susan are now married and trying to conceive. But when people around the city start disappearing at the hands of what appears to be a large man in a black trench coat, it becomes clear that Susan's genetic marvel has returned to haunt the very people it saved.
It all leads up to Susan and Peter facing down their creations (the Judas Roaches have evolved exponentially over the previous three years) in the depths of the NYC subway system.
As originally filmed, Mimic was, at best, a thriller that relied on quick cuts and cheap scares. The original cut was plagued by overzealous editing, where it seemed there was a cut every time you blinked. For this director's cut, though, del Toro holds suspense through holding on his shots thus making the film's terrifying elements all the more frightening.
In addition to hitting the mark on a sheer visceral level, Mimic: The Director's Cut touches on a number of themes ranging from religion to man's place in the dog-eat-dog reality of the natural world. There are numerous allegories to Frankenstein which, while they are often blatantly obvious nods to the original science fiction story with no subtlety whatsoever, are somewhat fitting given both the film's premise and the gothic aesthetic del Toro has created.
The visual effects are very telling of the movie's late-90s origin, with a mixture of practical effects and early CGI renderings of the film's giant-cockroach antagonists. Whatever fault there is with these images is more or less covered up by del Toro's "show 'em just enough of the monster" mentality of combining horrific visions with a style that relies heavily on implication and nuance to fuel the audience's imagination and create an air of nearly-unbearable tension.
And although this is a film more about premise than performance, the cast does a pretty decent job. Mira Sorvino is particularly good during large segments of the movie's climax, seemingly channeling Sigourney Weaver's Ripley from the Alien movies.
Charles S. Dutton delivers a decent performance as a cop trapped in the subway with Peter and Susan that goes over-the-top during certain portions of the film's middle and final acts. Having said that, Dutton provides a point-of-view character for the audience and his pairing with Northram helps to cover up much of the stale, wooden nature of the latter's performance.
Also great in the film is Josh Brolin, who plays a small part as one of Peter's CDC subordinates. He's extremely charming and delivers several great comedic lines to help ease the suspense.
F. Murray Abraham also has a small part as Susan's mentor; it's through his character that the deeper themes of the film are explored, and Abraham delivers those insights in such a way that his abilities as one of the finest character actors of his generation are on full display.
The story's construction is also to be applauded, inasmuch as it succeeds where so many horror (or at least horror-centric) films fail; Mimic: The Director's Cut pays off in nearly every big scene it sets up and keeps false scares (that scary off-screen noise never turns out to be just a stray cat) to a bare minimum.
As good as the picture is, though, it's not perfect. The first act drags quite a bit. Of particular note in terms of the slow pacing is the prologue, which centers on Susan and Peter examining the source of the epidemic. While it's essential to the rest of the film and is executed about as well as can be expected, it makes it difficult for the movie to pick up momentum.
And although the movie is visually interesting and engrossing, there are some moments where the roach-monsters come off as fairly laughable.
Additionally, while the story is undoubtedly tight, even del Toro's direction isn't enough to cover up for some of the movie's by-the-numbers B-movie moments.
Mimic: The Director's Cut comes to Blu-ray with an AVC-4 MPEG 1080p encode, and for the most part it looks great. The movie is 14 years old, though, and it absolutely looks it in some scenes; having said that, however, that likely has more to do with the source material than the high-def transfer.
It's a movie that takes place primarily in the New York subway, which is to say it is literally a very dark film. And yet the darkness never takes a toll on the images on screen. Blacks are very well-defined, and the images are sharp enough that all the action can be followed even through the murky, dank setting.
The visual transfer is remarkably free of noise for all but one scene – a real shame, considering that one scene is the first full-on reveal of the creature. Again, this is probably a byproduct of the original negative, but it's an awful distraction in such a pivotal scene.
In terms of sound, though, Mimic: The Director's Cut in no way disappoints. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that accompanies this movie is positively brilliant. Dialogue is unfettered, and the soundtrack's treatment of ambiance is fantastic. More often than not, the tell-tale sign that the monsters are in the vicinity is communicated through sound, and this disc's audio is more than up to the task of transferring those signs into high-def.
I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to remark that Lionsgate's recent track record might suggest that they have the absolute best-sounding Blu-rays on the market, and Mimic: The Director's Cut is no exception.
Beyond the Feature
Mimic: The Director's Cut makes its way to Blu-ray with some great supplementary material. It's a two-disc set; Disc One contains the movie and the bonus features while Disc Two has a digital copy of the picture.
Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Guillermo del Toro – This is one of the best audio commentaries I've ever heard. Del Toro pulls no punches when it comes to his dissatisfaction with Miramax's treatment of his original vision, but the commentary is by no means a two-hour gripe session. The director disseminates a lot of information about the storytelling and filmmaking process. He's a great talker, and this commentary will be sure to hook even the casual filmgoer who couldn't care less about the artistic side of the movies. Great stuff.
Video Prologue with Director Guillermo del Toro (HD, 1:15) – This is a brief introduction to the film in which the director gives a rundown of the changes he's made for the director's cut.
Reclaiming Mimic (HD 14:31) – In this featurette, del Toro talks about his original vision for the film. It's interesting stuff, but it's basically a truncated version of all the information covered in the commentary track. This is a decent mini-doc, but listen to the commentary and get the full scoop.
A Leap in Evolution (SD, 9:35) – Here we get a look at the creature design and construction process in a short feature that delves into del Toro and his team's determination to make the creatures as scientifically accurate as possible.
Back Into the Tunnels (SD, 5:22) – A making-of short that appears to be made up of on-set footage and press interviews from '97.
Deleted Scenes (SD, 5:11) – Nothing to see here. Move along.
Gag Reel (SD, 2:30) – A handful of outtakes. Nothing gut-busting, but it's refreshing to know it's possible to have fun on the set of such a bleak film.
Storyboard Animatics (SD, 6:04) – An interesting look at what might have been, with a handful of storyboards edited together to show the initial visions of some of the film's creature-centric action sequences.
Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:00) – It is what it's called.
Mimic, in its original form, was in no way a classic. In fact, it was barely watchable.
And while this director's cut is also in no way a classic, it's a far superior film and stands as a testament to the fact that the folks running the studio don't always know what they're talking about.
It's also a monument to the abilities of its director; as revealed in the disc's supplements, the vision of Mimic presented here still isn't even close to del Toro's original vision, and yet it's still a thoroughly enjoyable piece of filmmaking.
- Jason Jarman
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