The Terminal

With Tom Hanks playing a lovable character, Catherine Zeta-Jones as a beauty, and Stanley Tucci waxing villainous, all under Steven Spielberg’s watchful eye, what could go wrong? How about a rip-off DVD release? When Viktor Navorski first appears on screen, my first thought was, “there’s no way they can pull this off”. Navorski is supposed to be the hero of The Terminal, but right from the get go he’s instantly recognizable as famous movie star Tom Hanks, barely hidden by an accent and a few extra pounds. Carl Hanratty looked and acted different than a hollywood movie star, Michael Sullivan carried a sorrow that set him apart. Viktor though... he just has an accent. So how did the film think it was going to sell me on this meek hero when it was clearly Tom Hanks? Easily - Tom Hanks is just that talented. Although you can’t help but recognize him, it doesn’t take long for the film to make you forget who Hanks is, and draw you into the story of Viktor, an immigrant who finds himself without a country, passport, or destination, stuck roaming the halls of The Terminal.

That sounds like a far-fetched concept. Viktor’s country of Krakozhia becomes subject to a civil war while Viktor is in the air and a governmental coup occurs. When Viktor lands in the United States, his passport is no longer valid, and due to the country’s new government, Homeland Security won’t allow Viktor to enter the States, or leave the airport. Like some bad sitcom plot, he’s stuck in the airport. However the events in the film are loosely based by the story of Merhan Nasseri, a real Iranian refugee who had something similar happen to him in France in the ‘80s.

Although Spielberg is better known for his science fiction spectaculars, the one thing all of his films share is heart, and that’s definitely the case here. You can’t help but feel for Viktor’s character and the state of affairs going on around him once the film gets going. As Viktor befriends terminal workers, or potential love interest Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) you learn more about the character, and that depth is very appealing. You also can’t help but detest Stanely Tucci’s Frank Dixon, a character so villanous he should have a mustache to twirl. Dixon is the reason Viktor is stuck in the terminal as Tucci’s character holds to the letter of the law or risks losing a promotion. This is the type of role Tucci excells in, and Spielberg makes the right move and lets him.

The Terminal may seem simplistic compared to other Spielberg films, but it has all of the same components that made his other films successful, so why should this one be any different? Sure, Viktor may not have an alien to rescue or a shark to kill, but you can’t help but rally for him anyway, and isn’t that why we go to the movies? To feel something - excitement in a story, or sympathy for a character, or the notion of falling in love? We get all of that in one simple little package here. Special effects aren’t necessary to make a sucessful Spielberg movie. The Terminal gets the royal treatment on DVD, with featurettes about writing the story, making the movie, the music, a detailed look at the set, and even airport horror stories from the cast and crew. Top that off with the soundtrack, included to make this a three disc set, and you’ve got a heck of a release... except we aren’t reviewing that release.

You see, Dreamworks has released two versions of The Terminal on DVD, well, three if you count separate Widescreen and Fullscreen versions of the movie. The “Three Disc Collector’s Set” is what I described above, chock-full of bonus features, deep looks at the making of the film, and even the movie’s soundtrack. However this is a “extras cost extras” approach to the movie, and the basic, standard version of the film includes absolutely no extras what-so-ever. There’s not even a theatrical trailer on the disc. You get the film itself - one version of the movie determined by whether you bought Fullscreen or Widescreen, and that’s it.

The last time I saw a DVD this bare boned, it came in a clear plastic case with no artwork, just a disc. Actually, that disc may have been better than this one as it only cost about ten bucks whereas Dreamworks is charging full price for a DVD and giving you no extras. To get the extras you’re looking at paying fifteen to twenty dollars more depending on where you’re shopping. That’s ridiculous!

I should not have to pay gift set prices to have a standard DVD, and standard prices to have a sub-par disc. I don’t care if Spielberg and Hank’s names are on this thing. Lucas, the biggest con-artist of the DVD format, at least gave me three films and a bonus disc for just a little more than I’m paying for a standard release here.

My advice? Don’t pick this one up. Rent it, enjoy the film, and then give it back, but don’t muddy your collection with this sort of crass commercialism. Lets start sending a message to the studios that we’re not going to take this sort of treatment!