DVD Review: Zodiac – The Director’s Cut (Two-Disc Special Collector’s Edition)

Reviewing Zodiac has proven tough for me. I never posted a review for it’s theatrical release because I struggled to figure out exactly what I thought of it.

On the one hand, Zodiac is beautifully shot and well acted. Fincher and crew have painstaking gone over all records to provide as accurate a telling as possible. They deserve credit for this as most filmmakers would have crashed and burned with as ambitious a project as this.

But while it is factually accurate with excellent pacing and acting, I walked away from this wondering exactly what was the point? Why was it made? To me, Zodiac felt like the big screen version of one of the true crime shows that are always on A&E (I can hear the late Paul Winfield narrating it in my head).

Zodiac is based on the book by Richard Graysmith. Graysmith spent over a decade following this case, trying to uncover the true.

To me, a better film might have been made by taking a closer look at Graysmith and his obsession with the Zodiac. He lost/quit his job, lost his wife and kids, for this. What was it that made this a fair trade? Was it something that we, the casual public, couldn’t see? It was touched on a bit in the film, but never tackled in depth.

Out of everyone involved with the Zodiac case, Graysmith was most affected by it. Why not explore that? Show us the impact of these killings. At this point in time, the Zodiac is just one of many high profile serial killers to

This is the director’s cut. The strange thing about this is that Fincher had right of final cut built into his contract so theoretically should be no need for this. But here we are, just 3 months after it’s initial DVD release, with a director’s cut. The difference is four minutes that have little impact on the overall film. Since it is just four minutes, I can’t help but wonder why they were cut in the first place. What is the difference between 158 minutes and 162?

The bonus features are first rate. One look at these and it is clear just how much this project meant to Fincher and company. What we get is a mix of behind the scenes features and true crime documentary footage. Anyone with even a casual interest in the Zodiac case will really enjoy this stuff.

Fincher also provides us with a commentary track that is stellar. The commentaries on his past films (Se7en, Fight Club) were excellent and he continues that trend here. Some nuts and bolts commentary about the technical aspects of filmmaking, but also plenty of anecdotes about the shoot and his time with the cast and crew. A second commentary is also included, one with castmembers (Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr.), producer Brad Fisher, screenwriter/producer James Vanderbilt and author James Ellroy. This second track is also worth checking out; as we get plenty of interesting chatter from the actors while the other three really dig into the original case as well as the research that went into preparing for the film.

The second disc of extras is simply amazing. As I said before, Fincher spent an inordinate amount of time doing research for this film and the evidence is here for our viewing pleasure.

The extras are broken into 2 different headings: FILM & FACT. Film gives us a look at the making of the film. Interesting, but pretty much the kind of stuff you would expect.

The most interesting stuff is under FACT. We get two documentaries that combine for about 2 ½ hours of pretty damn fascinating stuff. The first gives us a look at the entire case, with new interviews with those close to the case, including some survivors of the attacks. The second focuses on the primary suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen. This includes friends, family and even some of the investigating officers.

I would say that the FACT portion alone is worth the price of this set.

Overall, this is a very impressive DVD release. The “director’s cut” is not the draw here, it is the extras that make this an essential package for any fan of either director David Fincher or the actual case of the Zodiac Killer.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.