Think 3D Blu-ray has had its day? This stellar hi-def platter will convince you otherwise...
When their space shuttle is destroyed by a massive cloud of orbital debris, astronauts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) find themselves in a race against time to find another way back down to Earth.
With Gravity, director Alfonso Cuarón has crafted a spectacular cinematic blockbuster that is both a pulse-pounding hi-tech thriller and a metaphor for the human condition. This curious dichotomy also extends to Gravity’s creation, with Cuarón and his colleagues having to employ the very latest, cutting-edge filmmaking techniques and technologies at every stage of the production process to bring this surprisingly intimate and humanistic tale to life.
The result is both a technological marvel and an utterly enthralling piece of popcorn cinema. One that draws you into its orbit with its spectacular digital effects and edge-of-the-seat thrills, but keeps you hooked through its intimate characterisation.
Picture: More so than even Avatar, Gravity is a film that simply demands to be seen in 3D – and Warner Home Video’s stereoscopic MVC 2.40:1 1080p encode delivers in spades.
Whether the transfer is dealing with largescale effects (such as the breathtaking 13-minute tracking shot that opens the film) or smaller moments (the curved light refracting off the glass as the camera moves inside Stone’s helmet in Chapter 2) image depth and dimensionality are both absolutely first-rate. Fine detailing is also brilliantly resolved and adds a wholly convincing sense of three-dimensional texture to every surface. Excellent colour saturation, contrast and black levels round out a transfer that undoubtedly sits at the very pinnacle of what 3D Blu-ray is capable of.
Warner’s 3D Blu-ray release also includes a second hi-def platter containing a ‘flat’ AVC 2.40:1 1080p presentation. As you might expect, this too is absolutely gorgeous – although any minor improvements in clarity or sharpness over the 3D version are countered by that version’s masterful use of depth and space, which add greatly to the overall viewing experience. So if you have a 3D setup, stick to the stereoscopic iteration.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: Gravity’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix goes to show that intelligent sound design can be much more effective at immersing a filmgoer in the onscreen action than simply bludgeoning them over and over again with overblown dynamics. It’s also a tantalising example of how movies mixed in Dolby Atmos can translate to a domestic setup.
Even though the film ignores explosive Foley effects (there’s no sound in a vacuum after all), that’s not to say that the mix feels lacking in any way. As the camera swoops around the actors in lengthy takes, the dialogue seamlessly pans around the speakers. This even extends to how clear the dialogue is, diminishing with distance from the camera to help give the sense of a 3D space.
Meanwhile, Steven Price’s eclectic and dramatic score fills the gaps, swelling up to drive home the drama as the debris cloud approaches the space shuttle, before careening around the speakers to match Dr. Stone as she spins out of control on the shuttle’s arm.
Brave, brilliant and breathtaking, Gravity’s sound design is a reference-quality experience that you’ll return to again and again.
Audio rating: 5/5
Extras: Those of you with any interest at all in how Gravity was made will get a real kick out of the extras assembled for this Blu-ray release.
Gravity: Mission Control is one of the most in-depth behind-the-scenes documentaries we’ve seen in quite a while. Made up of nine featurettes, running 107 minutes in total, it looks at the origins of the project; the unusual (but pivotal) role pre-viz played in the filmmaking process; the new technologies that had to be developed to shoot the live-action material; the challenges of recreating weightlessness in live-action and digital realms; the cast; the score; and much, much more.
Supporting this are five Shot Breakdowns, running just under 37 minutes. More than simple visual effects breakdowns, each of these scene-specific featurettes takes an in-depth look at the creation of one of the film’s key sequences.
The 22-minute Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space is narrated by Ed Harris and explores the looming crisis caused by the growing amount of space debris orbiting our planet. The picture it paints for the future of space exploration is troubling indeed, especially as solutions seem few and far between.
The final extra is Gravity co-writer Jonás Cuarón’s 10-minute short film Aningaaq, which show’s Dr. Stone’s radio conversation with the Inuit fisherman from his point of view.
Curiously, the ‘Silent Space’ version of Gravity touted on the UK press release for this Blu-ray release is absent on the finished disc. Although as this feature wasn’t included on the earlier US disc, its omission didn’t come as much of a surprise.
Extras rating: 4/5
We say: An astonishing technical achievement – both for filmmaking in general and 3D home entertainment
Gravity 3D, Warner Home Video, All-region BD, £28 Approx
HCC VERDICT: 5/5
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