A love story set against the backdrop of the 1960s amid the turbulent years of anti-war protest, mind exploration and rock 'n roll, from the dockyards of Liverpool to the creative psychedelia of Greenwich Village, from the riot-torn streets of Detroit to the killing fields of Vietnam. Star-crossed lovers, Jude and Lucy, along with a small group of friends and musicians, are swept up into the emerging anti-war and counterculture movements, with "Dr. Robert" and "Mr. Kite" as their guides. Tumultuous forces outside their control ultimately tear the young lovers apart, forcing Jude and Lucy – against all odds – to find their own way back to each other.
For more about Across the Universe and the Across the Universe Blu-ray release, see Across the Universe Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on February 5, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
It's been a constant frustration for me, as a Beatles fan, that none of the legendary band's original recordings ever (with a few notable exceptions) grace any film soundtracks. For a great many people across the globe, the music of the Beatles is a constant reminder of their youth and the best that music can be. Take for example The Royal Tenenbaums use of "Hey Jude." What could have been a very moving scene in Tenenbaums, became a distraction for me as an obviously inferior cover version played over the scene. Across the Universe is a film that uses the Beatles lack of film support to its advantage by basing the plot of the film on reinterpreted versions of the band's music. Frankly, I wasn't too excited at the prospect of more Beatles covers. Fortunately, the film pays off in a huge way by delivering startling musical performances and worthy story.
Lucy in the sea with midgets.
Across the Universe tells the sprawling story of Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). When Jude travels to the United States in search of his long lost father, he encounters the naďve and innocent Lucy. Lucy's brother has been drafted and this will set into motion a series of vignettes that will take our heroes to Vietnam, the UK and back to the tumultuous streets of the Detroit and New York of the sixties. The film centers on the heady topics of civil rights, freedom, personal expression and a love of Rock and Roll. Renditions of the music of the Beatles frame the entire film and set the tone for this complex fantasy tale.
If one could key in on a specific way that Across the Universe is a success as a film, it would be in the combination of glorious music and fantastical imagery. The film is chock full of rich colors and beautiful photography. There are quite a few fantasy sequences in Across the Universe and I found myself completely pulled into the look and sound of the film. Despite it's reputation as a musical, Across the Universe is, first and foremost, an intensely visual film at its core. Director Julie Taymor and Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel have crafted a striking film that is sure to please die hard Blu-ray fans everywhere. I think it says a lot that even with the sound turned down, Across the Universe is a thrill to behold.
As far as characters are concerned, both Lucy and Jude are your prototypical archetypes of the 1960s. They both experience the highs and lows of their generation as though they, alone, are experiencing them. While I enjoyed following their exploits, the film does struggle in its first half. It just seems as though the film isn't going anywhere. Sure, the music is great and the visuals are beautiful, but the plot seemed to be stalling. Fortunately, the film picks up considerably in its second half and there is plenty of payoff to save the film.
Ultimately, Across the Universe is a film about music and visual storytelling. Any weakness in the plot is easily overcome by those elements.
Across the Universe arrives on Blu-ray sporting a pristine, newly minted 1080p AVC Mpeg-4 encode. The film is accurately presented on Blu-ray in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Since this is a recent film, the print is of exceptional quality without a trace of any dust, grime or defects that are often found on older material. Since the film presents a vast array of locations, color palettes and other fantasy-inspired scenes, this transfer, in particular, needs to be of the highest quality to avoid picture artifacts. Fortunately, Across the Universe completely avoids problems of this kind by utilizing high-bitrate encoding throughout the presentation. There simply aren't artifacts to be found in this pristine encode.
Across the Universe is a definite showcase disc for your high definition home theater. Colors pop off of the screen and detail is immaculate. The film's slight, but ever-present film grain is presented naturally and consistently with the film's theatrical presentation. If anything, Across the Universe actually surpasses the quality of the theatrical print I viewed in its consistency and detail. Black levels and shadow detail are always rich and well represented. The viewer will notice that film grain is slightly more apparent in these darker scenes. Again, this is a natural occurrence with film and is intended. All told, Across the Universe looks fab on Blu-ray. This is a reference grade transfer and the folks at Sony should be applauded for their attention to detail.
As is always the case with Sony Blu-ray releases, Across the Universe has been given the lossless treatment with an exceptional 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. 5.1 Dolby Digital is also provided in both Spanish and Portuguese. Subtitles in a variety of languages are also available. So, if any of you are natives from Bikini Atoll, you should be covered. It's worth noting that Across the Universe does not feature a 5.1 PCM track. It seems as though Sony has settled on Dolby TrueHD as their lossless format of choice.
Since the primary focus of Across the Universe is in its music, sound is of particular importance. For musicals of this kind, anything less than a reference Dolby TrueHD track would be a disappointment. Fear not, as Sony has again stepped up to the plate an offered an exceptional sound experience. This TrueHD track has a very natural feel - - not overly bass heavy and remarkably clear throughout the sound spectrum. Treble is crisp and detailed without any noticeable hissing or breaking up of cymbals or vocals. Lyrics are always easily understood as is dialogue. Midrange response is smooth and always pleasing and bass is tight and never boomy. When the soundtrack calls for it, there is a wonderful amount of rear channel activity and the occasional flourish of deep bass from the film's sound effects track. Ultimately, for a film as visually and sonically rich as Across the Universe is, this superb audio experience is the perfect compliment to this Blu-ray disc's astonishing video presentation.
Sony has really stepped up to the plate with the massive supplemental section for Across the Universe. All video features are presented in full 1080p video with a variety of subtitle options. Here's what's included:
Kicking the supplemental features off is this outstanding track featuring Director Julie Taymor and Composer Elliot Goldenthal. The primary focus of the track is in dissecting the various Beatles songs and their relationship to the plot and development of the film's characters. As a Beatle fan, I was particularly taken with this track and both participants display a huge amount of knowledge about the songs as well as a considerable amount of enthusiasm for how they are presented in the film. This is a first rate commentary!
Creating the Universe
It's no secret that Julie Taymor had more than a few problems getting her version of this film on screen. "Creating the Universe" goes into considerable detail on her process for making the film as well as her on-set difficulties. Clocking in at 29 minutes, this feature should answer most questions about what went in to the making of Across the Universe.
Stars of Tomorrow
This set's second hefty documentary focuses on casting the film and the actors and personalities that contributed to the shaping of the film's songs and eventual flavor. Good stuff!
All About the Music
My personal favorite of this set, "All about the Music" goes into considerable detail on how Taymor and Goldenthal shaped the various Beatles tracks to fit the film. Beatles fans, in particular, will really enjoy this feature.
Moving Across the Universe
The feature focuses on Julie Taymor's style as a director and the effect it had on the production of Across the Universe.
F/X of the Universe
As an exploration of the fantastic effects in the film, "F/X of the Universe" explores the many unusual on-set and in-camera tricks utilized to bring these hypnotic visuals to the film. This is a must view feature for those interested in the process for creating visuals of this nature.
I wasn't expecting to like this feature as much as I do, but the fabulous Still Gallery from Across the Universe gives the viewer the option of running a slideshow of stills (in 1080p) from the film with an accompanying music soundtrack from the film. Very nice!
Extended Musical Performance
The main benefit of this feature is that it gives the viewer the opportunity to view complete musical numbers from the film. Most of the additional footage is of negligible impact, save the additional few minutes of song.
Well, last but not least is this extremely brief scene that really offers up nothing to the overall scope of the film. Move along, nothing to see here…
Across the Universe is a unique and very personal film that has drawn love it or hate it reactions from filmgoers. Despite its numerous flaws, the film is very satisfying for me on the strength of its musical performances and rich visual style. Both the audio and video presentation on the outstanding Blu-ray disc is of reference grade and should make for fantastic demo material. Sony has also delivered an exceptional supplemental section with Across the Universe that manages to entertain while presenting very technical aspects of the film's production. In the end, I give Across the Universe a strong recommendation for Beatles fans in particular. If you aren't a fan of the Beatles work, then this one might not be for you.
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that they will release 'Across the Universe' for Blu-ray on February 5th, day-and-date with the DVD release. The film, while having a mediocre showing at the box office, has become somewhat of a cult hit due to the ...