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The Adventures of Baron Munchausen(1988)
An extraordinary, fantasy filled masterpiece, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen highlights the amazing journeys of Baron Munchausen, who sets sail in a hot air balloon in search of his old comrades-at-arms. In his travels, the Baron journeys to the moon, visits Venus and Vulcan, and lands in the belly of a giant sea monster and that's just the beginning!
For more about The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and the The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Blu-ray release, see the The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 7, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: John Neville, Eric Idle, Sarah Polley, Jonathan Pryce, Uma Thurman, Oliver Reed
Director: Terry Gilliam
» See full cast & crew
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Blu-ray Review
This odd and quirky fantasy/adventure film makes for a good Blu-ray disc.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 7, 2008
What the devil is going on here?
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a film I always kinda-sorta wanted to see when I was younger, something that I would inevitably pick up at the video store, look at the box, carry it around, and eventually put back down in favor of something else. It's probably a good thing I never saw it years ago as I am sure I would have been bored and confused by it, angry I chose it, and shun it forevermore. Many years later, I now find myself with a copy for review, both intrigued and skeptical, now knowing this movie probably won't be my cup of tea. I'm happy to report that it turned out a bit better and more interesting than I anticipated. Definitely not a movie for the masses, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen seems more of a niche film, one that fantasy and adventure fans may find appealing, as well as movie lovers enamored by the quirky style of director Terry Gilliam (The Brothers Grimm, Brazil, and Twelve Monkeys, to name a few of his more popular and well-known titles).
When a play depicting the life, times, and adventures of the great Baron Von Munchausen is crashed by the real Baron (John Neville, The Fifth Element), the audience (eventually) finds itself treated to a more "accurate" recounting of his tales, direct from the man himself. With the help of his friends who are endowed with extraordinary powers, including the world's fastest man, Berthold (Eric Idle, Monty Python's Lie of Brian), an expert marksman, Adolphus (Charles McKeown, Brazil), a man with remarkable hearing and breath, Gustavus (Jack Purvis, Time Bandits), and a man of super strength, Albrecht (Winston Dennis, Nuns on the Run), the Baron is able to win a bet with a mighty Sultan and walk away with a bit more reward than was expected. The Sultan lays siege to the city where the Baron is now recounting his tale; he wants his treasure back. In order to save the town, the Baron must reunite with his friends, but first must travel to unbelievable locations and deal with incredible characters (such as the King of the Moon and the Roman God Vulcan) to retrieve them, all the while accompanied by a little girl, Sally (Sarah Polley, Beowulf & Grendel), a girl whose faith and belief in the Baron will help him continue in his quest despite long odds and odd beings who stand in his way of completing his task.
As the movie opens, we are told it takes place at the tail end of the 18th century, a time dubbed "the age of reason." We then cut to a scene of a city under siege, explosions all around, and a few moments later the orders for execution of a heroic soldier are handed down, his actions deemed bad for the morale of the others who wear the same uniform. Both acts seem to defy "reason," as does just about everything else in the movie, from the "superhero-esque" powers of the Baron's friends, to the literal detachment of body and mind by the King and Queen of the Moon, and the crude, man-made structure found inside the giant fish. If there is a meaning to be found amongst these seemingly otherworldly or mystical and magical happenings, people, and locations, it is perhaps that reason simply doesn't exist, that the world cannot be explained, and that nothing is ever as it seems. Nevertheless, the tone of the movie allows us to take these oddities at face value, as incredible as they may be, not only because of the fantastical elements of the story, but also because Terry Gilliam manages to capture a bit of magic and set the story up so as to make each adventure a study in reason itself, all of the major sequences in the film depicting the characters engaging in some sort of activity that directly parallels what the age of reason was all about, a time where all was questioned and answers sought for everything, a time when faith alone was insufficient to tackle life's hardest problems. As ironic as it may be, we the audience are asked to suspend belief as well, and take the characters and settings almost as literally and matter-of-factly as the Barron does, perhaps a means for Gilliam to eschew that age, asking us to take what we see at face value, accepting the story as just that--a tall tale, a fantastical journey into a world we can't see, perhaps a world that we just haven't come to realize exists.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony has pulled The Adventures of Baron Munchausen out of their vault and presented this 1.85:1 framed film in a splendid 1080p transfer. While the presentation cannot hide all of the film's warts, it does bring out the best elements of the look of the film, and the end result is a pleasant, satisfactory, though not eye-popping transfer. This is a fairly colorful film, and all the various shades look fantastic, the red of the Baron's jacket the most obvious of all. The film appears rather grim, bleak, and somewhat dark at first, most of it taking place inside the dank playhouse. Once the Baron begins recounting his journey, the quality improves and the image becomes much more lively, colorful, clean, and clear. The print shows some wear on occasion, as black splotches pop up every so often. Grain is present throughout, and can get rather heavy at times, particularly in long-distance and special effects scenes (see a long-distance shot of the balloon going to the moon, or a close-up of the detached heads of the King and Queen of the Moon). While these scenes do not look "good," this is nothing more than the result of the limitations of the technology at the time showing up here, and the disc represents what was available to the filmmakers back in 1988, and I much prefer the original, "bad" look as opposed to a digitally cleaned-up version. It retains a certain amount of charm that fits into the story and more importantly, blends with the look and feel of the rest of the film. Black levels are excellent. Check out the scene where the Baron and Sally arrive on the moon, or any scene on the moon for that matter. The image can be fairly clear and detailed; one scene that stood out as especially pleasing was one where our heroes are in the water in chapter twelve. Both the characters and the water itself look remarkably clean and bright. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen definitely benefits from a high definition transfer, and the end result should easily satisfy fans. Sony should be proud of their effort on this disc.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Presented in a lossless, high-definition Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen sounds almost as good as it looks. This magical, fine score is clean, clear, and wonderfully reproduced, the orchestra seemingly playing live in the room with you. The battle scene at the beginning is perhaps best described as "forceful," though a bit muffled and antiquated in definition and clarity. It still packs a punch, but lacks the realism of more modern film soundtracks. This mix is very loud and there is quite a bit going on, and the surrounds remain active throughout much of the film. Similar to Commando, it sounds good for its age and original source. In one early scene, when the Baron sends Berthold to retrieve the wine, quite the ruckus erupts in the listening area, filling the room with loud and powerful sound, somewhat muffled and undefined (like the rest of the track), but proved for a fun listen nevertheless. Some parts of the movie sound like something you would hear in a circus, which makes sense given the look and theme of the movie, and the ridiculousness of the proceedings. Some of Sally's screams pierce your ears and rattle the ear drums; they are very high-pitched and somewhat obnoxious. The music played at the start of the moon sequence is appropriately bass-y and haunting, and once they arrive in "town," the track livens up with the sounds of celebration and cheer, encompassing the viewer, albeit briefly. Dialogue reproduction caused me no issues as it emanated clearly and distinctly from the center channel. The track makes for an enjoyable aural experience, and once again Sony has done a masterful job bringing this soundtrack into the 21st, lossless audio century.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Fans of this oft-maligned film should be pleased with the supplemental package available on this Blu-ray disc. First is a commentary track with director Terry Gilliam and co-writer/actor Charles Mckeown. The track is fairly light hearted, the participants lively and engaging, telling us what's happening on-screen yet explaining why it is there, and calling this a "film for all time," though perhaps with tongue planted in cheek. There is also discussion about how the more antiquted effects work well, and perhaps why more modern, CGI effects would lessen the impact of the film. The track is non-stop, jam-packed with information, and frankly a bit more interesting listen than the movie itself, and is a feature fans are going to love. Next is a feature entitled Marvelous World of Munchausen. This allows viewers to read up on behind-the-scenes tidbits, facts regarding the real Baron, how the story fits in with other Gilliam films from the 1980s, and the director's thoughts on the film. Different icons will pop-up on-screen, accompanying each factoid, so we are never confused as to what the item is referring to. Basically, it's a fancy pop-up trivia track that features very interesting background information on the film.
The Madness & Misadventures of Munchausen is a three-part, comprehensive documentary that covers all things Munchausen. The first section is entitled Flights of Fancy (480p, 29:47), and it addresses the motifs of the film which parallel the making of it. A look at the creation of the film is the main focus here, from the writing of the script, creating the storyboards, and especially the numerous budgeting bugaboos that plagued the production. Next is Caught in the Act (480p, 16:50), a shorter piece that examines more of the controversies that surrounded the making of the film, and the exhaustion, doubt, and anger that was widespread before shooting even began. Finally, The Final Curtain (480p, 25:41) looks at the actual filming, the hardships faced by the cast and crew, arguments over cutting major sequences of the film, and even the disappearance of the negative. Needless to say, bringing The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to a final product proved to be an arduous, difficult, and taxing effort, and it's all captured in this fascinating documentary. Five storyboard sequences (480p, 30:03) feature Gilliam and Mckeown showcasing deleted scenes via the original storyboards, introduced by the duo, and then each scene narrated in story form over the storyboards. This is a fun and original way to present unseen storyboards, and makes looking at them all the more interesting. Rounding out the disc are four filmed deleted scenes (480p, 3:37) and a 1080p trailer for The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I never found myself bored by the The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but I never found myself wholly engaged in it either. It kept my interest for just long enough to get through it, though I doubt this movie will ever find its way into my rotation of "good old standby" movies I can always turn to when nothing else jumps up with that appeal-of-the-moment we sometimes experience. I was pleasantly surprised by the disc as well, the video quality looking very good for a film of this age, and only select scenes standing out as appearing subpar, though they reflect the effects and technology available at the time rather than the quality of the Blu-ray disc. The audio is also satisfactory, showcasing some good discreet effects, clean music, and an overall presentation worthy of the source. This disc also features a decent array of supplements that will appeal to fans of the film, while first-time viewers who enjoyed the film may be interested in learning more about it as well. Overall, this is a fine release from Sony, especially for a twenty-year old catalogue title. This disc comes highly recommended as a purchase for fans of the film, and it's worth a rental, and a subsequent buy, if you find you enjoyed it.
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The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Choose Cover for Baron Munchausen Blu-ray Release - December 25, 2007
In a special promotion with Amazon, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is allowing fans to choose the cover for the upcoming Blu-ray and DVD release of 'The Adventures of Baron Munchausen'. The cover with the most votes will be used for the official release, which ...
• The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Announced - December 18, 2007
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring 'The Adventures of Baron Munchausen' to Blu-ray on April 8th. Specs have not yet been announced for this title, but extras include an audio commentary track, two featurettes, two storyboard sequences, ...
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