Blu-ray Disc Review
Release Date: October 9, 2007.
Film Rating: /
Starring: Jeff Goldblum (Seth Brundle), Geena Davis (Veronica Quaife), John Getz (Stathis Borans)
Written by: David Cronenberg, George Langelaan & Charles Edward Pogue
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Almost exactly two years after Fox brought the long awaited Collector’s Edition of David Cronenberg’s classic remake of the 1958 sci-fi film The Fly, Fox, in it’s effort to step up it’s releases in high definition, has brought this favourite to Blu-ray. When the DVD was released, the video and audio upgrade was a step in the right direction that fans were waiting for. This Blu-ray disc contains the same “fully restored video and audio quality” as well as the load of special features that were available for the first time – a trend not normally seen on Fox releases. It’s good to see Fox has changed its tune. So how is the “experience” of this film delivered in high definition?
To talk about the film a little bit, the film wastes no time to present us the characters of scientist Seth Brundle and journalist Veronica Quaife. Veronica is sent to this “coffee meet” by her editor of Particle Magazine for stories relating to new progress in science. While maybe too trusting of Veronica, Seth takes her to his “lab” that resides in his loft in a dingy part of town and personally shows the invention he’s created that “will change the world as we know it.” Seth’s created a teleportation device; he has successfully shown to her that he can disintegrate an object in one “telepod” and reintegrate it in another telepod 15 feet away. Magic? Illusion? Definitely not, and Veronica sees a big story in this eccentric man’s invention. While he pleads not to go public with this, she takes it to her editor who just brushes the story off anyway.
Seth meets up with Veronica the next day for an offer she can’t refuse. He asks her not to publish the story immediately, but to be personally involved with the documenting of the process from beginning to end and publish a book on the complete history. She likes the idea and is sold on it because Seth’s invention has one drawback: it can’t teleport living creatures successfully, thus her story may have less impact.
Since computers are dumb and they only know what people tell them, the error is not in the machine, but in Seth’s misunderstanding about the flesh. Seth will need to make programming changes in the computer and it will take a few more ideas for this systems management professional to piece together the right parts of the code for successful human teleportation.
Over the course of the documentation, Seth and Veronica become closer to each other beyond their professions. This puts pressure on Veronica as her editor, her former boyfriend, becomes jealous. On an evening Veronica attempts to straighten things out with him, Seth thinks she’s left to spend time with her ex. He feels confident about the progress he’s made in the programming and makes the decision to teleport himself. He is successful, but little does he know, a fly flew into the telepod with him. The computer was unable to keep the both of them separate during teleportation so there was fusion between the two at the molecular-genetic level. While Seth initially feels like a new and stronger man, this moment marks the beginning of the slow and painful transformation of Seth Brundle into a large fly.
From the gloomy surroundings, dark and cold interior sets, to the deteriorating body and personality of a once humble and kind man into an instinctive insect and monster; this film is dark from beginning to end. It can be classified as a science fiction, a horror, and a tragic love story because story elements of them exist in it. The film raises questions about the morality of some technology and mankind tampering with nature. This film will frighten you and there are considerable gruesome images to deal with during Seth’s transformation. Character development is excellent and the love relationship between Seth and Veronica bring very upsetting moments to the screen that will make the audience pity both characters for each of their losses. This is a great film and I can keep talking about it but I won’t. I’ll leave you the rest to discover if you haven’t seen it.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3/5
This Blu-ray disc is delivering the “fully restored” version of the film from two years ago. I characterized the quality as being an improvement over past releases, with a dim look to highlight the mood of Seth’s isolated loft/lab. Shadow detail is excellent and in fact the HD delivery seems to strike a bit better contrast than what is available on DVD. Outdoor scenes and the interiors in Particle magazine are not swallowed up with a dim look, so effort has been made to differentiate the two parts of the film. This HD delivery allowed me to notice a bit of inconsistency in flesh tones – mostly on Geena Davis. Sometimes she’s pale and other times she has a warm cast to her. Colours don’t exactly pop off the screen; in fact it’s rather mute.
I felt the DVD appeared somewhat softer than expected and this hasn’t changed at all on this Blu-ray disc. In fact, I didn’t always have a feeling I was watching HD. Aside from the crystal clear video compression and presentation because of the complete lack of artefacts commonly seen crawling on the screen when watching DVDs, sharpness hasn’t improved much. I really didn’t walk away from the film feeling that 3-D presentation that I get with HD. There wasn’t any particular scene that was a stand-out. There is a bit more detail noticed and a tad more depth, but it isn’t leaps and bounds over DVD. It’s a bit disappointing, but if that’s the limit of the source material or the slight possibility softening to reduce grain (as it’s not that noticeable), then that is the trade off. Still, it’s a step in the right direction to look more like film than video. When I reviewed the DVD two years ago I noticed the first few beats of the drum of the 20th Century Fox logo were missing from the beginning of the movie. The same can be said for this Blu-ray disc suggesting maybe the full logo intro never existed??
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
My opinions of the soundtrack from DVD to Blu-ray disc haven’t changed. The soundtrack is front-heavy and it accurately recreates environments that are on screen. In fact, the echo around noises and dialogue are very convincing when in Seth’s loft. Many sound effects are included in this soundtrack and make it very exciting and very real. Surround presence is modest at best offering some ambience to the music that sweeps through. The sounds in the surround speakers are mono recreating the original Dolby Surround soundtrack. LFE is modest at best too, offering some impact from the music only. But that is perfectly fine because there really isn’t too much in this film that needs any enhancement with LFE. Dialogue is a little dated and not quite as sibilant as the DVD, probably because it’s a little more “well rounded” as compression is freed up listening to the DTS audio option.
An audible hiss is heard throughout, sometimes changing in intensity depending on the part of the film. High frequency noise is heard around dialogue and that ticking noise coming from mostly the right channel is still there (as it was on the DVD). It’s just too noticeable to ignore.
TACTILE FUN!! /
TACTILE TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: OFF
Not enough LFE content to fully enjoy.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 4.5/5
This release is packed for a Fox Blu-ray disc. Three Blu-ray exclusive features plus all features from the 2-disc DVD can be found on this single BD-50. Exclusive to this Blu-ray disc is a trivia track highlighting information on the screen as the film is watched, a “search content” control as found on some other Fox discs where you scroll through the alphabet and look for keywords relating to the film and directly access them. For example, I selected “Body Fluids” and three scenes came up in my search. The time counter is shown as well as their place in the film and I could watch all three scenes consecutively. I can imagine this feature is best used to access a specific part of the film as rapidly as possible. Better yet, if you want to organize your favourite scenes, you can put together your personal scene selections and watch the film this way. That’s not a feature for me. Oddly, accessing the main menu from the special features was a pain in the butt for me using the Panasonic DMP-BD10A. I couldn’t access it – it would just give me a not allowed symbol. I had to stop the disc, hit “top menu” on the remote, and then try to access the pop up menu through the film. Strange… Plus, the player also had to take a bit more time than normal to access content on the disc.
The remaining below are all from the 2-disc DVD edition and are standard definition. The audio commentary from David Cronenberg is very insightful about the movie and he does a fair amount of talking about it. He’s occasionally quiet, but I’m happy that we get to hear his take on the film as well as his thoughts of CGI today verses “the man in the rubber suit” in The Fly. All I know is that the man in the rubber suit is far more personable and can portray reality and emotions much better than any CGI character.
There are two documentaries; on is titled Fear of the Flesh: The Making of the Fly. This is a new interactive documentary that runs 2hrs 42min with all interactive features. A fly will appear on the screen and if you want to find out more you hit the “enter” button on your remote. The documentary has chapter stops and has titles all of the way through just to let you know what is about to be discussed. The information in the documentary is invaluable to any Fly fan as it features interviews from Goldblum and Davis, the original director before Cronenberg, as well as the writers and some people on Cronenberg’s crew. You’ll see lots of test footage, raw dailies, as well as four different codas for the film, none which were used (THANK THE MAKER!!) The documentary is enhanced for widescreen TVs and is in Dolby 5.1. Unfortunately the picture quality is crap and seems to have been filmed with 4:3 480i video cameras. My home videos from the Yukon and Northwest Territories (Canada’s far north) on an SD 16:9 DVD camcorder look far better than this documentary – even the titles look worse than what I can assemble on my computer. So if there is something to grip about it would be this one only thing. That is too bad because this was done when HD was well in use and would have been great for this Blu-ray disc.
The next documentary is titled The Brundle Museum of Natural History (11.50) and features collections of design concepts and effects materials housed in the Rob Burns collection. There is also plenty of time spent on Stathis Borans’ hand erosion scene. Nice.
Next up are everyone’s favourite: deleted scenes (they fill the full screen with original aspect ratio). There are four deleted scenes as well as two extended scenes to show the editing process when pacing a movie. They include second interview (1.42), monkey cat (6.58) [you can also view the storyboard and script separate from the video], Brundlefly vs. Baglady (script only – abandoned before filming), butterfly baby (2.25) [this is the L.A. screening version. The workprint is lost so this is reassembled from the original negative and a VHS dupe of the animation]. Some of the scenes are reconstructed from the original negative or are from the workprint, or from a bit of both.
The same applies to the extended scenes. These extended scenes also have an option for you to watch them on their own or with a “red box” around the parts that were excised to quicken the pace of the scene. The two extended scenes are reconciliation (2.59) and the poetry of steak (3.39). While there are probably many other small cuts like this left on the cutting room floor, they by no means change the direction of the story. They just add a few more sentences between important dialogue.
Next we can view some written work. What kind? How about Gorge Langelaan’s Original Short Story that first appeared in Playboy magazine in the 1950s? What if the disc also included Charles Edward Pogue’s original screenplay before it was re-written? And what if I also told you that David Cronenberg’s rewrite was also on here? Well, they are all here!
You can read them to your heart’s content and the text is big enough for those of you with small TVs. You can also read three articles on The Fly, one is on the visual effects that featured in CINEFEX magazine in November 1986. The other two articles are in American Cinematography. You can also view the DVD credits here. Congrats to those who worked on it for doing such a fine job!
Also included are several film tests of visual effects that were transferred from the original negatives. They include opening title treatments (1.54), pod lighting and effects (2.01), Brundlefly make-up (2.17), exploding space bug (0.50) and a funny little Cronenfly (0.48) piece featuring Cronenberg crawling from the floor and up the wall and onto the ceiling.
There is a crapload of promotional materials for the film including a teaser, a trailer, and three TV spots, as well as teasers and trailers for The Fly II and the 1950’s versions of The Fly. You’ll also get to read the whole 1986 Electronic Press Kit when this movie came to theatres, you’ll get to see a featurette of the film made for the release, as well as a four-and-a-half minute profile on David Cronenberg. Don’t forget to view the one sheet and lobby card gallery while you’re still sitting there.
Lastly (and trust me this is a lot of stuff to go through!!!!!), you can view four different still galleries on publicity, behind the scenes, concept art and effects.
IN THE END...
This is a nice looking presentation of a good film although I was hoping that the image would have looked more impressive than it did. Shame on me for expecting all films to blow me away! The reality is that’ll never be the case, yet, the benefits of HD is clearly noted. I’m happy Fox did not leave out all of the special features. Now I feel I can confidently retire my DVD set to make room for shelf space. This is what a Blu-ray release should be like. Include all from the past DVDs and even offer a little new.
October 14, 2007