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HTF Blu-ray Review: Into the Wild

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#1 of 3 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

PatWahlquist

    Supporting Actor

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Posted December 11 2008 - 01:26 PM


Into the Wild (Blu-Ray)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: R (for language and some nudity)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
Time: 148 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2007
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 16, 2008

When Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch) decided to tune in and turn out, he didn’t cut any corners. Having graduated from college, and with a shot at Harvard Law, the young man decided the work day and all its trappings weren’t for him, so he left it all behind—his money, his family and his potential career. He also seeks payback towards his parents for the problems they had while he growing up. McCandless began touring the country, living as a “leather tramp”, relying on his own skills to sustain himself. Along the road, he meets up with various travelers of one kind or another, and he and these new acquaintances share and learn from each other. McCandless, who renounced his birth name for the infinitely cooler “Alexander Supertramp” decided the new moniker suited his wayward personality better. He eventually winds up in Alaska to live off the land and commune with nature, living in an abandoned “Magic Bus” (meant literally). This lifestyle, and the rugged elemental nature of Alaska, proves to teach him more than he would ever imagine.

A true story, and based on the book of the same name by Jon Krakauer, with the script and direction by Sean Penn, we are shown what appears to be a brilliant kid whose idea of the world we live in runs so contrary to the average man. The picture is narrated by McCandless’ sister, Carnie (Jena Malone, and others), who at times comes off as if she herself is reading the words of Krakauer rather than conveying her real life counterparts personal recollections. Hirsch’s portrayal of McCandless is bold and thoughtful as he brings his true life counterpart to life, at times blurring the line between actor and role. Hirsch’s enthusiasm for the part comes across and by the end of the picture you feel you know McCandless and what may be called his demons. Penn’s script and direction are thorough and exciting as he often frames Hirsch against the beautiful natural highlights of his journey accentuating McCandless’ (and our) diminutive place in the world.

A friend of mine and I had a discussion about the book (which he had read, and I had not) and the movie. He was turned off by the movie, but liked the book and maintained that McCandless was crazy and stupid in either medium. Several facts of the case are not presented here, such as the location of the bus was only a couple miles away from civilization making us wonder why or how McCandless didn’t make it that far. Penn’s portrayal of McCandless’ recklessness and free spirit during his journey suggests McCandless really lucked out many times avoiding potentially fatal outcomes. Is that to suggest that McCandless’ journey and role in the universe was guided by a higher power and he was doing what seemed right? Or is McCandless simply running away from his troubled upbringing and using his journey to justify a big “up yours” to his dysfunctional parents? Penn uses the story to make his eco-friendly points known, especially in the scene where McCandless questions a park official about permits to paddle down a river. In this incredible scene, we are forced to see the folly in regulating our world to satisfy our own hungers and greed. Hirsch’s performance in the scene, played tongue in cheek, drive McCandless message home clear, that we don’t need all this “stuff” to live a great life, and if you can’t deal with your problems head on, it’s okay to run away from them. In the end, these messages did not generate any sympathy in me for McCandless and, really, no sadness either. His “work” didn’t change the world, it only sought, selfishly, to make his better.


Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

The Blu-Ray disc is encoded in the VC-1 codec at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The picture exhibits a natural look to it, with colors being slightly muted. The settings of the picture become a real star as Penn takes advantage of the aspect ratio to provide us with an HD travelogue of the U.S. The picture seems to favor blue slightly, further enhancing the chilly Alaskan climate where a good part of the movie is set. Flesh tones are accurate. Black levels are good as well showing some detail and depth. Unfortunately, Paramount has added some edge enhancement to the image enough so that once I noticed it early on it haunted me for the rest of the time. Even with that, detail and sharpness are fine, especially in close ups of the actors where you can see the individual pores on their faces, or the stubble in Hirsch’s beard.


Audio:
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is very front, mostly center channel heavy. The surrounds occasionally open up to emphasize the atmosphere of the current setting. When they do come up, we are given a pleasing soundstage. LFE’s have the same issue, but the movie works well with the minimalistic soundtrack. The voices come across clear and natural and I noticed no flaws or other problems in the soundtrack.


Bonus Material: the items are in SD unless otherwise noted.

Into the Wild: The Story and the Characters (21:54): as the title says, we get background on those items from Penn, Hirsch, Krakauer and other members of the cast.

Into the Wild: The Experience (17:20): the more technical aspects of the making of the movie are discussed here. There is nothing too spectacular here.

Theatrical Trailer (HD)


Conclusions:
An interesting view of a man who does not conform to society’s plans for him or the portrait of an egotist in full bloom? I’ll let you decide. The disc looks good except for some irritating edge enhancement, and the soundtrack enforces the sparseness of the surroundings.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 3 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

Joseph J.D

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Posted December 11 2008 - 01:54 PM

Good review Pat. While on the subject of sparseness......those extras are just that. Not even a commentary on the subject? An ideal commentary would have been one by both Sean Penn and John Krakauer....I'll bet it would have been an interesting listen. Such as it is, all I can say is meh to the extras included here.

Still, I may pick this one up. I've been wanting to see this for a long time and now that it's on Blu-ray, here's my chance.
Recently watched- A Nightmare On Elm St Pt 2, A Nightmare On Elm Street(1984), Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, Pacific Rim, Halloween II(1981), Halloween(1978), The Blob(1988), Simon & Simon: Season 3, Lost: Season 5, I Am Legend, Krull, The Beast Within, Subspecies, Lost: Season 4, District 9, Lost: Season 3, The Warrior's Way

Currently watching- Planet Earth, Cheers: Season 6, True Blood: Season 2, Gatchaman: The Complete Series, The Equalizer: Season 2, Lost: Season 6, Tales From The Crypt: Season 2, WKRP In Cincinnati, Season 1
 

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#3 of 3 OFFLINE   Josh Pounds

Josh Pounds

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Posted December 11 2008 - 02:23 PM

Thanks for the review...will definitely be picking this up!