Forrest Gump Sapphire Series (Blu-ray) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG-13 (for drug content, some sensuality and war violence)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese; English SDH+
Time: 141 minutes
Disc Format: 2 SS/DL BD’s
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 1994
Blu-Ray Release Date: November 3, 2009
I’m trying to remember what my problem was with Forrest Gump upon its release, and all I really recall is that I was just annoyed by it. It may have been the backlash I was feeling before having seen the picture since you couldn’t walk down the street or walk into a restaurant without someone quoting some of the more famous lines from the movie. I finally saw the movie when it hit cable and remember being less than impressed by it based on everything I had heard about it. Yes, Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise and the other principles were good, the plot was novel (and based on the novel by Winston Groom) and it was movie making at its glossy finest, but there was just something else I couldn’t get past and I couldn’t identify it.
I have not seen the movie in its entirety since the time I saw it on cable, so it was a bit revelatory watching it now. The story, focusing on one man, Forrest Gump (Hanks) who is slightly below normal intelligence and how the events in his life interact with the history he was travelling through, shows an amazing bit of film making at work. The picture drips with sentimentality and emotional manipulation, but director Robert Zemeckis, working off a script from Eric Roth, infuses the story with enough wit, such as Forrest’s almost tedious running voice over as a lead in to the story’s events, that we become dazzled by what is happening in front of us. We can’t help but like Forrest, we can’t help but feel sorry for Lt. Dan (Sinise), we can’t help but hope for a happy ending for Jenny (Robin Wright) and we can’t help being happy by the end of the movie.
This is the part where I have to fault the movie: it doesn’t give us a chance to make our own emotional decisions (sounds contradictory, but really, it’s not) since we are battered with the perfect placements of when a character gets sick or dies, tempered with the hope of a new, future path and a bittersweet score to really drive home the point. It mimics the circle of life, or to quote one of the numerous songs in the movie, “A time to live, a time to die”. The story of Forrest Gump could have been placed in any era of our past and it would still resonate with us since the emotion that fuels Forrest is the same emotion that fuels us. While I may find fault with the movie for this manipulation after the fact, I still could not help but get wrapped up in the story and its many emotional beats. There is humor mixed with tragedy, the will to overcome even when the odds seem insurmountable, the freedom of running really fast to our futures even when shit gets in the way. Forrest, while not the smartest man by society’s scale, shows us all the smarts in the world don’t predict success and happiness in one’s life.
Note: I’m 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.
Forrest Gump is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. To borrow one of Forrest’s lines, Paramount’s Sapphire Series has been similar to a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. Braveheart looked great, Gladiator was riddled with DNR. Thankfully, Forrest Gump is far closer to Braveheart than Gladiator! The picture is free of DNR or other sharpening, although edge enhancement is occasionally present. Colors are excellent displaying lush and rich hues and skin tones and remaining lifelike at all times. Black levels were excellent as well and they showed good detail in the shadows. The film itself seems to have been shot just slightly soft, so sharpness is as good as it could have been. Detail remains strong throughout, allowing us to make out the minute bits of set decoration in the backgrounds or the pores of the actors faces in the close-ups. There is a very nice grain structure in the image reminding us of its film based source. The main drawback to the image is that it shows print dirt quite often. While it is not obtrusive, it is noticeable and what may have hidden on DVD is clearly seen here. Still, this is a very nice picture.
The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.
This 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track does great with what is present in the original sound design. A majority of the picture remains in the front channels as it can be a very dialogue driven film. When the songs pop up, they stay true to their stereo roots and present a nice soundstage, as does the soundtrack overall. It isn’t until the Vietnam sequence that the DTS-MA track really kicks in engaging the rest of the channels and creating a very real and powerful audio experience. Directionality is good throughout, but again, everything really comes to life in the Vietnam scenes, with bullets and machine gun fire pinging all over the place and a strong bass line to make you feel the impact to the explosions. Clarity and fidelity is excellent and there was no distortion or dirt noticed in the soundtrack. Voices remained life like throughout.
Two Feature Length Commentaries: one by Director Robert Zemeckis, producer Steve Starkey and production designer Rick Carter, and a second one by producer Windy Finnerman: The first one provides a more fulfilling listening experience with all three participants contributing equally. They do well giving us shooting experiences, how the thematic and story elements made the characters, as well as joke around with one another. Finnerman’s commentary is much slower and would have done better combined with the first one, as she relates similar stories and observations. Both are quite good and well worth the listen.
Musical Signposts to History is introduced by noted Rolling Stone writer/ rock music journalist Ben Fong-Torres and then you can choose this option to get more information on the rock songs playing in the soundtrack. Either via an auto mode or a pop up note, the movie jumps to Fong-Torres, Zemeckis and even some of the artists as they discuss the significance of that song in the movie. This is a cool feature giving us another pseudo commentary.
Greenbow Diary (25:59, HD): the film was shot in various locations in the South Carolina, and this serves as a visual diary of the shoot, spotlighting several key scenes in the movie. Hanks and Zemeckis contribute in this very loose look at what goes on during filming. The way this is presented makes it far more intriguing than the standard behind the scenes doc.
The Art of Screenplay Adaptation (26:58, HD): Novelist Winston Groom and others discuss the challenges behind adaptation of books and the precarious balance between the publishing world and the movie world. Groom took a first stab at the adaptation, and then it went to several other screenwriters finally ending up with Eric Roth. Another interesting and candid piece of the behind-the-scenes processes.
Getting Past Impossible – Forrest Gump and the Visual effects Revolution (27:04, HD) reminds us of how much a technical picture it is with so many scenes dependent on a visual trick to pull them off. Zemeckis is one of the finest technical directors around, embracing cutting edge technology to tell his stories. For Gump, he again relied upon Ken Ralston and ILM as well as the great Doug Chiang (also used by George Lucas in pre-production for the first two Star Wars prequels) to make Forrest’s journey believable. I grow tired of docs on how effects are done, but this one was enjoyable since they were inventing the techniques we are all accustomed to now. Chiang and John Knoll (another SW prequel ILM’er) also give us a great bit of history on how old optical effects were done with an incredible demo reel.
Little Forrest (14:48, HD) has Zemeckis and Hanks discussing the evolution of the character, including the accent and what the child actor who portrayed young Forrest brought to the process.
An Evening with Forrest Gump (55:08), moderated by Elizabeth Daly, Dean of the School of Cinematic Arts at USC, is similar to Inside the Actors Studio. She interviews Zemeckis, Hanks, Sinise and Roth as they discuss the movie in front of a group of grad students. The crowd had just watched the movie with the panel, so it winds up being a very lively and exciting discussion. Daly gives us a good introduction of Zemeckis and his continued involvement with USC. Some of what is discussed in other parts of the special features of the disc is expanded upon here. This group should have done the commentary, but this is a must-watch piece.
Archival Special Features contains the pieces that were on the original DVD release and they are all in SD. The pieces contained here are The Make-up of Forrest Gump (8:03), Through the Ears of Forrest Gump – Sound Design (15:34 total) (five different sequences are dissected by Randy Thom), Building the World of Gump – Production Design (7:18), Seeing is Believing – The Visual Effects of Forrest Gump (approximately 20 minutes) (nine different scenes are shown, including a couple cut scenes), Screen Tests (approximately 9 minutes) (with Michael Conner Humphreys and Hanna R. Hall, who played the young Forrest and Jenny, Robin Wright, and Haley Joel Osment), and finally, two Trailers. Each of the pieces is pretty self explanatory and is comparable to what we’ve seen before in such pieces. I am glad the discs producers chose to give us a far different type of new bonus features instead of just expanding on what was already done.
Bonus Features: *****/*****
Paramount has done an exceptional job with this release, giving a wonderful movie the audio and video treatment it deserves, as well as an incredible and interesting set of extras. I hope this type of work continues to be the level at which we’ll be getting future Sapphire Series releases. This disc comes