What can I say? I love 3D! From the moment I began watching 3D content in my home I quickly discovered that I needed more content. I suspect that those of you just purchasing your first 3D hardware will acquire the same ferocious appetite. That's why I became the HTF 3D ADDICT. I personally love images that pop off the screen and come inches away from your face without becoming overly gimmicky. However, I certainly appreciate the nature documentaries that offer beautiful depth and separation. These are not necessarily reviews of the film themselves. I am not going to concentrate on story or supplements -- you can find the 2D reviews elsewhere on this forum. My job is to let you know exactly what kind of 3D experience to expect from the titles that are being released. As I will be receiving a handful of new product from the studios expect to see more title coverage.
Studio: Warner Bros.
Product Release: February 25, 2014
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Running Time: 91 minutes
On A Scale 0-5
Overall 3D Presentation Rating: 5
3D Separation: 5
3D In Yo' Face Factor: 3
Life In Space Is Impossible
Note: Discussion of particular 3D sequences will most likely serve as spoilers for
those who have not yet seen this film. Proceed with caution.
So many HTF members, many of which are probably reading this review right now,
had urged me to experience GRAVITY theatrically. I am not the kind of person who
enjoys the theatrical experience, so unfortunately, that never happened. Oddly, I
was at the Dolby screening room in NYC yesterday for a press event where we were
shown a 2D clip of the film. The scene in question is where Houston alerts the mission
specialists of a pending emergency, and as satellite debris rushes in, one of the astronauts
is suddenly hit and hurtled into space. Watching even a piece of this film for the first
time, with mounting intensity on the screen and the panning of panicked voices across
the theater in Dolby Atmos surround, I found my heart pace suddenly quickening. When
the clip ended and the theater lights came up, most everyone in the audience let out an
audible gasp. We had just seen something quite remarkable on that screen. I could
not wait to get back home knowing that a screener copy had just arrived in my mailbox.
I am going to refer back to that Dolby Atmos presentation a little later in my review.
First, let's talk a little about the film itself. On the surface, Gravity is a simple, yet
electrifying human adventure about survival in space. However, as a whole, the
film is no doubt a Hollywood game changer and technological achievement for Director
Alfonso Cuarón and his team of visual and audio artists who have created not just a
film, but a very intimate and emotional experience.
As the film opens, we find mission specialists Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt
Kowalski (George Clooney) hovering above the earth, as they make repairs to the Hubble
space telescope. There's some initial amusement to be had about Kowalski wisecracking
over the radio with Houston, as he effortlessly drifts in empty space. However, things
suddenly go terribly wrong when Houston suddenly issues a warning that field of debris from
a blown Russian satellite are hurtling towards them at the speed of a bullet. The onrush of
debris destroys the shuttle and crew onboard, leaving Stone and Kowalski on their own, fighting
to survive in an environment unsuitable for survival.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki expertly uses the camera both traditionally and digitally
to convey the sudden calamity of the stranded astronauts within the emptiness of space as they
scramble to grab on to whatever wreckage they can. With amazing attention given to visual detail,
supported with a heart-wrenching score from composer Steven Price, Gravity becomes a survival
story like none other you have ever experienced...
...and for the very first time ever, this becomes a survival story that the audience endures as
much as the characters on-screen, thanks to its 3D visuals and placement of sound that makes
everything seem completely real.
Fortunately, this very personal experience seems to have translated quite well to the home
viewing environment, though I am a little perplexed as to why Warner stopped short of pulling
out all the stops on this Blu-ray release. I'll explain more in a bit.
Visually, Gravity is stunning to watch. This is a flawless, razor-sharp, 1080p transfer with
unprecedented levels of detail. You'll marvel alongside Clooney as he gazes at the gorgeous
blue earth set against the deep blackness of space. The level of 3D doesn't quite live up to
what I had initially hoped for, but then again, I'm starting to accept the fact that there aren't as
many 3D purists out there as myself and perhaps my expectations these days have been set
unrealistically high. In all, the level of depth and separation is quite good. It's not as
exaggerated as I would have liked, but it does look completely natural. What viewers will notice
most when donning eyewear is the layering of effects that range from rays of sunlight and
sunspots to gauge notifications and smudges from within Sandra Bullock's helmet. The most
important aspect of watching this film in 3D is how it conveys the size of objects within the vastness
of space. There's a scene early on where Bullock, appearing as a mere speck, is spinning endlessly
within infinity. Later, there are two memorable 3D moments aboard separate space capsules where
objects float in and out of frame. I personally prefer the level of 3D during the sequence aboard the
abandoned Russian capsule, which we see later in the film, as Bullock frantically races through its
narrow passages in hopes of escaping a fiery disaster.
What personally disappointed me about the 3D experience of Gravity was the near absence of
forward projection. I had really hoped that the visual artists would have allowed more objects
to move outside of the viewing area. Within the entire film, I can only remember two moments
where projection is evident. One involves a loose bolt and wrench that float slightly outward.
Another, much more prominent at the 1-hour mark, involves a water molecule (perhaps a
teardrop) that floats slowly forward and quietly hovers within the space that lies between display
Crosstalk/Ghosting? Not a hint of it to be seen anywhere -- even in objects being rushed
towards the viewer.
In all, I can't be disappointed by the level of 3D. It is only but a part of the sum of the total
presentation (which I will talk more about next). Let's just say that some posted comments
by HTF members led me to believe that that there would be many exaggerated levels of
pop-out (which there isn't), while other comments suggested there was absolutely no forward
projection (which there indeed is).
So, let's move on to the audio presentation of Gravity which deserves just as much merit as
the visual. Yesterday, while at a Dolby presentation, I was reminded of a quote that George
Lucas made after completing his Star Wars saga. He said, "Sound is only half the picture."
After having just watched this film partly in Dolby Atmos and completely in 5.1 DTS-HD, I can
confidently say that this presentation exceeds that ratio.
I don't think I have ever been so moved by film audio as much as I have with this mix created
by sound editor Glenn Freemantle and sound recording mixer Skip Lievsay and the manner
in which it is spread across the entire soundscape theatrically and (much lesser so) in the home.
This is something that you not only hear....but feel. Every mood is related through the use of
music and elaborate sound effects across every single channel. At times, such as in the film's
opening moments when Houston is relaying warnings of pending disaster, the audio channels are
completely crammed with chatter. Voices move from one speaker to another in a single instant,
and then back again. Then, there are moments of terrifying, complete silence with the exception
of the sound of a single heartbeat, pounded out in the LFE channel. The soundtrack conveys an
often eerie feeling that I have never experienced in film before. Even at its noisiest levels,
dialogue manages to come across with complete clarity. While I feel spoiled by having heard
some of this in a Dolby Atmos setting, I am not disappointed with the down mix on my 5.1 system.
....but this is the kind of film that would have compelled anyone (including myself) to upgrade
their system to 7.1, and yet, Warner has totally botched this Blu-ray release with just a 5.1 mix.
This is something that totally makes no sense to me whatsoever. You take one of the best film
mixes of all time, give it the Atmos treatment theatrically, then strip it down to its barest essentials
with just a 5.1 mix. Not the way I would treat a film that will probably walk away with Oscars for
its sound mix.
Damn you, Warner! I would have gladly gone out this weekend and purchased two additional
speakers just to hear this film in 7.1. Why did you botch up this disc's audio presentation?
Gravity arrives as a 3-Disc Blu-ray Combo (Blu-ray 3D+Blu-ray 2D+DVD and Digital HD
Ultraviolet). The two Blu-ray discs are grouped together on a single spindle. The package
is housed with an attractive 3D lenticular cardboard cover.
Gravity Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and 2-Disc Standard Definition DVD
Special Edition contain the following special features (not reviewed):
* Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space (Narrated by Ed Harris)
* Aningaa1 - A Short Film buy Jonás Cuarón
* Gravity Mission Control
* Shot Breakdowns
* Sandra's Surprise!
There are no trailers at the start of the 3D disc. This is preferable to viewers like myself
who would rather get to the main feature as quickly as possible.
Having watched GRAVITY on 3D Blu-ray, I have had to take a step back and re-examine
my expectations when it comes to the kind of elaborate over-the-top 3D that I prefer and
rate these films upon. I have come to realize that the 3D aspect is only half the sum of the
total presentation itself. When you marry it with one of the most complex sound mixes ever
created for film, you can't help but marvel at its completeness. This a film filled with visual
and sonic layers, brilliantly crafted together, to make this a sensory experience like none
other you have had before.
Ignore my breakdown scores. The total sum of the presentation ranks this as the best
3D title currently available. If you own a 3D display, this belongs in your collection.
Images are for illustrative purpose only not representative of the picture quality of this disc.
Samsung PN64F8500 display professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen, Lion AV
Oppo BDP-93 3D Blu-ray Player
Denon 3311CI Receiver
Atlantic Technology H-PAS AT-1 fronts, 4400 center; 4200 rear speakers
SV Sound Subwoofer