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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > Gilded Age > Great Depression > Comedy > Surrealism > Musical > The Great Gatsby (2013/Warner Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD & Ultraviolet Copy)

The Great Gatsby (2013/Warner Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD & Ultraviolet Copy)

 

3D Picture: B+     2D Picture: B+/B     Sound: B+/B+/B     Extras: C     Film: B

 

I was excited to see Baz Luhrmann’s journey to bring The Great Gatsby to life on film.  Others had tried in the past to varying degrees of success, but Luhrmann has a unique way of twisting tales into something new and interesting without destroying the template.  With Luhrmann’s venture into Shakespeare with Romeo + Juliette along with his musically infused romp into prostitution with Moulin Rogue, I had high hopes that he could transform THE great American novel into a great American film.

 

It is extremely hard to summate The Great Gatsby, which is perhaps why it has always been a daunting task for any film maker willing to tackle it; yet here we are.  The Great Gatsby focuses on Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he makes a name for himself in the roaring ‘20s.  The film is inspired by the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of the same name and idealizes the glitz, glamour, and excess of the 1920s; with Jay Gatsby being its poster child.  Not before long, however, we discover that the glitz and glamour are only skin deep.  The film is told through the eyes of Gatsby’s neighbor Nick (Tobey McGuire) who idealizes the eccentric, lavish, self-made man who has a questionable past.  Gatsby is notorious throughout town and his over the top parties, intended to draw in his long lost love Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), only make stand to may him more infamous.

 

Of course since this is a Baz Luhrmann film everything is over the top and the combination of the lavish 1920s and Jay Gatsby’s personality stood as the perfect canvas for Luhrmann’s own sensory overdrive style.  Luhrmann obviously respects Fitzgerald and his original work as the script is extremely faithful to the novel, but the imagery is where film and literature seem to depart.  This is not a bad thing, but more so convoluted.  Luhrmann enjoys being over the top so we spend about half the film focusing on excess…well…excess.  There are parties, lights, fast dancing, and everything in between; muddying the waters of a brilliant script, but concurrently not damaging.  The best way I can describe it is it is a “Luhrmann film,” so audiences should come to expect everything and the kitchen sink.

 

The film is a mix of modern day music (like the stylings of Jay-Z) and classic 1920’s glitz and glam.  I would like to say it is a fine balance, but in actuality the modern Hip Hop (whereas fun and entertaining) distracts from the otherwise brilliant storyline.  The film continually teeters back and forth between a brilliant retelling and an out of control glitz-fest.  If Luhrmann would have been more restrained (which we knew wouldn’t happen) the film could have been one of the great adaptations.  All of this is NOT to say the film was bad, on the contrary it was quite enjoyable.  Though unrestrained the film holds true to the source material, allows a very faithful recreation of the 1920’s land of excess, and a dazzling cast that made the most of their time.

 

The cast is astonishingly good with McGuire, DiCaprio, Mulligan, and Joel Edgerton (as Daisy’s husband) all at the top of their game.  I watched in awe as every word passed their lips.  So with such a solid, youthful, talented cast I throw the derailment in Luhrmann’s lap.  An enjoyable attempt but the excess about the excess left the film a bit longwinded at times; doing more harm than good.

 

The film’s technical features are very good.  The picture is a 2.4 X 1, 1080p, AVC encoded, MPEG-4 that is available here on both Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D.  The Blu-ray 3D did not add much to the film, but was well done; with the colors, and clarity adequately amped up so the film would not suffer a dulled presentation.  The 3D had minimal blur during the more fast paced sequences.  The 3D was not necessary when watching the standard Blu-ray and seems to have been a gimmick that in the end may have even taken away from the tale.  The Blu-ray (standard) has a crisp, clean, clear image that pops with bright colors and framing, inky blacks.  The film flaunts flesh tones, solid textures, and supreme detail.  At times the imagery is a bit (intentionally) over the top; but we have already discussed that.  The sound is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio that uses the full speaker range and doesn’t get lost in even the most chaotic scenes which is surprising.  Dialogue is clean and clear with a track that is adequately prioritized.

 

The DVD (when compared to 3D and standard Blu-ray) is bland and mutes the color and sound that Luhrmann had intended; Blu-ray is the way to go, upgrade now.

 

The extras consist of short featurettes that don’t add much to the film(I am expecting a Special Edition on the horizon), but nice to look at nevertheless.  Extras include:

·         Featurettes

o        The Greatness of Gatsby

o        The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby

o        The Jazz Age

o        Razzle Dazzle: The Fashion of the 20’s

o        Within and Without with Tobey McGuire

o        Gatsby Revealed

§         5 short featurettes that dissect 5 key scenes and demonstrate how Luhrmann went from novel to film

·         Theatrical Trailer

Despite my gripes on the outlandish superfluous nature of Luhrmann, the film remains very well done and truly worth a look.

 

 

-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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