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
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.
The Greatness of Gatsby
The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby
The Jazz Age
Razzle Dazzle: The Fashion of
Within and Without with Tobey
5 short featurettes that
dissect 5 key scenes and demonstrate how Luhrmann went from novel to film
Despite my gripes on the outlandish
superfluous nature of Luhrmann, the film remains very well done and truly worth
Michael P. Dougherty II