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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Spy > Austin Powers Trilogy (Warner/New Line Blu-ray)

Austin Powers Trilogy (Warner/New Line Blu-ray)


Picture: B/B+/B     Sound: B     Extras: C-/C/C     Films: C+/C/C-



A send-up of the original era of Spy films, Mike Myers’ Austin Powers debuted as a confused secret agent whose innocence and goofiness endeared him to viewers as the humor was as outrageous and bizarre as possible.  If you were a fan of the James Bond films, you got some of the in-jokes and the more you knew about Spy films and the British side of 1960s counterculture and pop culture, the wittier the films turned out to be.  Like Bond films of the 1970s, the sequels expanded their purview to later eras of pop culture and three films have resulted so far.


Austin Powers – International Man Of Mystery debuted in 1997 as the Spy genre was returning after a post-Cold War hiatus.  A moderate hit, Powers finds out he has been left frozen for three decades and wakes up to find a changed world, even if his world view is dated and problematic.  The first film has some wit and ironic distance the sequels lack, with ideas over broad humor and possibly the sense that no sequels were expected.  Elizabeth Hurley played his partner, Michael York was a perfect British counterpart to Austin revived and however limited, the film worked.  So that meant a potential series could become cleverer or go for broad humor, plus expand on the trendy gross humor on the upswing and it chose the latter.


Austin Powers – The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) did that with a vengeance and was not only a bigger hit, but established a lucrative franchise, pairing Myers with then up-and-coming Heather Graham in a film that had a few laughs, but did not hold as well together as a film.  Despite a weak storyline, the laughs and gross outrages were enough for fans and most were happy.  The highlight was putting Myers in a fat suit and calling him Fat Bastard, which has more mileage than it should, but only works while you watch it.  Maybe the series could recover on another film?


Austin Powers - Goldmember (2002) was the first post-9/11 film in what looks to be a continuing series, especially with the big business this one did.  This time, the tile was too close for the real-life bond producers, who sued and cut a deal where they got royalty compensation, but the film some more laughs than the last.  Yet, the script was the weakest yet and the addition of 1970s-era icons (Disco Music, Blaxploitation, etc.) was amusing, but it did not necessarily fit what was established to begin with.  The opening is a hoot and the money spent is on the screen, while Myers continues his Donald Pleasance/Blofeld inspired Dr. Evil character.  The film also has the worst ending of the three, but Beyoncé Knowles and Michael Caine are a plus here.



Now that the films have sent up all the counterculture they could bash, I can’t imagine where Myers could take the series and with so much bad after 9/11, can this still be funny?  Will he be able to go after the 1980s?  Either way, the films have their fans and are very popular, which is why they are getting this high profile Blu-ray release.  So are they improved over the previous DVDs?



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot in Super 35mm in all three cases and are not bad in all three cases, but Shagged Me (by Director of Photography Ueli Steiger) looks the best of the three and the other two (by Director of Photography Peter Deming, A.S.C.) should have looked better considering the advanced color pallet these films are so known for.  They are all better than their previous low-def versions, but I was a little disappointed.


The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes on all three are the about equal, with many dialogue-based comedy moments that do not call for major surrounds, but they do kick in with George S. Clinton’s score or other sound effects.  Older home theater fans will remember that the first film was a DTS 12” LaserDisc and the TrueHD here is not that different from the DTS disc, but the mix was never anything outstanding.  The sequels only sound marginally better as the films become more recent.  This is about what I expected here, though some of this could have also been better.


Extras on all three include original theatrical trailers, deleted scenes and feature length audio commentary tracks by Myers and Director Jay Roach.  Co-Writer Michael McCullers joins them on Shagged Me, which also adds 4 Music Videos, Comedy Central Dr. Evil Story show and a behind-the-scenes featurette gallery.  On Goldmember, there are four more new Music Videos, documentary gallery in four parts and six making–of featurettes.  These tend to be as entertaining as the actual films and thanks to Blu-ray’s easier access (the Fact Track on Goldmember is a plus) puts it far ahead of the DVDs.  Many were so impressed with all the extras on the DVD of the first film, but that all seems dated with the arrival of the Blu-ray versions.


This is still for fans only, but for the most part, they’ll be happy with the set.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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