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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Comedy > Literature > Racism > Time > The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008/Paramount/Criterion Blu-ray + DVD Sets)

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008/Paramount/Criterion Blu-ray + DVD Sets)


Picture: B/C+†††† Sound: B/B-†††† Extras: B-†††† Film: B-



For many years, David Fincher was considered an alternate voice of some note in mainstream filmmaking and even worthy of Kubrickís work, but as he has been going for all-digital feature production, there has been a noticeable shift in his approach.You can see it when you compare two of his best similar features: Se7en and Zodiac.But with The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008), a shift in a different direction that began to show itself in Panic Room has bloomed here and with mixed results.


At 165 minutes, this story is slow to unfold and wants to have a deliberately slow pace so the storyline can be an experience and work on its audience.Fincher once again teams up with Brad Pitt, who is really good in this film as the title character until his character turns intoÖ Brad Pitt.Essentially, the film is not unlike Forrest Gump or Falling Down in that it is about a man who travels through American history, the first unaffected by it, the second very much affected by it.The Eric Roth/Robin Swicord adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story is about a man in an earlier history who is born in what seems like a birth defect, grows to be a senior citizen, then ages backwards.There is the man (Elias Koteas) who builds a clock that goes backwards and time twisted becomes a theme, along with history challenged and racism (i.e., ideas counter to it) are also at the heart of this story.


Cate Blanchett plays the love in his life, Julia Ormond is the woman who learns of the upside down history in flashback and in a way that is too safe on some level (especially for a Fincher film), while Taraji P. Henson, Tilda Swinton, Jason Flemyng, Jared Harris and an amazing cast across the board to deliver fine performances.When I first saw it, I enjoyed it and was impressed, yet there was something that was not settled with me and that is how it is the least bold of Fincherís films, as if one of his many endings that do not know how to end a film was expanded into most of what is here.


Then there is the virtual world he wants to create that is contrary to most of his films and it is not an improvement in any major way.If anything, the digital world he is forging seems like a step backwards and may make him more acceptable to Hollywood (this is his most successful work at awards time) but is atypical of some key themes in his work.They may be here, but are secondary to the virtual Fincher that has arisen.Whether this is just an anomaly is another story, but Fincher is an auteur and this does not change that.Is he abandoning himself, his themes or trying to go into new directions and not repeat himself?


As for the content of the story, it is interesting enough and this is worth seeing once, though you may not want to sit through it again, so be well-rested in case you have the same reaction this writer did.Then again, you might like it more.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was mostly recreated in digital High Definition, though some scenes were still shot in 35mm film.Like the Wall-E Blu-ray, there are shots here that looked better when I saw them in 35mm film, but the transfer is faithful to the digital work.Too bad there is more motion blur here and detail issues than when I saw it in 35mm, so donít expect this to look like Cars and for that matter, I thought Blu-rays of HD shoots like The Bank Job, Before The Devil Knows Youíre Dead and Youth Without Youth looked better, though Director of Photography Claudio Miranda is going for a sepia-toned style and faked scratched film are intended to look older.The anamorphically enhanced DVD was weaker in all departments, including Video Black and the sepia looks a bit paler since DVD cannot handle Video Red like Blu-ray.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio lossless) 5.1 mix was remixed for home theaters and it does not sound as good as it did in my 35mm presentation, while the Dolby Digital 5.1 in both cases is even that much weaker.Criterion does Dolby 5.1 as well as anyone, but the sound here has ambience and some good surrounds, yet is not as good as I remembered it and the DTS exclusive to the Blu-ray is better, but not the revelation I was expecting.Alexandre Desplatís score is a highlight of the mix.


Extras in both formats include several still galleries, three making of featurettes covering costumes, art direction and storyboarding), Pitt & Blanchett interviews, Fincher audio commentary, two pieces on the visual effects and make-up and a booklet inside the case with tech information and an essay by Kent Smith.


Criterion has issued Fincher films before (The Game was LaserDisc-only so far and Se7en was issued directly by New Line with all the Criterion extras on New Line DVD) but this is the first one to make it to DVD by them and certainly the first on Blu-ray.They did a great job and now you can see for yourself.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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