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Across The Universe (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Just missing its tenth anniversary, Julie Taymor’s visionary Beatles-infused musical, Across the Universe will land itself on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format in the second week of January.  The film, nominated for an Academy Award in the category of costume design, was met with mixed reviews upon its delayed release by critics. It wasn’t a box office smash by any means either, but seemingly found some life and fandom in the home video afterlife as well as landing it on more than a few critics end of the year top 10 lists. Whatever your thoughts, there’s no doubt this movie is a terrific candidate for the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. You can check it out for yourself by putting in a pre-order in the Amazon link at the bottom to have it on its street date, January 9th.

Film 

A revolutionary rock musical that re-imagines America in the turbulent late-1960s, a time when battle lines were being drawn at home and abroad. When young dockworker Jude leaves Liverpool to find his estranged father in America, he is swept up by the waves of change that are re-shaping the nation. Jude falls in love with Lucy, a rich but sheltered American girl who joins the growing anti-war movement in New York’s Greenwich Village. As the body count in Vietnam rises, political tensions at home spiral out of control and the star-crossed lovers find themselves in a psychedelic world gone mad.

Across The Universe is a wonderful, visual splendor tribute to the music of The Beatles and the era with which they were made popular in. The film takes a whirlwind journey through the last bit of youth and loss of innocence that came with our country in the wake of events like the Detroit riots and of course, the Vietnam war. We follow through the eyes of an visitor from Liverpool as he sees siblings from a perfect well-to-do family split and changed due to the events of American history. Many others fill in with other subplots, but that’s really the main follow.

Julie Taymor has put together a musical spectacle that is not only respectful to the music, but it allows for new interpretations on the songs we’ve all known and loved for over 50 years. Something that might have once been fun and happy now might take a darker or more somber turn; Having “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” turned into an anti-draft number. Others, like “Let It Be” may take on the same message, but of a bigger more in the moment type calling. Its accompanied by dance numbers and choreography, that in a brilliant way go from soft folksy real bits, progressively getting more psychedelic and zany to ultimately coming back to a grounded more gritty bit of honesty the same way The Beatles’ output went from the Help/Rubber Soul era to Let It Be. All the dancing, backdrops and effects also look like nothing out of place and are perfectly fitting of the era.

While the film has a throughline story and characters of importance, The Beatles’ history is also on the mind of Julie Taymor as well.  Some things here are a bit more obvious and I’ll be honest, there are some very on the nose and cringeworthy bits in here. I get having the characters named after people in songs, but the obvious way they introduce them borders on embarrassing. A few songs also feel a bit forced in here and there (But honestly, the more Beatles music the better). But for all that, there are also plenty of easter eggs thrown in throughout the thing like the John and Yoko Rolling Stone cover pose or the man telling Jude that he thought he’d be done with work and all then when he’s 64. Its a fun little puzzle that helps bring much value to rewatching it.

Across The Universe is about 135 minutes but it goes by like a real breeze. We follow these characters through a few years of their lives but it all blends and bleeds into everything else so naturally, you never feel the weight. Is there some bit of pretension in here? Yeah, probably, but its kinda hard to to have some considering the music, era and subject matter. The film has some wonderful spin on songs and some wonderful visuals and choreography to accompany it. While there’s celebration going on here and fun, the film is also never afraid to go dark or shy away from ugly truths of history. I’m not saying this is the greatest film in the world, but its deserving of much more recognition than it received upon release.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p) HDR10

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Across the Universe transfers over to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray as a native 4K title. It retains a nice, filmic look it it that includes plenty of strong detail with a good crisp image. When brighter and well lit, this thing looks quite sharp and crisp. Also, as the colors let loose and burst during the more psychadelic music moments, as does your HDR. One little ding I have for this, is that sometimes a scene will look too dim. Take example a scene outside between Lucy and her mother in the garden. Its a nice bright day outside, but yet on the characters it looks much darker than you would expect. It may just be due to the nature of using natural blacks and that’s how its supposed to be. It happens minimally, and isn’t really a big issue overall, but should be noted.

Depth:  With the 4K uptick, this one has a real nice three dimensional appeal and sense of spacing between foreground and background. Movements are natural and featuring no distortions. Sweeping camera movements are most appealing, especially when Jim Sturgess is on the building singing by himself in the end.

Black Levels: Blacks are natural and well saturated. As mentioned above, there are some scenes that this effect has things looking a bit more dim than you would see on the standard Blu-ray. No crushing witnessed during the review watch.

Color Reproduction: Natural colors appear bold and quite strong. The psychadelic moments is where this thing really bursts off your screen. At first the HDR gives you just some nice sparks, cigarette cherries and car lights here and there, only to have the bowling sequence start setting this off with purples, greens, reds and everything just bursting all round that would later come into play with the Bono and Mr. Kite sequences.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent for the most part. Some of those more dim moments mentioned can have people looking a hair redder in moments. Facial features comes through quite clear from medium and close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), English Audio Descriptive Service, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Russian 5.1 VO Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin American) 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian

Dynamics: Sony delivers Across the Universe with an absolutely wonderful and impressive new Atmos track. Between the action and big musical numbers, things have been registered and expertly placed around the room for great ingenuity and fun surprises that come out in the mix.

Height: There are a lot of uses for the ceiling here in the mix. From bowling balls to helicopters, the sound effects take to the ceiling when appropriate. The musical numbers will tend to throw the chorus from above as well as some good signature instrumental moments. One of the most fun songs with the mix ends up being “Happiness Is  A Warm Gun”. I’d say that’s one to instantly skip to if you want to know what you’re in store for.

Low Frequency Extension: Beats from the music, gunfire, explosions, balls rolling down lanes, engines humming and your typical doors closing and that kind of affair keep your sub working.

Surround Sound Presentation: If you didn’t get the hint from the Height section, this one has been expertly thought out and the sound distribute for the best impact. It checks all the appropriate boxes on accuracy, but also spins around has fun with some more wild card moments. All channels are worked in for both individuality and contributions to ambiance.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clear and crisp with great attention to diction. Impressively, the transition from conversation to singing is almost seamless.

Extras 

Across The Universe comes with the Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy. All extras are found on the standard Blu-ray disc.

Blu-ray Disc

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Julie Taymor and Composer Elliot Goldenthal

Creating The Universe (HD, 29:09)

Stars of Tomorrow (HD, 27:07)

All About the Music (HD, 15:24)

Moving Across The Universe (HD, 9:03)

FX of The Universe (HD, 6:35)

Extended Musical Performances (HD, 34:54)

Deleted Scenes – And I Love Her (HD, :52)

Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite (HD, 5:42)

Don Nace Art Gallery

Summary 

Across The Universe is a beautiful little tribute to the music of The Beatles and the loss of innocence that came with the 1960s in the US.  And its crazy because ultimately this wonderful phenomenon that made people incredibly happy also happened during a time of this country’s darkest moments. What once may have been an escape from all of this, is now used to help tell the story. Sony’s 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut of Julie Taymor’s film is an impressive one, with some great video and an incredibly fun Atmos track. You get all the really good extras from before as well. If you’re a Beatles collector or a fan of the film, its an easy pick up. And if you maybe weren’t big on this film before, its worth another look.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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