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A Trip to the Moon (Blu-ray Review)

Here’s a bit of “shock and awe” brought to the world of Blu-ray in the classic A Trip to the Moon conceived and executed by Georges Melies back in 1902. If my math is correct that would mean that A Trip to the Moon is 110 years old. It’s about time the Blu-ray Gods rained down some releases of this caliber and Flicker Alley has done the film world a great service by presenting A Trip to the Moon in the highest possible quality for the consumer. A massive restoration took place by various companies working together with original elements to bring the luster back to a film that had seen better days. Not only that, but Flicker Alley has thrown in some special features, an awesome tin case, and more. Entrez!

 

Film

It’s kind of odd to try and explain what A Trip to the Moon is about, because it’s in the title. Let me try and see if I can do it without giving too much away. Wink.

A Trip to the Moon is about an old astronomer – slash – professor who envisions going to the moon, but is quickly ridiculed for his audaciousness at the concept. Undeterred, he sets off on the creation of a rocket that will launch him and his team into the moon. He will come across weird and strange life on the moon and in the end will be a celebrated hero.

See, there’s nothing  deep about A Trip to the Moon. It plays by its standard 3-4 acts, but it’s the execution of the film and its amazing special effects that still dazzle audiences more than a century later. Georges Melies was a writer, designer, producer, director, etc., and to put it lightly, the original Robert Rodriguez in that he did every single thing himself. He had his own studio where he created cinematic magic. In fact, Melies has influenced Hollywood and filmmakers for so long that Martin Scorsese made him a major character in the masterpiece that was Hugo . He was also a pretty good technical director. He knew how to edit, use dissolves, zoom, and all of his special effects were done in-camera.

The mystique of A Trip to the Moon lies in that the film is over 100 years old and has been brought back from the dead, not that it ever was dead or out of circulation, but that the film materials were close to it. No color copies of A Trip to the Moon were thought to have existed until one was discovered in the early 90’s. The technology was not there to do a proper restoration, so the film was stored electronically for later use.

With their powers combined, in 2010, three companies (Lobster Films, Technicolor Foundation, and Foundation for Cinema Heritage) took on the task of restoring A Trip to the Moon. Armed with the latest technology they set out by restoring each frame – all 13,375 of them and then painting each cell by hand, as well. In addition to the painstaking process that the film went through, a new score was commissioned featuring French music group AIR. The overall result is pure magic!

I’ll go on record and say that A Trip to the Moon is one of the best and most important releases of the year. It’s not only a whimsical tale about adventure, but it’s a lot of fun and the package that it’s presented in is stellar. This is what Blu-ray is all about and I really hope that film fans everywhere get a chance to scoop up this release. It does say that it’s a LIMITED EDITION, but I’m not sure if that’s in reference to the packaging or the product itself. I wouldn’t risk it if I were you. Go forth and get a copy NOW!

Video

A trip to the Moon is presented in 1.33:1, full screen format. No, the film will never look like it did back in 1902, but with the advances in film restoration technology, the wizards at these preservation companies can make the film look almost as good as it did over one hundred years ago. The film was restored frame-by-frame; all 13,375 frames of it. The scenes that have color in them have each been painted by hand. The color tint enhances the film wonderfully. Considering the film is this old you should also not expect that it will look like a film of today. You can see its age, but you should have seen how looked untreated. It’s astonishing that these artisans were able to do as much as they did with the materials at hand. A Trip to the Moon looks phenomenal.

Audio

A Trip to the Moon is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. as is the Extraordinary Voyage documentary. The rest of the supplements are presented in 2.0. The French music group AIR has composed a score specifically for the release of the restored and color tinted version of A Trip to the Moon, and in my personal opinion, it rocks. Yes, I am a purist for the most part, but I do find the contemporary score to work well with the material here. I know some of the hardcore will scoff and wonder why Air was chosen to compose the track for such an iconic film as opposed to just remastering some of the scores that have been used down through the years. Formalities, I guess. All of the instruments are perfectly balanced and never try to “outsound” one another, and the LFE stays warm without getting too far ahead.

* Please note that one of the bonus feature audio options on the Blu-ray disc of our limited SteelBook edition — A Trip to the Moon in B&W Audio Option 1, featuring Robert Israel’s orchestral score and the original English narration written by Georges Melies — is currently missing its narration track and only features Robert Israel’s orchestral score – All Blu-ray discs shipped at this time will be with this orchestral score only configuration.

This only affects the Blu-ray disc of this set. The DVD disc in this publication contains the audio for this bonus feature as described on the packaging.

We are in the process of remastering and remanufacturing a Blu-ray disc which will have the English narration/Robert Israel’s orchestral score configuration for this particular bonus feature. If interested, we will make it available, by request, to customers who fill out our on-line Disc Replacement Form HERE.

Extras

A Trip to the Moon is fully loaded with special features that include some of Georges Melies other films in addition the a great documentary focusing on the history of the film in addition the restoration of the project. It’s both fascinating and entertaining all at the same time. There’s a 25 page booklet included and the set is housed in a nifty steelbook case.

 

  • The Extraordinary Voyage – features interviews with contemporary filmmakers: Costa Gavras, Michel Gondry, Michael Hazanavicius, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet on Milies’ enduring significance to cinema
  • A Trip to the Moon – B&W edition restored from original 35mm elements with two separate audio tracks of music – an orchestral score by Robert Israel (minus the English narration as stated above); and a second track produced by Russell Merritt consisting of actors voicing various characters as performed in the U.S. in 1903, with piano music by Frederick Hodges.
  • Interview with the group AIR discussing the soundtrack.
  • Two lunar-related shorts by Georges Melies – The Eclipse (1904) and The Astronomer’s Dream (1898)
  • DVD Presentation

Summary

A Trip to the Moon is an important piece of cinema that revolutionized the way people saw films and plays in an almost prophetic way considering we didn’t land on the moon until 60 years after the release of the film, but by then, Melies had already been there. Flicker Alley has done a fantastic job in bringing A Trip to the Moon to the masses and with the exception of the omitted narration of one of the special features, the Blu-ray package is amazing. Here’s hoping that the Georges Melies deluxe box-set gets the Blu-ray treatment soon. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

 

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

1 Response to “A Trip to the Moon (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    Nice and thorough detail in your review!