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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Into the Wild [Blu-ray]

(Sean Penn, 2007)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

US Studio: Paramount

French Video: Fox Pathe Europa

 

Blu-ray Discs: Region FREE

Feature Runtime: 2:28:07 (on both)

Chapters: 34

French Feature film disc size: 24.2 Gig

US Feature film disc size: 43.22 Gig

US Disc Size: 45,760,692,518 bytes

Both dual-layered Blu-rays

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

French Release date: July 16th, 2008

US Release date: December 16th, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1 (both)

 

US Average Bitrate: 38.91 Mbps!

 

 

 

French Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master 5.1, TrueHD 5.1, DUBs: French DTS-HD Master 5.1, TrueHD 5.1

 

US Audio:
Dolby TrueHD Audio English 3140 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3140 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
DUB: Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
DUB: Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps

French edition Subtitles:
Feature: French (mandatory for English language selected dialogue)

US edition Subtitles:
Feature: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, none

 

French edition Supplements:

Braving Alaska - National Geographic Special (Narrated in English by Martin Sheen) 51:55

Press Conference with Penn, Hirsch 37:52 (questions in French translated to English - so he could answer)

Featurette: Into the Wild: The Story, The Characters (4:3 letterboxed - interlaced - mandatory French subtitles) - 21:53
• Featurette: Into the Wild: The Experience - 17:19
• Theatrical trailer (2:32)
Sean Penn Into the Wild 20:08 (mandatory French subtitles)

 

US edition Supplements:

• Featurette: Into the Wild: The Story, The Characters (4:3 letterboxed - interlaced) - 21:53
• Featurette: Into the Wild: The Experience - 17:19

• Theatrical trailer in HD (2:32)


 

Product Description: This is the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch). Freshly graduated from college with a promising future ahead, McCandless instead walked out of his privileged life and into the wild in search of adventure. What happened to him on the way transformed this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people -- a fearless risk-taker who wrestled with the precarious balance between man and nature...

 

 

 

The Film: In Sean Penn's first three helmed efforts - The Indian Runner (1991), The Crossing Guard (1995), and The Pledge (2001) - each project seemed to advance upon each other - improving in the areas of pace, visual treatment and encapsulation and expression of subtext. My anticipation to view Into the Wild was skyrocketing upon first hearing of the production. This was especially true as, later, a good friend, (who sees over 150 films a year in theatres), stated that it was the best he had seen in 2007. Now that I have had the opportunity to view it (three times!) I enthusiastically agree (and yes, I have seen There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men). Into the Wild is up for Academy Award accolades in Best Achievement in Editing and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Hal Holbrook). The fact that it was not nominated for Best Picture or Penn for Best Director is only further proof at how ridiculously unremarkable achieving that statuette has become. It has evolved itself to be as worthless and meaningless as a Grammy. Just another 'celebrity' glad-handing ceremony of pomposity and flashy hollowness. Anyway...

 

Into the Wild is based on the best-selling, true story, book by Jon Krakauer. Its highest achieving ideal in the film is how faithfully it expresses the meaning of the protagonist's adventure - reaffirming a spirit of dropping out, lack of caution, and escaping from the dissatisfaction of society's goals and selfish aims. Hippie-esq indeed. Christopher McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp) is played with quiet zeal by Emile Hirsch - who was recently touted as being 'one of the futures of American acting'. This is a visually appealing road-picture with frequent flashbacks and unique montages explaining McCandless' motivations. It is delivered on screen with detailed precision by Penn.

 


McCandless' Thoreau-inducing optimism will grate on some - too bad. Critics who see his 'distancing' as unprepared and foolish don't seem to realize that his trek, ending at an abandoned bus outside Alaska’s Denali National Park, was not as much escapism to a 'self-imposed' exile, but as a rebirth... which could only be fully achieved by death. I see his whole dice-rolling adventure as a full-circle  suicide attempt that should have been obvious from episodes like kayaking down the rapids and giving all his money to charity. This is regardless of his diary indicating desperate, although feudal, attempts to survive in the end.  As an highly intelligent product of society and the US College education system (McCandless achieved the grades for Harvard Law), stemming from a wealthy - albeit deeply troubled family existence - McCandless should be as big a warning sign as the latest school shooting massacre. Perhaps a precursor to the mindless instilling of surface values - that we, as a societal whole, just can't seem to take ANYMORE.

 

 

Penn's defining vision through all this is a most profound statement on modernity, lack of communication and our inability to express honest love. His manner in showcasing the underlying themes of Into the Wild  truly evokes another masterful filmmaker and his similar dissertations on alienation in the modern world - the recently deceased Michelangelo Antonioni. This film is that good folks... and I give it my highest recommendation. out of

 

Gary Tooze

 

Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ON THE US EDITION: Well, we were dead wrong. This US Blu-ray edition is definitely NOT the same transfer. It is mathematically superior taking up almost double the disc space and it has one of the best bitrates I've seen this year - approaching 40 Mbps! Though visual differences seem non-existent and will be more subject to the size of your Blu-ray display but in the resized captures below you can't really note any subtle improvement by the North American Paramount edition - actually, nor in the enlarged captures. It may appear to show a bit more grain, detail is probably equal and in a very few scenes it seems to export more depth. If it's visible at all though - it is extremely small. Regardless, this is the definitive issue to own - especially considering it doesn't have the forced French subtitles of the Pathe (when the English language is chosen.) Contrast and colors on this US Blu-ray edition remain pristine and this may be the best transfer I presently own. I also still consider this one of the best 2 films from 2007 (Atonement being the other - come on Universal - put this to Blu-ray soon!)

 

ON THE FRENCH EDITION: This Blu-ray looks vastly more film-like than its SD-DVD counterpart. We have reviewed the reasonably strong 2-disc SCE and I have compared a number of captures below. There is improvement in all areas - detail, which we expect to be superior due to the higher resolution, colors are more vibrant (skin tones especially more true - less motley orange/yellow), contrast and black levels are dynamite and there appears to be very slightly more information in the frame. On my system, the Alaskan, and other, landscapes can be quite stunning - breathtaking at times. There is some fine grain and some noise. The film is darker than most and perhaps this influences my strong feelings about crisp Blu-ray image. Technically it is dual-layered using the VC-1 encode with the feature size being a reasonable 24.2 Gig. I see NO evidence of any digital manipulations like DNR or edge enhancements. This 1080P transfer is rock solid. Hopefully, the expandable screen captures below will give you an idea of what it will look like on your system. As with the HD edition I own (possibly the same encode) I was blown away at the quality on my plamsa - glorious indeed.

 

NOTE: This is a French disc and is not yet available in North America but despite this Blu-ray being region free (capable of being played on Blu-ray players worldwide) it has mandatory French subtitles when the original English language options are chosen. This, however, is not true through HTPC viewing. So why review? As well as being my favorite film of 2007, I strongly suspect that the hi-def encode will be exactly the same for the upcoming North American release. If we find it is different we will compare. Stay tuned.    

 

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP

2) Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Paramount (US) - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP

2) Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Paramount (US) - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP

2) Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Paramount (US) - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP

2) Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Paramount (US) - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP

2) Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Paramount (US) - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Paramount (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) - Region 1, 4 - NTSC TOP

2) Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Paramount (US) - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More French  Blu-ray

 

 

 

 

 

More US  Blu-ray

 

 

 

 

 

1) Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) Paramount (US) - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) Paramount (US) - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) Paramount (US) - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

NOTE: May not be exact frame!

 

 

1) Fox Pathe Europa - Region FREE Blu-ray TOP

2) Paramount (US) - Region FREE Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Audio & Music:  
ON US: The
TrueHD 5.1 may have a small margin of superiority over the DTS-HD used for the French edition. I can't really tell. Differences will be extremely small - dependant on your system and hearing. Either/or the music still sounded incredible and I've no complaints to note. As stated the four subtitles choices are all optional here.

 

ON FRENCH: We get a fantastic DTS-HD Master 5.1 and TrueHD 5.1 option for both original English and the French language DUBs. It is extremely impressive as is the music from Eddie Vedder, Michael Brook and John Fogerty (to name a few) which floats out of the front speakers as crisp and clean as I've ever heard from those performers. I sampled both English options and the marriage of images and audio is truly brilliant on this Blu-ray for both tracks. Let's hope the North American release duplicates this facet of the disc as well. As mentioned above there are French subtitles that are mandatory when either of the English audio options are chosen.

 

Extras:
ON US:
From our review of the SD - SE HERE - "...two relatively short featurettes on a single-layered disc - both are 4:3 letterboxed and interlaced. The first is about 21 minutes long and is entitled Into the Wild: The Story, The Characters. It has input from many including Penn, author Jon Krakauer, actor Emile Hirsch are others. It starts with Penn stating how he found the novel in a bookstore one day (he loved the cover), read it twice that same night and starting the following morning spent 10 years getting the rights to make the film. The second featurette is called Into the Wild: The Experience - and runs 17 minutes long focusing a bit more like a 'Behind the Scenes...' with more production specifics and shooting details. There is also a trailer." (but in HD!)

 

ON FRENCH: A few more supplements than the SD starting with a kind of filler 51 minute National Geographic documentary entitled Braving Alaska - narrated (in English) by Martin Sheen. I enjoyed the Press Conference with a tired looking Penn and Hirsch for 35+ minutes. They wait as there are some questions in French - then translated to English for their responses. We get the same decent, 1.33:1, featurette: Into the Wild: The Story, The Characters running 20 odd minutes but this one has burned-in French subtitles as does the 20 minute Sean Penn Into the Wild piece. Free of the forced subs though is the featurette: Into the Wild: The Experience - also founds on the SCE DVD and a Theatrical trailer. Dialogue on all is in English.

 

French Extras

 

US Extras

 

 

Bottom line:
Well, our warning about the French
Blu-rays mandatory subtitles
should dismiss it from consideration for most readers anyway. But it's always interesting to compare for this here reviewer Geek - and especially a film that I adore so much. Math helps us in determining that the US edition is the one to own and I suggest this is a highly important release for the entire year. I'll have to do some reflecting but it may be the best transfer I've yet seen. It looks magnificent befitting the masterpiece film. Our strongest recommendation!  

Gary Tooze

November 6th, 2008

UPDATED: December 5th, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

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