Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray debut of Director Julie Taymor's psychedelic modern classic that is filled with incredible imagery, and a soundtrack with some of The Beatles most popular songs.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Sony Pictures - 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 133 minutes
Genre: Musical/Drama

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC @ 4000 NITS
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, French/Spanish/English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs
Directed by: Julie Taymor
Music by: Elliott Goldenthal
Written by: Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: January 9, 2018
"All You Need is Love"
My Take:

Across the Universe, from director Julie Taymor, is 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 (Jim Sturgess) 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 (Evan Rachel Wood), 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 director Julie Taymor’s opus to a bygone era, as set to the tune of The Beatles music which underscored the period, its young people, and the tumult that gripped the nation. At the center of the film is a love story between two young people from very different backgrounds. As the narrative unfolds we see them and their relationship come of age through a series of ups and downs, which ultimately define them, divide them, and bring them full circle.

Across the Universe is a bit of a mixed bag, with its cliched romance, blasé character design, and overlong story. The best parts of the film are the interwoven musical set pieces, some of which are better than others, but consisting of the music of The Beatles, performed by members of the cast. I generally like this film, and have an appreciation for Julie Taymor’s vision, as well as its execution. Those that have an interest in the period, as well as the music, will probably get more out of Across the Universe. I haven’t seen it in years, but enjoyed this revisit.

Replay Value:
Parental Guide:

The rating is for some drug content, nudity, sexuality, violence and language.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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Dolby Atmos Rating: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
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Across the Universe comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 sound that has an average bitrate of 3.5 Mbps.

According to the press documentation Sony remastered Across the Universe from the original 35mm film elements, and its presentation in Ultra HD is derived from the 4K Digital Intermediate.

This is a solid Ultra HD presentation that looks great on my large screen. What struck me from the onset is the lifelike reproduction of the textures captured by the camera's lens. Whether it be the finest minutia in physical features or rough textures on the surfaces of the stone buildings, streets, and the interiors of dwellings, or the majestic vistas of the shooting locations, the imagery is gorgeous. The benefits of high dynamic range and wide color gamut are on display throughout as earth toned colors have an added dimension that enlivens shots where they would normally have blended in, being seen as a less provocative background element that would generally go unnoticed. The film’s psychedelic color base and variants of sepia are beautifully rendered, offering eye catching depth, that compliments the thematic tone.

Whites are emboldened, detailed and bright, especially during low level transitions viewed in a darkened environment. Contrast abounds, lending an authenticity that underscores the subject matter, bringing it to a visually rewarding level. Shot on film, this rendering makes the most of its original elements, which are excellent. Sony has consistently yielded strong Ultra HD presentations from their catalog releases and Across the Universe is no exception.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the moderately active, which considering the source material was quite welcoming. In general, its use of audio objects placed above is limited to atmospherics and occasional panning fills. This is done to good effect when implemented and created an enriching level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. Where the Atmos presentation excelled was in the use of object based sounds during the film’s musical set pieces. When called upon its ability to render acoustics, point to point imaging and expanding the breadth of the soundstage never disappointed. While this Atmos mix doesn’t make constant use of discretely placed audio objects from above, I found myself completely involved when it mattered. I found this to be an enjoyable audio presentation that absolutely complimented the source material.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
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Audio: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
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  • Surround Sound presentation: 
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Across the Universe comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 30 Mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound that has an average bitrate of 3.3 Mbps.

* Note: This appears to the same audio/video encode found on the original Blu-ray release.*

This is a high quality and faithful video presentation that enhances the grandiose cinematic visual style employed in the film. Fidelity appears intact as colors are vividly reproduced via lustrous primaries, and rich secondary hues that look simply beautiful in high definition. The clothing/costumes have excellent tonal variation with descriptively intricate chromatic detail that collectively leap off of the screen. Fleshtone reproduction can be dependent on the particular visual scheme utilized (the film employs a variety) however, in natural lighting they appear warm, and lifelike. Blacks are dynamic, gradationally satisfying, and deep, which is accentuated by contrast that is spot on and predominantly stable over the course of the presentation. The blend during sequences containing mixed light/dark elements looks great. Resolution is excellent especially during close ups which reveal crisp definition and fine textural nuance. Wide angle shots exhibit estimable dimension with appreciable object detail. Softening is apparent from time to time but appears innate to the photography.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel sound has excellent dynamic range and detail. Dialog is articulately reproduced through the center channel and maintains a position of prominence within the front soundstage. This isn’t an aggressive surround mix but when applied the surround channels generate plenty of atmosphere and discrete sounds. Front and rear channel imaging is spot on as details and spatial cues, mate perfectly with the events transpiring onscreen. Low frequency effects are appropriately applied, and provide tangible richness to the music and live sounds. I found this to be an entertaining and complimentary audio presentation.

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: Across the Universe Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Across the Universe Blu-ray
  • Extended Musical Performances
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Filmmaker Audio Commentary
  • 5 Production Featurettes
  • Rehearsal Footage
  • Digital HD Copy
Final Thoughts:

Across the Universe is director Julie Taymor’s opus to a bygone era, as set to the tune of The Beatles music which underscored the period, its young people, and the tumult that gripped the nation. It makes its debut on Ultra HD Blu-ray in this Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring beautifully restored Ultra HD video, an entertaining and complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive sound mix, and legacy bonus supplements. If you’re a fan and are equipped to take advantage of the Ultra HD/Dolby Atmos upgrades, this Ultra HD release is highly recommended.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from  Spectracal )
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems