Check out our review of this two-disc special edition release of the Oscar winning film Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in this heart-pounding thriller that pulls you into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space. Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney). But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes.
The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Warner - 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 91 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): ] English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron
Music by: Steven Price
Written by: Alfonso Cuaron & Jonas Cuaron
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: March 31, 2015
"Don’t let go"
Gravity was previously released on Blu-ray and reviewed by me back in February 2014. This special edition contains three new bonus features along with three hours of previously released bonus features. It is one of a select group of titles to be offered in limited quantities in Warner Brothers Home Entertainment’s new sleek collector-style Diamond Luxe packaging.
Gravity, which won Oscars for Music (Original Score), Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, is the first Blu-ray title from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment to be available with the revolutionary new audio technology Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos delivers captivating sound that places and moves specific sounds anywhere in the room, including overhead, to bring entertainment alive all around the audience. To experience Dolby Atmos at home, Dolby Atmos enabled AV receivers and additional speakers are required; however, Dolby Atmos soundtracks are fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment.
** Much of this review will contain elements from my original review coupled with details on the newly added supplements and Dolby Atmos sound. Read on…
Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut and mission commander Matt Kowalsky, who is on his final mission. While the crew is on a routine spacewalk involving making much needed modifications to an orbiting satellite, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone - tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.
I had every intention of getting to the theater to see Gravity but it seemed like every time it came up there was something that diverted the effort. The fact that my wife isn’t an especially big fan of Sandra Bullock didn’t help but I digress. Truth be told I very much looked forward to experiencing it for the first time in the familiar surroundings of my home theater.
Wow. Gravity is all that I hoped it would be and speaks to the human condition from a place that most can’t embrace from a literal standpoint. Luckily the film isn’t designed to be taken from a literal perspective per se but instead engages in a metaphorical tone built around overcoming adversity. Gravity is a very intimate film with an emotional center that follows a woman who has known extreme loss and has thrown herself into her work which has landed her a job with NASA and ultimately on a space mission. Unbeknownst to her the events that transpire will bring her to the precipice and force her to reexamine what is most precious, the will to live.
This is a powerful and at times gripping film experience that an escalating level of suspense that subtly builds. At times I found myself holding onto the arms of the chair as the sort of roller coaster series of events unfold. At 90 minutes the pacing is tight and spot on as there is no real feeling of wasted time or unnecessary plot offshoots. The story’s primary focus is seen from Ryan’s point of view although the character of Matt despite his lesser role is an integral component in the narrative’s context. Sandra Bullock devoted herself to this role and carries the film with aplomb. I loved her performance which in my opinion is worthy of the praise she has garnered.
From a creative and production standpoint Gravity is a marvel to behold. The execution of the variety of pre and post production work required to bring it to life the way it did comes through with breathtaking results. The cinematography is integral to deriving the most from the conceptual design and is simply outstanding. As I stated earlier, Gravity is all that I hoped it would be and is a terrifically crafted and enacted film that is among the standouts of 2013.
This two-disc Special Edition comes housed on Warner Brothers Home Entertainments Diamond Luxe case which is simply gorgeous. The case is of the book/fold out style, made of a smooth molded polymer with each disc placed in a formed cutout that allows it to slip into place without the need of a center push button release. On the inside cover are images from the film. The case is both sturdy and aesthetically pleasing.
The rating is for intense sequences of peril, some disturbing images and brief strong 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.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency effects:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
- Low frequency extension * (non-rated element):
- DSU Rating * (non-rated element): NA
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black Level/Shadow Detail:
- Color Reproduction:
Dolby Atmos Rating: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Level of immersion:
- Soundstage integration:
- Audio object placement:
- Entertainment factor:
Gravity: Special Edition comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 22 Mbps and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 sound that has an average bitrate of 5.6 Mbps.
This appears to be the same AVC encoding used on the original Blu-ray release. Here are my comments from that review:
Having not seen this film theatrically I had high hopes for this video presentation. I have read of concerns with the quality of the image due to its bitrate and any possible post-production tampering. The film was shot digitally and as such strikes me as appearing somewhat less so, having a bit more texture than I would have expected. I would say that this was indeed done in post and is a stylistic choice which I don’t see as a deleterious issue. First and foremost this is a dark film (as it should be) and its ability to clearly render its elements under those conditions is essential to getting the most out of it. Well you can rest assured that this Blu-ray disc delivers some of the richest, deepest and velvety textured blacks that I have seen.
The abundance of continuous long range shots of space with the earth as a backdrop, look stunning. Images are gradationally adept and three dimensionally rendered so that wide angle perspectives, unevenly lit interiors, and shadow laden environs have a seemingly infinite level of depth. Shadow detail is consistent and is probably as good as I have seen. Images are crisp with resolute definition and refining dimensional perspective. Contrast is well balanced and dynamic which energizes colors, empowers whites/grays and engages blacks. Colors are appreciably delineated with natural rendering and punchy primaries that stand out among those within the varied range used. Save for one or two instances where there appeared to be very minor digital noise visible against a light background (you’d have to look for it to see it) I saw no problems with video related artifacts. The video has a pleasing, filmic quality that coincides nicely with its storyline. This plays hand in hand with the film’s stark visual style and provides an incredibly entertaining experience that looks superb regardless of the size of your display.
The original Blu-ray release featured a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Here, along with the Dolby Atmos mix is a 7.1 channel Dolby TrueHD core. In listening to it I found it shares many of the same attributes which are summarized in my original comments. Here is the overview:
This is not an aggressive or action style sound mix but its ability to deliver an engaging home theater experience is not to be underestimated. This film uses an intricate sound design that has to maintain a delicate balance so the plethora of sound effects, bass and dialogue within the soundtrack can be clearly and easily interpreted by the audience. The relationship between the characters and the environment is purposeful and near field and proximity switches abound. Dialogue perception can be variable but this is also purposeful and designed to simulate distance/proximity. When this isn’t at play dialogue is articulated and clear. Sound effects are accurately placed within the sound field and establish a tight correlation between the onscreen information and what is being heard within the listening environment. This creates an immersive and involving soundscape that is abundantly rich in detail. Its wide dynamic range can go from subtle, intricate control to room energizing dynamism.
The eclectic music score occasionally takes center stage as it is broadcast over the entire system with high level detail and smooth, strident free treble. Low frequency effects accentuate the music, sound effects and dynamic impact of the audio with aplomb. The effect produces bass response that is demonstrative as it reaches transient levels that rumble deep enough to give the upstairs china a shake. A great example can be felt during the sequences involving the fire on the ISS. This scene puts everything together quite nicely and represents the track’s incredibly nuanced and topical near filed correlation which at times creates an immersive and rich feeling of dimension. All in all it features superlative surround sound coupled with associative bass response that sounds terrific. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I will say that the integration of the additional rear channels coupled with the ability for definitive audio object placement brought the surround experience up a notch. This is without Atmos mixed elements. Read on to find out how this soundtrack sounds via Dolby Atmos.
Gravity is probably the most anticipated Dolby Atmos Blu-ray release to date. I am pleased to report that the wait was well worth it. The surround mix compliments the already top notch soundtrack and enhances the experience of watching the film at nearly every level. The attention to detail here is noticeably on display and I have to tip my cap to the sound mixer. You get a taste of what is to come right at the opening via the brief orchestral music burst during the title sequence. This progress as the various elements in the recording slowly take shape, distinctly coinciding with the events onscreen. When the debris shower strikes things open up and you’re moved from spectator to participant. As the camera shifts from one perspective to the next the listening position transitions accordingly.
I have seen Gravity multiple times on Blu-ray but don’t recall ever feeling so thoroughly immersed in the story. At various points the realism created by the shifting perspective of what you’re seeing and hearing was incredibly involving. As seen from Ryan’s personal perspective (viewed from inside her helmet looking out) the sounds of her voice, breathing and Matt’s voice via the blend of audio mixed from above, front and back literally sounded as though you the viewer were wearing the helmet. When the camera switched to another angle sound objects accurately shifted to various points around the room depending upon the visual cue. I found the subtle use and flexibility of discretely placed correlating effects to be outstanding. There is a scene where Ryan is speaking to herself peering out of the spacecraft’s window. She is standing off camera with only her reflection visible in the window. Her voice is emanating from the left just slightly off camera near the screen. The effect is quite realistic. These are just a few examples of how well integrated the soundtrack is.
As for the film’s more active moments you get more of the same. The fire aboard the ISS and re-entry sequences swallow you up as the revolving, rotating and all-encompassing surround sound comes at you from all sides. The award winning music score isn’t left out and is smoothly blended, sharing the soundstage without compromise. I watched with my wife and on numerous occasions we found ourselves looking at one another and saying aloud, “that’s cool”.
I have heard/reviewed multiple Dolby Atmos soundtracks on Blu-ray. All were with my previous A/V processor the excellent Marantz AV7702. I recently installed its newly released big brother, the Marantz AV8802. I have to admit that this title is the one that I have most looked forward to hearing in Atmos. Hands down, this is the best Dolby Atmos mix I have heard to date. Those capable of experiencing it in all of its glory won’t be disappointed. Strap in, sit back and enjoy the ride!
** It should be noted that a misprint on the Blu-ray packaging indicates that the soundtrack for Gravity is "Dolby Atmos 7.1.4". This has led to confusion and speculation regarding the authoring of the track. In response Dolby Labs and Warner Brothers Home Entertainment have issued a statement addressing the matter. Here it is:
The object based mix was monitored in a 7.1.4 room when completed. This led to the misprint on the packaging which should state on the package label English Dolby Atmos or English Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible). On behalf of Dolby and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment we can confirm that Gravity Diamond Luxe edition, as well as all future Dolby Atmos releases from Warner Bros., is an object based mix and is scalable for playback in Dolby Atmos home theatre systems. In addition, Dolby Atmos soundtracks are fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment.
Disc 1: Gravity – Feature film
- * NEW Gravity: Silence Space - Director Alfonso Cuarón invites you to experience the film without music for a unique, surprising and rewarding cinematic experiment.
Disc 2: Special Features
- * NEW (HD) Looking to the stars: The evolution of space films – 42 minute documentary
- * NEW (HD) Gravity: The human experience – 11 minute featurette
- * NEW (HD) Sandra’s Birthday Wish - Share in Sandra Bullock’s spaced-out birthday wishes for director Alfonso Cuarón.
- (HD)Collision point: The race to clean up space (narrated by Ed Harris) – 22 minute documentary
- (HD) Gravity Mission Control – 106 minute making of documentary broken down into 9 segments that can be viewed separately or via a play all option
- (HD) Shot Breakdown – Dissects 5 specific sequences from the film (viewable separately or together via a play all option) – 36 minutes
- (HD) Aningaaq – A 7 minutes short film by Jonas Cuaron with optional filmmaker introduction
Gravity is a wonderfully crafted film that is deserving of the praise that it has received. This two-disc special edition from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment offers fans the opportunity to revisit the film via newly mixed Dolby TrueHD sound that features 7.1 channel and Dolby Atmos mixes. The set incorporates newly released and legacy bonus supplements and comes housed in Warner’s beautiful Diamond Luxe packaging. Whether you’re a fan of the film, the soundtrack or both, this release is worth adding to your collection. As for me, I am pleased to have the next go to disc for showing off the capabilities of Dolby Atmos and the Blu-ray format. Enjoy!
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS4910 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (With Darbee video processing)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and In-Ceiling series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package