Release Date(s)2013 (March 31, 2015)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A-
To recap for those who may be new to the film, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as spacewalking shuttle astronauts. They’re working to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, when things begin to go catastrophically wrong. Showered by orbital debris that damages the shuttle, their only remaining mission objective is to try to survive a harrowing series of disasters in an effort to return safely to the Earth.
Warner’s new Diamond Luxe Edition is the second go-round for Gravity on Blu-ray. The essential question for fans of the film becomes: Is this new edition worth the upgrade price? The answer is: Maybe.
From the standpoint of picture and sound, the Luxe edition offers the exact same 1080p high-definition master of the film as the previous Blu-ray. The only real difference is in the sound options. While the previous Blu-rays included 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, the Luxe edition includes a new 7.1.4 English Dolby Atmos mix. Atmos can be configured in a variety of ways, but a reference setup essentially has the traditional 7.1 speakers, with four additional speakers (the .4) designed to either sit atop the front left, front right, surround back left and surround back right speakers and fire upward toward the ceiling, or to be mounted on the ceiling itself and fire downward in roughly those same positions. The idea is that they create a more spherical soundfield around the listener. I will confess that I don’t have an Atmos-ready surround sound system at home – I’ve only experienced it in the theater. But my impression is that it does allow for a slightly greater sense of immersion in the sound mix. Granted, not many other home theater consumers have Atmos-ready gear yet either, but those high-end enthusiasts who do will certainly appreciate the option here. In any case, the previous Blu-ray audio was already reference-quality, so any improvement here is simply icing on the cake.
There’s one other audio option unique to this release: The ability to essentially turn off the score and watch the film with dialogue and sound effects only. It’s called the Silent Space version and I actually really like it. It’s not better, just different. Without music the film doesn’t have quite the same degree of tension, but it’s a more realistic experience. Even if you don’t watch the entire film this way, it’s worth trying for a few minutes.
All of the extras from the original Blu-ray release have carried over on Disc Two of this set, including the 108-minute Gravity: Mission Control documentary (which features It Began with a Story, Initial Challenges: Long Shots and Zero G, Previsualizing Gravity, The Hues of Space, Physical Weightlessness, Space Tech, Sandra and George: A Pair in Space, Final Animation, and Complete Silence), 37 minutes of Shot Breakdowns (including Behind the Visor, Fire in the International Space Station, Dr. Stone’s Rebirth, The Sound of Action in Space, and Splashdown), the 22-minute Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space documentary, and Jonás Cuarón’s 10-minute Aningaaq short film.
To this, the Luxe Edition adds a trio of all-new extras, starting with the Looking to the Stars: The Evolution of Space Films documentary (41:58). This is a terrific piece looking back at the history of the genre, from Fritz Lang’s Woman in the Moon (1929) to the present day. Along the way it covers such classics as The Right Stuff, Destination Moon, Marooned, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Apollo 13, Gravity obviously, and even Star Wars. It features interviews with the likes of Ron Howard, John Dykstra, Douglas Trumbull, Dennis Muren, and a host of other filmmakers and historians as they discuss the way the cinema has depicted manned spaceflight, sometimes fantastically, sometimes accurately. The documentary is easily the best of the new material. But you also get Gravity: The Human Experience (11:05), which features veteran NASA shuttle and space station astronauts talking about the real-life sensations of traveling in space. Finally, you get Sandra’s Birthday Wish (3:21), which is just a goofy and deliberately “low tech” birthday greeting that Bullock recorded and sent to Alfonso. I suppose it’s nice to have, but it barely counts as an extra.
Unfortunately, the Blu-ray 3D version of Gravity isn’t included in this package. That prevents this from being a truly ultimate edition of the film on Blu-ray and means that you’ll need to buy or keep the 3D version separately if you want it. I have to say, though, the Diamond Luxe packaging itself is lovely. It’s like a book made of hard glossy plastic, with a sort of metallic look to it. You fold it open to reveal film imagery and the two Blu-rays in a minimalist disc holder. The case is magnetic, so it won’t open until you want it to and then it does so with a satisfying snap.
Gravity is a great film experience that’s well worth owning on Blu-ray, but Warner’s new Diamond Luxe Edition is a classic case of “two steps forward and one step back.” Still, if you’re only interested in 2D, and you haven’t already purchased any of the previous versions of the film on Blu-ray, this Diamond Luxe Edition is definitely the one to get.
- Bill Hunt