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Can a film that is loosely based on the legendary music of the Beatles possibly be a winning success that’ll enchant the humble viewer? What about if it was also one part musical, one part love story? Sounds confusing? Then you need to read on and discover what this film is really all about.

Across the Universe

Feature


Jude is your typical ‘working class hero’ from the grungy terraced houses of Liverpool in the 1960s. Life is tough, especially when you build ships to earn you keep. His life takes a dramatic change of pace though when his mother encourages him to head to the USA in search of his long-lost father. All he knows about him is that he works at none other than Princeton University.

Having high hopes that his father will be some sort of genius, Jude is perhaps more disappointed than he lets on when he discovers that his father is nothing more than a janitor for the place. Still, he doesn’t dwell on it for too long. Once introduced some some particularly raucous students, Jude finds himself whisked away on a roller coaster ride of self discovery throughout America where he falls in love with a girl called Lucy.

If these character names are beginning to sound familiar, then welcome to the wonderfully eccentric world of Across the Universe. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this film when it was sent to me. I had some idea that there was a connection to the Beatles, and that the trailer for it looked both promising yet strangely bizarre in its own twisted little way.

Perhaps the best way to describe Across the Universe is to say that it is many films condensed into one. On one hand it is a love story in the traditional sense, where one person falls in love with an otherwise already involved other, their partner is removed from the picture by means you’ll probably be able to guess, and the main character and the beautifully attractive other finally get together. Problems in their relationship ensue, but all is right in the end. Nice and cliched, you might say.

Across the Universe
The other film is a full-blown musical, set to over the top numbers with all the musical arrangements and lavish dance routines you’d expect. Some are the more sensible, more intimate numbers, and some are the sort you’d imagine to be connected with dreams or nightmares, such is their bravado.

The last film is more of a homage to something the filmmakers were clearly passionate about. In this case, that would be the the music of the Beatles. Instead of inventing original characters and composing new songs to fit the bill, Across the Universe instead uses characters littered throughout the Beatles’ music, and even some of their inspiration, as its canvas on which to paint the story.

The effect is both startling and immediately refreshing, resulting in a film that immediately captures your attention, as well as neatly transporting you into the 60s. And while most of the musical numbers do work very well, one minor complaint I did have was that, while they’re still fun to watch, one or two of them were just a touch over the top for the material at hand.

This isn’t exactly a major gripe as the slightly more audacious numbers did fit the mood of the film at the time. It’s just that the overall tone Across the Universe portrays is generally quite sensible and pastel, so when the odd wacky moment comes along just feels ever so slightly out of place. Still, as I say, they’re a lot of fun to watch and this certainly doesn’t detract from an otherwise superb musical experience.

Across the Universe was immensely enjoyable from its grungy opening scenes in Liverpool to its stunning musical finale atop New York’s illustrious skyline. No, it is far more than even that. This is possibly one of the most innovative films in the genre this decade. That’s one hell of a bold statement to make, but it’s one I feel strongly about having seen so many films like it.

Across the Universe
Like many begrudging males I’ve had to endure my fair share of musicals and love stories over the years, but none of them was as intense, exciting and refreshing as Across the Universe. Not a single one. So, if you’re in the mood for a film that pushes all the boundaries, breaks down a few barriers and raises the bar for films like it to come, then I suggest you pick up a copy and embrace it for what it is.

Video


I’m going to get this out in the open right now: this is by far the best looking live action transfer I have ever seen on any platform. This is exactly what high definition is all about, through and through. Everything here looks mind blowing, from the amazing use of colour in the imaginative, carefully crafted cinematography, all the way to the huge amount of fine detail on show in every single frame.

The darker, grimier shots of Liverpool early on look terrific, with solid black levels that perfectly emphasize the mood and setting. The more bleary, golden tones seen in the American locales are equally glorious. The image throughout the whole film is razor sharp and bathed in a palette of vibrant colours and textures that’ll leave your HDTV begging for more. The Blu-ray experience really doesn't get any better than this. It is a beautiful transfer, and one that will, at least for a while, be a brilliant demo disc to showcase what the platform is capable of.

Across the Universe

Audio


A musical needs a strong soundtrack, and thankfully Across the Universe has one. The Dolby TrueHD track here is as good as it gets: punchy dialogue, a great use of directional effects and ample, yet subtle use of the subwoofer for all around great sound that’ll please even the most meticulous.

Every musical number here, both the more emotive, quieter ones, to the full-on diaphragm-tearing extravaganzas, explode though your speakers and immerse you in some of the richest sound I’ve heard on the format.

Extras


The first of many features on this disc is an excellent commentary featuring the director and composer. It’s a fascinating listen, especially when learning how so much care was taken to integrate the music and infamous songs with the story.

‘Creating the Universe’ is a pretty in-depth (and moderately lengthy) making of feature that tracks the director’s journey bringing this film to the big screen. ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ is a casting documentary, which is a good watch. Again, this feature clocks up a decent runtime.

‘All About the Music’ is perhaps the best feature on the disc, save for the commentary. Here we see, in great detail, just how much work went into tailoring the music of the Beatles into this Hollywood production. Beatles fans will love this. ‘Moving Across the Universe’ focuses on the director once again and her visionary style.

‘FX on the Universe’ shows you how the many on-screen effects and camera trickery was undertaken to achieve the distinct look the film holds. Next up there’s a ‘Still Gallery’ and an ‘Extended Musical Performances’ feature, which lets you view the musical numbers from the film. Finally, there’s a ‘Deleted Scene’ and ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite’ feature that rounds out the set of features quite nicely.

Across the Universe

Overall


What more can I say about this film that hasn’t been said a few times already in my review. I love Across the Universe, and in many ways I think that it raises the bar for films in this genre to come. Everything about it feels refreshing and lively, exciting and passionate. It’s a masterpiece, as well as a fitting tip of the hat to the Beatles. This film transports you into the 60s, and its ‘universe’ is one you won’t want to leave in a hurry. Ladies and gentlemen, a new classic is born.

As for the Blu-ray disc, well, you’re in for a quite a treat. The high definition image looks astounding, even phenomenal. The attention to detail in each scene will truly boggle your mind. The audio is perhaps just as good, providing a truly immersive aural experience. The extras are also great, giving you plenty to do after you’ve seen the film. In all, this is a Blu-ray disc definitely worth every penny and comes with the highest of recommendations.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.


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