Starman (UK - BD)
Chris takes a look at the new UK Blu-ray release of this John Carpenter feature...
Note: At this time there is no official release date for this title
In 1977 the Voyager II probe was launched into deep space containing a message of peace and an invitation to visit the planet Earth.Upon discovering the probe, an alien race sends a small vessel with a lone occupant on a scouting mission. However, instead of being welcomed with open arms, the UFO is shot down by the USAF. Crashing in Wisconsin, the alien happens across an isolated house inhabited by a young widow called Jenny Hayden, where it uses a lock of hair to clone a human body in the image of her deceased husband, Scott. The alien then sends a message to his people informing them that the environment is hostile and requesting extraction in three days. After recovering from the shock of seeing her dead husband resurrected, Jenny eventually agrees to accompany the Starman across country to the designated landing area. During their time together she eventually overcomes her initial anger and hostility, and teaches him that not all humans are savages.
I think it's fair to say that I'm something of John Carpenter fan, but for some reason I never quite managed to find the time to watch Starman before this Blu-ray viewing. I consider The Thing to be a classic feature, so I was interested to see what Carpenter could do with a benevolent alien character. However, my feelings were mixed after the end credits rolled. The film had an innocent 80s quality that I enjoyed, the performances from the two leads were strong, and I was intrigued by its take on the duality of man and human emotions in general, but I felt that it had one or two inconsistencies and logical issues that held it back. A couple of days on and I still have the same issues, but I find myself remembering more of the good than the bad. Starman is heart-warming tale full of hope and promise (the 'Starchild' will presumably grow up to be some sort of messianic figure), and made for a welcome distraction from the cynical movies that dominate the box office these days.
Starman's 2.40:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p AVC) presents a fairly natural palette for the most part, although reds are occasionally a little over-saturated. Detail is good, if not great, with with close-ups lacking the sort of clarity you'd expect from the very best catalogue titles. However, because of the presence of light grain throughout I believe this is just as likely to be down to the way in which the film was shot as any nefarious application of DNR. Black levels are a bit inconsistent, with the darker scenes appearing grainer than the rest of the picture. The print is relatively clean for a twenty-five-year-old film, aside from some of the optical effects shots, which can look a little dirty. All things considered this is a very solid catalogue transfer that exceeded my expectations.
As is usual for their Blu-ray releases, Sony provides a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack for this edition of Starman (a little bit of research reveals that the film was originally accompanied by a six track Dolby Stereo effort). Fidelity isn't as good as most newer releases, but it's not too bad on the whole. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout, and although the predominant use of the surround channels is for the score, the odd discrete effect does make an appearance. However, panning between channels isn't as good as it could be and some of the transitions sound somewhat forced and unnatural. Atmospherics are actually quite strong though, be it chirping crickets or falling rain, which sets the tone nicely. As with the video this is a perfectly adequate effort that is sure to please if you don't expect miracles.
This release appears to be a direct port of the US disc when it comes to extras, because all we get is BD-Live. This is especially disappointing for UK fans, because our DVD release includes a Carpenter/Bridges commentary, a making of and a music video.
Starman isn't my favourite John Carpenter feature, but I'm glad to have finally seen it in its entirety. Sony's Blu-ray release is very disappointing in the extras department, but the audio-visual quality surprised me and goes some way towards atoning for the lack of bonus material. Even so, I can't really recommend this one as a full price title, but if you can find it on sale and you're a big fan of the movie, I say go for it.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Release Date: 1st January 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Italian, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hindi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Jaeckel
Length: 115 minutes
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