PictureHollow Man comes to Blu ray as a Director's Cut in a 1080P AVC Codec. We are presented with the Director's Cut - which is new to home formats. The only difference I can see is that the rape scene is very slightly extended. I have seen the film five times, and I failed to notice any other differences.
However, I certainly noticed differences in the transfer. The upgrade over the standard definition release is a great one, and is certainly well worth the upgrade. The clarity and sharpness of the image presented is superb - looking like a film that is a fresh new release, not one that is seven years old.
The majority of the film takes place within the laboratory which is obviously a modern high tech affair. There are plenty of metallic, shiny surfaces - and the level of detail present s breathtaking. Individual scientific instruments lying around are clearly visible and really helps give you the sense that you are actually there with them.
There are extensive scenes shot through thermal imaging cameras, as this is the only way we can see the invisible characters at time. The resulting image is always going to be a challenge for film, and in the SD versions these images were often clear and indistinct. In the HD version, however, it is always clear and easy to see exactly what is going on in these scenes. There is no blooming or haloing around the images, with every demarcation of colour clearly visible - even if the clarity does have a rather disturbing side-effect at one point, as Bacon runs around naked!
The outside scenes are generally shot at night, but are filmed in a very stylised glossy way. This means that the transfer never gets to display deep black levels. However, again the simple clarity of detail in these scenes is amazing. One scene pans across the city for about half a mile, zooming in on the lab from the outside. The level of detail you can discern from the surrounding streets could only be possible in the best HD transfers.
The print is very clean and blemish-free, and grain is non existent. Flesh tones are pleasingly natural and although the transfer may not have the 3d “pop” of some of the most recent discs to pass through my player, this is still a top notch effort, and a superb upgrade over the SD release.
SoundHollow Man is also presented with an excellent sound mix, in PCM Uncompressed 5.1 or an English 5.1 mix - it was the latter I listened to for this review.
The sound mix is surprisingly restrained for such an unsubtle film. The first thing to note during the titles is the late great Jerry Goldsmith's superb score, as it swells up and fills the whole sound field.
The music underpins the whole film well, fitting the onscreen events perfectly. It is always well-mixed, never intruding but always supporting well. The sound mix itself is generally rather front-focussed - which although it supports the action on screen very well, can't help but be a little disappointing.
Having said this, however, the front separation is excellent, giving a very natural and spacious feel to the dialogue without every losing fidelity - however much is going on around.
When the mix is required to use the surrounds, however, it does do it very well. One of the cleverest pieces of sound design I have yet seen on Blu ray comes when Caine is first invisible, and his colleagues have no idea where he is. He moves around the lab constantly, and the only clues to his whereabouts are aural. The camera is fixed, and we can hear him moving around the room. A very clever effect indeed.
The bottom line is that this is surprisingly subtle soundtrack that always sounds totally natural and does an excellent job at conveying the action on screen. It lacks bombast, or showy panning effects - but should not be marked down for this. It is a nicely balanced mix that is showy when it needs to be. If only the film itself was more like the sound mix.
ExtrasThe film arrives on HD with exactly the same features as the previous DVD release. It is a sad state affairs with Blu ray that I find myself pathetically grateful for this....
There are no commentaries here, but there is one absolutely fascinating documentary - ”Fleshing out the Hollow Man” : 15 behind-the-scenes Featurettes. These can be viewed individually or together as one documentary - and they provide an absolutely fascinating background to the making of the film, and the special effects. Featuring contributions from all the major actors and crew, and also plenty of behind the scenes footage - this really succeeds in illuminating the production in a clear and interesting way.
This is supplemented by a less successful documentary HBO Making-of : “Anatomy of a Thriller”. You have all seen these dull twenty minute HBO documentaries before - so I am sure there is little to add here. It is a typical promotional fluff piece.
Finally, we have some VFX Picture in Picture Comparisons which are, like the first documentary, fascinating and revealing.
VerdictHollow Man is a typical Saturday night popcorn action / horror flick. It lacks any kind of cohesion or plot development, and is populated by unpleasant characters. However, these films stand or fall by the action and effects that are showcased, and in this respect the film really delivers. At the time the film was released, the special effects were breathtaking, and they still impress today. The problem is, of course, that we have come to expect more from a Verhoeven action film.
The film comes to Blu ray with a top notch transfer, an excellent sound mix, and an extras package that mirrors the fascinating material found on the existing SD release.
If you are a fan of the film, and are wondering whether to upgrade, the answer is an unequivocal “Yes”. If you are a fan of Verhoeven's action films, and wondering whether to make a blind purchase, the answer is a little trickier. If you expect something as original and clever as his other films then you are likely to be disappointed, but if you are prepared to ignore the flaws and just enjoy the ride there is plenty to enjoy here.
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