PictureHollow Man comes to UK Blu ray in an identical disc to the US version. This means we get, for the first time, the Director's Cut presented in a 1080P AVC Codec. I have seen the film five times before, and the only difference that I can see in this version is that Bacon's rape of Rhona Mitre is very slightly extended.
Whilst the difference in the material that is presented may not be that good, the way that the film is presented on HD is vastly different and is well worth the upgrade. The clarity and sharpness of the image presented here is superb - meaning that the film looks better than it ever has before. I would go so far as to say that it looks like a fresh new release - not like a film that is seven years old.
The majority of the film takes place inside a hi tech laboratory where the team performs their experiments. There are plenty of metallic, shiny surfaces, and scientific instruments lying around. The level of the detail on these instruments and on the equipment is enhanced, and really gives the viewer the feeling that they are in the lab with the scientists.
Extensive scenes are shot through thermal imaging cameras, as this is the only way the scientists can see Caine once he is invisible. These images can be problematic for film, presenting lots of blooming and bleed between the different coloured areas - but these shots look pristine on this transfer, with the different areas of colour being clearly delineated. There is no blooming and haloing, and these images are clear and sharp - disturbingly so when Bacon runs around naked at one point!
The outside scenes are shot in a very highly stylised glossy way, and are mainly set at night. This means that deep black levels are never truly required from this transfer, but the clarity of the outdoor scenes are 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 source print is clean and blemish free - and overall this transfer is well worth the upgrade over the standard DVD for fans of the film.
SoundThis release of Hollow Man again gets the same transfer as the American version when it comes to sound. We get a PCM Uncompressed 5.1, or an English 5.1 mix. The subtitle options have been beefed up for the UK release though.
The strange thing about the sound mix is that is is amazingly restrained for such a bombastic film. The score is by Jerry Goldsmith, and you immediately notice how well this is mixed, as his score swells up over the titles and fills the whole soundfield.
The music is well mixed throughout the whole film, fitting the onscreen events perfectly. However, the sound mix is rather front-focussed - which is probably necessary considering the environment they are in.
Having said this, the front separation is truly excellent, always sounding natural and well balanced. The dialogue is always clear within the mix.
When the mix is required to use the rears, however, it does so very well. One particular scene is very cleverly done is when Caine is first invisible, and his colleagues have no idea where he is. The camera is in the center of the lab and Caine moves around calling out. Everytime he calls, he is in a different location and you hear him from that location. The camera then pans suddenly to catch him, and his voice moves to the center, only to then move to another area of the lab. It is very cleverly done indeed.
The bottom line is that this is a surprisingly restrained and subtle soundtrack especially for this type of film. However, it does the job extremely well and should not be marked down for its subtlety.
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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