Surreal sci-fi mystery? It must be Terry Gilliam again...
The Zero Theorem Blu-ray Review
For Terry Gilliam, the answer to life is not a hilariously nonsensical 42, it's a cynically satirical Zero.From Brazil to Twelve Monkeys, despite the stumbling blocks along the way, the cinema of visionary auteur Terry Gilliam has been colourful and surreal in the extreme, but also engaging and compelling in equal measure. His latest, The Zero Theorem, is ignited by the same spark that drove the paranoid potency of Brazil, and steeped in the same seedy Orwellian sci-fi future that twisted both that and Twelve Monkeys around in our minds, but delivered with slightly fewer frills; the budgetary restrictions of the near-as Hollywood outcast perhaps more evident than ever before.There's a reason why Brazil and Twelve Monkeys both get mentioned so frequently in the same breath as Gilliam's latest: he has stated that The Zero Theorem represents the final chapter in his "Orwellian triptych", a trilogy of dystopian satires which all carry similar visions of the future and similar themes about the meaning (or lack thereof) of life. But it takes a great deal more than just self-labelling to earn a right to stand alongside those earlier classics, and, whilst The Zero Theorem undoubtedly delivers to Gilliam enthusiasts, it seems unable to quite deliver the same slightly broader appeal that Brazil - and certainly 'Monkeys - carried.
What is The Zero Theorem Blu-ray Picture QualityThe Zero Theorem hits Region Free UK Blu-ray complete with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. It's a largely very good rendition in that it stays faithful to the original source material, but it struggles to impress due to the inherent limitations of said source material.
Wearing its budget on its sleeve, despite a few nice VFX flourishes, and good use of luminescence, this was never going to look spectacular.
The most impressive aspect, by far, is the strength of the black levels, which allows for sublime inky depth to the darker sequences, and keeps shadow detail largely intact throughout. There is a smidge of softness around the edges, but detail is mostly very good, with decent observation of skin touches, clothing weaves and background nuances. There's no significantly unruly DNR over-application, or excessive edge enhancement, and no obvious digital defects - although the main neon-dominated work-room does struggle to keep the colours intact in the harsh lighting. Indeed, the colours are certainly broad and varied, used as the most obvious nod to future imagery, and simply popping with vibrancy. The look is typically Gilliam in style, and texture, with a traditionally filmic edge (c.f. the VR sequence), but demo quality this was never likely to be.
What is The Zero Theorem Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is similarly marginally limited, struggling to break free from the confines of the source material, but still remaining a solid, occasionally very good accompaniment for the main feature. Whilst it never breaks through into demo either, there are enough nice flourishes, and surround-aware touches, to keep this engaging but it's far from an exemplary use of the sound array.
Occasionally engaging, with some nice atmospheric flourishes, and a playful accompanying score, this is still no demo track.
Dialogue is presented clearly and coherently throughout, largely emanating from across the fronts and centre channels, with some nice directionality afforded to minor touches like the individual-specific advertising. Effects do keep the surrounds engaged in at least some part time work, with a few nods towards ambient observation, as mice crawl in and out of your living room. The score alternates from VR melodrama to quirky, playful traditional Gilliam moments to future-house party music and even a smidge of rapping, none of which really ignites the array, but all of which amounts to a solid, faithful representation of the source material.
The Zero Theorem Blu-ray ExtrasThe Zero Theorem: Behind the Scenes, The Visual Effects of Crunching Entities, The Sets, The Costumes, Interviews with Sanjeev Bhaskar & Emil Hostina, 6 Location Featurettes, London Film Festival Q & A with Terry Gilliam, and The Rats, all leave this a far from bare-bones disc, although none of the above really feel truly substantial, instead adopting a broad approach to revealing a bit of background into the production.
Is The Zero Theorem Blu-ray Worth BuyingPerhaps it's unreasonable to expect - or ask for - a Gilliam film which will appeal to more than just a Gilliam audience, but it isn't an unprecedented notion, and, whilst it is neither lacking in ambition, vision, talent or performance, The Zero Theorem isn't quite cut from the same cloth as its siblings. Maybe that's the point though - Hollywood and the film industry have changed so much, whilst he hasn't wanted to, that Gilliam has had to change too. So perhaps, as a post-2010 bookend to his dystopian satire trilogy, we couldn't have expected anything better, and should probably just be grateful that he can still make movies at all.
Casual Gilliam admirers might want to find another jumping-off point into his wierd and wonderful world.
This Region Free UK Blu-ray boasts solid video and audio - respectful of the original source material despite its inherent limitations - as well a scattershot selection of extra features. Fans of the film, and dedicated fans of Gilliam, will be pleased to add this to their collection. Those expecting another Twelve Monkeys or Brazil should temper such expectations, but it's worth checking out to see how he rounds out the loose trilogy.
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