Dear Evan Hansen Review
Everybody's secret is they have a secret side
Hey, you know what would make a great Sunday afternoon film? A drama about teen depression, anxiety and suicide, perhaps? Definitely. What say we take this dark and emotion drama and make it a musical? A musical, you say? Wouldn’t that kind of dilute the story you are trying to tell? Never, it’s a foot tapping, feel good musical and everyone will love it. But it’s about depression and suicide. Yes, with singing. But. What? Suicide. Singing!
It's an odd choice that’s for sure.
We’ve discussed film adaptation many times before: book to screen can be fraught with issues (unless it’s not), so too are stage plays, ask anyone about Eastwood’s Jersey Boys (2014) for example. And perhaps this is where the issues really fall; Dear Evan Hansen was a tremendously successful stage play, winning numerous awards and inspiring a book of the same name, itself hugely successful. So, adapting it as a film seemed like a shoo-in, but, unfortunately, the end result is missing the impact, resonance and heart of its previous incarnations, despite the pedigree of collaborators who brought it to the screen.
The story itself is tragic and emotionally bonding, told with a straight narrative and, whilst pretty commonplace, it does work within the confines of its structure; an ‘outsider’ high school student makes a bad choice which leads to huge deception that comes crumbling down once the truth comes out; pretty standard stuff; but the characters all have issues that lend themselves to the forward narrative (in this regard it did feel a tad like Rent (2005), itself a weak adaptation of its own stage performance), and I get the feeling that if played straight would have made a decent, if predictable, TV movie. But the addition of the musical numbers seems to pull you out of the story, they don’t fit the filmic narrative, whilst in the play they are obvious and necessary. (Oh, a quick word about the songs themselves – they all sound the same, single voice start that builds to a huge crescendo then finishes in the same single voice; and once you hear that it becomes so annoying!) The structure is very ‘play-like’ as well, with a clear separation between the two acts (so easy to spot where the intermission was) and so loses out on the narrative in this regard too.
The film's message is a strong one, and thankfully that is not diminished by the presentation, but I can’t help but think this might have been better served by simply showing the play rather than this awkward adaptation which doesn’t manage to capture that magic.
Dear Evan Hansen 4K Video
Dear Evan Hansen was shot digitally using Red Monstro 8K using the maximum resolution of that camera, 8K, which was then downscaled to form a 4K DI from which this UHD is sourced.
The disc presents a native 3840 x 2160p resolution images, all with the widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, uses 10-bit video depth, High Dynamic Range (HDR), a Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec for Dolby Vison and HRD10.
We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Dear Evan Hansen on a Panasonic TX-65HZ1000B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Panasonic DP-UB450 Dolby Vision HDR10+ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
The image is frequently stunning; detail is absolute, from skin texture (indeed make-up lines are visible) to clothing weaves, from leaves and foliage to high school lockers, linoleum and posters. Crowds of students, tarmac, household knickknacks, computer screens, creases in paper, sky lines clouds – everything is absolutely pristine.
The WCG and HDR, in Dolby Vison flavour, boost the colours by making them look amazingly natural; flesh tones, the sky, reds of the Bobcat uniforms, greens of grasslands and leaves, the sunlight as it streams through windows, is pure, a beautiful rendition of hues.
Black level is strong, though the image seldom needs to go that dark, the sets are well lit with lots of ambience, but there is good shadow detail when required, and a decent frame depth, even if the framing itself is ‘stage-like’. The white scale is terrific, though, with strong highlights giving some nice punch, sunlight is amazing.
Digitally there are no compression issues, and the original source is pristine.
Dear Evan Hansen 4K Audio
The Dolby Atmos track makes good use of the surround field especially during the musical numbers, with a terrific sense of separation between the instruments and the vocals; this is especially true of the ensemble songs which feel like they could be on stage such is the power, with the opening song being of particular delight, as Evan enters the school hall with the myriad of students gathering for the start of term, while he sings.
Dialogue is well maintained within the mix, being prioritised to the frontal array, but with occasional directionality when needed; the school corridors for example. Bass is well handled and adds to the music, but there are no LF effects as such, so whilst it is tight and deep, it never plumbs the depths.
Dear Evan Hansen 4K Extras
Extras on the UHD are in both 4K and Dolby Vision.
Songs To Be Seen – A 45-minute feature that examines each of the songs as performed in the film by looking at their meaning and wider context.
Looking Through the Lens: The Making of Dear Evan Hansen – 8 minute feature, culled from the same material, but looking at the screen adaption and other production issues.
Sincerely, Ben Platt – 5 minutes but this time centring on the film’s star.
Dear Evan Hansen 4K Blu-ray Review
Dear Evan Hansen is a filmic adaptation of an award-winning stage play and subsequent book, but in that adaptation is loses something, most notably the impact, resonance and heart; instead of adding to the story, the musical numbers (which all frustratingly sound the same) seem to stop it in its tracks, so whilst the message of the film isn’t lost, the telling of it is. Perhaps just showing the stage performance would have been better?
As a UHD the set from Dazzler is pretty good; the native 4K image is mostly spectacular thanks to incredible detail and naturalistic colouring and strong blacks, while the Dolby Atmos surround track really opens up the sound stage with wide separation and a ‘theatrical’ presentation. The extras, whilst slim, do cover a lot, and are on the UHD in DV to boot!
Dazzler Media presents Dear Evan Hansen on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & DVD from 21st March
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