After the questionable E.T. restoration, have Spielberg and friends done a better job with Amity's best anti-tourism film?
August 21, 2012 7:19 pmKevin James
Film restorations are a sensitive undertaking these days. While the average transfer from film to DVD was rarely put under much scrutiny, it seems that current Blu-ray conversions have been the subject of considerable more criticism thanks to the sometimes unforgiving high-fidelity the format affords. DVDs got the job done, but Blu-rays are here to give people the definitive version of films, so when Universal looked at converting Jaws to the pristine home-viewing medium they knew they were signing on for a project that required a special type of attention.
I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’ve seen the movie that launched the concept of the summer blockbuster. Few popcorn films truly warrant the branding of a classic, but Jaws irrefutably defined the label for entertainment genre flicks. The characters, the music, the monster, the scenery, the nostalgia - everything is here waiting to be revisited for good reason. The film itself holds up very well despite having a less-than-convincing animatronic shark, but Speilberg and co. did such an amazing job staging each scene of the story that it never once gets in the way of what the movie wants to do. Watching it for the first time in almost a decade, it’s noticeable just how much quicker the film's pace moves compared to its contemporaries (this was, of course, before the likes of Star Wars, Superman: The Movie, and Raiders of the Lost Ark). The clip at which the plot moves along at is what really helps the movie work so well to this day, and everything the story needs in order to work is laid out in either perfectly understated or wonderfully engaging ways. If you haven’t seen this movie I can only suggest that you grab a friend and make a night out of seeing a piece of film history that is as culturally relevant as it is genuinely fun to experience.
It’s refreshing to watch this movie in such polished quality after all of these years, even if Jaws has been released on home video for as many times as there has been formats to purchase it on (moreso if you count repackages). With the audio/video potential of Blu-ray combined with the aging original prints of the movie, this was going to be an unforgiving conversion to undertake. Thanks to a wetgate transfer combined with frame-by-frame removals of hairs and film fractures, even the most fastidious of videophiles should be content with the final result. Just enough has been touched up to make you feel like you’re seeing it for the time without losing the aged-film look of the seventies. The opening scene has just enough dated elements to give you the rose-tinted glasses effect you’d hope for, but there’s nary a problem to find with the picture otherwise. Color is probably the most noticeable improvement to the film, but that’s probably largely due to how much more depth is available for the skylines now. No shot feels terribly over-exposed or bright but scenes that are supposed to feel sunny do so. This new transfer does a good job keeping any noticeable digital trickery to a minimum and does what all Blu-ray releases should do: give the audience the cleanest version of the film possible while losing as little original material as possible.
The single most impressive aspect of this release of the movie is the 7.1 DTS track. When DVDs first became ubiquiotis and older films started having “restored” or “enhanced” soundtracks, there was often a feeling of disappointment for purists when original sound work was tossed out in favor of modern sound effect libraries. Thankfully, this Blu-ray has a deep respect for the source material. While the first half of Jaws has a few punctuations (most of them thanks to John William’s well-preserved score), the second half of the story has plenty along with some strong ambient sea-noise. When the musical score dies down and all we’re left with is three men trying desperately to catch and kill a shark goliathan, the choppiness of the ocean and mechanical details of a spear-gun operating are all we’re left with. The use of original on-set sound complimented by a conservative use of modern, high-quality mix does a great deal to put you in the scene in a way I haven’t experienced with any other older film’s restoration. Hearing a certain character turn into the shark’s final meal was startling in a way I wasn’t expecting either, and this mix is to thank for that. If any changes to the original mix scare you, you need not worry: this disc also comes with a DTS 2.0 track of the original soundtrack.
The Jaws Blu-ray restoration is likely going to become a footnote for home theater aficionados to measure future releases against. Watching your favorite film for the first time on Blu-ray can sometimes be a heart-breaking experience (I don’t want to tell you how underwhelming the Blu-ray release of Ghostbusters was for me when I saw how little was done to improve the dated and noisy picture), but thanks to the efforts at Universal Studios we can rest assured knowing that the first summer blockbuster has been given its just-due.
A must-see that inspired countless film makers, this is without question one of the most important popcorn films ever made.
With dated and lower-budgeted material to work with, this restoration did the best job one could ask for. It looks great.
This new remastering of the soundtrack gives the movie an appropriate shot in the arm without taking away the original's charm.
A piece on the restoration is nice, but the hundred-minute documentary on the film is in letter-boxed SD. Comes with a DVD, too.
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING
out of 10