Australia [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Adam Palcher (19th April 2009).
The Film

Baz Luhrmann has always been the director that went way too over the top for the sake of the visuals and the story, with a body of films that created "Moulin Rouge!" (2001) and the remake of "Romeo + Juliet" (1996). This film both benefits and suffers from mind and vision that only Baz Luhrmann can create.

The story starts with an unlikely “proper” English woman named Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) traveling to Australia to convince her husband to sell their cattle business and move back to England. Guided by the stunningly beautiful hunk of a man Drover (Hugh Jackman) to their ranch on Faraway Downs Lady Sarah quickly finds her husband to be killed and a young Aboriginal boy that instantly finds “Miss Boss” funny, interesting and a mother figure.

The cattle have been set free by the “bad guy”, if you can call him that, Neil Fletcher (David Wenham) and this odd team of misfits decided to collect the cattle themselves and make the final delivery. Kidman’s character quickly comes into her own skin with the rough neck Australian life and grows her independence as a character and a love interest to Hugh Jackman. After the cattle drive the remainder of the film turns into a Michael Bay-esque "Pearl Harbor" (2001) adventure movie full of bombs dropping and magic men changing the world ever so slightly to help the group complete their mission.

Now don’t get me wrong I love a classic epic adventure, there are obvious reminisces of "Gone With The Wind" (1939) and "The African Queen" (1951) all throughout this film, you could even say it’s a tribute to the films of this nature, with every convention and cliché we’ve seen with films like these Luhrmann embraces the large scale epic genre with love and compassionate and pulls off a beautiful looking film and a 3 hour bloated story with predictable, yet fun performances.

I actually did have a good time with this film, more than it may sound like. The first half was a genuine fun ride and I thought the plight of the Aboriginal people throughout the film was interesting and enjoyable, since it was a subject I wasn’t too familiar with. But it begins to fall flat after the first half and turns into a predictable love story that was bound to spark between Jackman and Kidman. They both do a great job on screen and it’s not their fault this movie eventually falls flat, overused and predictable plot points and dialogue begin to get old fast. Though I’m sure Luhrmann has the best intentions when making this epic he should have quit while he was ahead.

As I’ve read his main intention with this film was to show the plight and suffering of the Aboriginal people, alas it’s only a subplot of the story where as the love story takes precedence over everything.

Overall there is some really fun stuff in "Australia" and could be appealing to the epic, adventure, love story fiend in you, but for me it fell short with the story, dragged on way too long but made up for all that with the acting, cinematography and landscapes.

Video

This movie is made to watch on Blu-ray being represented in 2:35:1 aspect ratio and 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4. The beautiful transfer looks sharp and true showing off the breathtaking landscapes of Australia and sweeping shots that must be included in an epic like this. Even the CGI cattle proved to be a treat when watching the film. The visuals were my favorite part of the film and truly transfer wonderfully here, I couldn’t imagine NOT seeing this film in high definition, it’s really the only way to fully appreciate Luhrman’s vision and makes for a better experience.

Audio

Presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixed at 48kHz/24-bit and Dolby Digital 5.1 in French and Spanish. The DTS-HD audio track here is mixed very subtly and is full of life and variety. With the sweeping music to tell you when to be emotional and swelling at the right times and fighter planes zooming across the room we never get an unbalanced product and the heavy bass is particularly shown off during the cattle driving and war scenes.
Subtitles are presented in English for the hearing impaired, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Portuguese.

Extras

Fox has released this film with a series of deleted scenes, several featurettes, theatrical trailers plus a series of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

Two deleted scenes from the film presented in HD:

-“ What About The Drove?” – Runs 2 minutes and 2 seconds, a scene where Drover is convincing Lady Ashley to stay because her herd is worth more than her land. Seems like it should have stayed in the movie.
- “ Angry Staff Serves Dinner” – Runs 58 seconds, basically what the title explains Lady Ashley not liking her food gets sent to her room, worth being taken out.

"Australia: The People, The History, The Location" featurette, is a fluff piece for the extras that explains exactly what the title says, interviews with the cast and crew talking about how great and beautiful Australia is, Baz Luhrmann explaining the history of the country mixed in with archival footage of his research and how his characters are based on real people, also the official apology from the Australian government to the Aboriginal people. Like I said fluff, not worth your time. Runs 7 minutes 1 second.

"Behind-the-Scenes" is an extensive series of HD behind-the-scenes featurettes with Baz Luhrmann taking us through every aspect of the film. Literally almost every aspect of the film in separate segments or a 'play all' feature, the only one I thought was missing was acting or casting? Seems like an aspect that people would enjoy seeing and hearing about, although you do see plenty of the actors and crew in interviews throughout the various segments. The segments are interesting enough and if you really love the movie and want to learn, you can sit through 71 minutes of the director proving his passions in examined detail. The featurettes include the following:

- "Photography" which runs for 4 minutes 37 seconds.
- "Production Design" which runs for 5 minutes 30 seconds.
- "Costume Design" which runs for 6 minutes 58 seconds.
- "Locations" which runs for 6 minutes 22 seconds.
- "Cinematography" which runs for 6 minutes 44 seconds.
- "Sound" which runs for 11 minutes 5 seconds.
- "Editing" which runs for 11 minutes 5 seconds.
- "Music" which runs for 10 minutes 23 seconds.
- "Visual Effects" which runs for 8 minutes 40 seconds.

Also under the 'special features' tab we get 3 theatrical trailers of "Australia" itself:

- Theatrical trailer "A" runs 1 minutes and 28 seconds.
- Theatrical trailer "B" runs 1 minutes and 28 seconds.
- Theatrical trailer "C" runs 2 minutes and 2 seconds.

There are bonus trailers for:

- "Quantum of Solace" runs 2 minutes and 2 seconds.
- "The Day The Earth Stood Still" runs 1 minutes and 52 seconds.
- "Marley & Me" runs 2 minutes and 25 seconds.
- "Slumdog Millionaire" runs 2 minutes.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: A+ Audio: A- Extras: C- Overall: C

 


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