Director Baz Luhrmann has been known for making visually pleasing and heavily stylized films, which simply means that he was born to eventually direct the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic The Great Gatsby. And boy does he direct it; filling the film with lush photography and a general grand presentation that turns the timeless classic into an epic on-screen event that absolutely must be viewed in 3D. Unfortunately, The Great Gatsby also suffers from a director going overboard with his visual flare, while not focusing enough time on the film’s numerous detestable characters, played with a varying range by Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire.
The film follows a young and aspiring writer by the name of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he ventures off into the big city with hopes and dreams of making it. Things don’t really pan out for Nick at first and he puts his dreams on the back-burner while he works his way up the ladder in stocks and trading over on Wall Street. Nick is a simple man, living in a plain house that serves him fine, but leaves him eagerly seeking more. He wants more out of life and he’s willing to do just about anything to experience a little bit of fun.
This fun comes to him in the form of a mysteriously wealthy man by the name of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Nick receives an invite to one of Gatsby’s many parties one night and from that point everything changes. Nick almost instantly gets dropped into Gatsby’s grey and jaded world, full of lies and secrets that come with a hefty price. Nothing is all glitz and glamour and eventually with time the past will come poking out to reveal itself.
The Great Gatsby is a timeless classic that most consider one of the best American novels of all time. The book does the characters justice and allows for the reader to paint a glorious world in their head, while the film paints that picture big and grand, but while doing so muddies F. Scott Fitzgerald’s characters, their intentions and their lasting mark on the love story that unfolds.
Baz Luhrmann injects the film with a crazy amount of visual energy that’s big and bold and in-your-face for 90% of the time. The film is very much a culmination of everything that Luhrmann has been working towards and visually it never fails to impress. The use of 3D photography only helps pull you into the world that Luhrmann has created and for a brief moment one might forget that they’re not actually at one of Gatsby’s many parties.
The film’s use of contemporary music only helps modernize the story and give it a fresh perspective. The Great Gatsby is a technical work of a beauty, shifting between gorgeous shots on the fly and constantly giving the viewers with an endless supply of eye candy. But all of that style is only to cover the lack of true substance found beneath the surface.
Luhrmann was lucky enough to cast Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan as the film’s focusing leads. DiCaprio especially heightens the film’s performances and brings the character of Jay Gatsby alive with his usual amount of charm and confidence. He also nestles away a past that gets slowly chipped away over time and watching DiCaprio toy with all of these emotions and feelings on-screen is just another fine example of why he’s considered one of the best American actors out there.
He takes the film and elevates it to a respectable level that makes it more than just something flashy to look at. Carey Mulligan does the same playing the opposite side of the spectrum with an equal amount of mystery, while also exposing the film’s darker characters.
Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton and the rest of the close supporting cast only slow down the film whenever Leonardo DiCaprio or Carey Mulligan aren’t present. Maguire certainly sticks out the most, not because he’s a bad actor, but because he’s just not the right man for the character and the interpretation of the character in this specific film isn’t nearly as strong as the one in the book.
Somewhere in the writing process The Great Gatsby lost lots of its thematic impact in exchange for another party scene done up fashionably well by Luhrmann and his crew. This makes the film’s stronger elements buckle, while the on-screen beauty shines through a hollow lens.
The Great Gatsby captures the look and feel of the classic novel, but definitely not its heart and soul. Baz Luhrmann trades the possibly of telling a timeless love story for a film that’s too focused on moving with high energy and not looking back. The visuals are top notch and earn the film a recommendation on those grounds alone, but it would have been nice if Luhrmann actually utilized his endless supply of talent to make something a little more important.
The film’s 1080p video transfer is a dazzling experience that helps defend the 3D format entirely. This is exactly how one makes a 3D experience come completely alive on screen, with extra attention spent on depth of field and expanding the colors to help create a fully immersible world. WB’s transfer come with solid black levels and enough color and texturized detail to impress any high def hater. The 3D presentation definitely takes advantage of the space and helps heighten the experience, while occasionally suffering from softer colors than the 2D counterpart.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track comes roaring with a crossfire mix of traditional scoring and a modernized soundtrack to boot. I prefer the later, but still enjoy the entire audio experience that’s given a completely layered sound on this disc. Dialogue is never fuzzy or muffled on the front channels, while most of the ambiance can be heard on the back channels. This is without a doubt a visual-heavy film, but the audio holds its own with this high quality track.
Here’s a list of bonus material found on the combo pack:
- 2D & 3D versions of the film
- The Greatness of Gatsby (HD)
- “Within and Without” with Toby Maguire (HD)
- The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby (HD)
- Gatsby Revealed (HD)
- The Jazz Age (HD)
- Razzle Dazzle: The Fashion of the ’20s (HD)
- Fitzgerald’s Visual Poetry (HD)
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- 1926 Trailer – The Great Gatsby (HD)
- DVD Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Does The Great Gatsby look absolutely amazing on Blu-Ray? Yes. Does Baz Luhrmann make something that’s gorgeous to look at, but slightly empty on every other level? Unfortunately, yes. The Great Gatsby is a Blu-Ray that most will want to pick up to show off, but those looking for a proper adaptation that remains completely faithful will be disappointed by the lack of character focus versus Luhrmann’s obsession with style, flare and grand storytelling.
Baz Luhrmann’s talents as a visual filmmaker are not wasted, but he chooses style over substance too many times, making The Great Gatsby a well-filmed, but unfocused love story that has plenty of kick, but no lasting impact.