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Overall Grade
5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
5 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
2 Stars
High-Def Extras
3 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition

Street Date:
March 31st, 2015
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
March 27th, 2015
Movie Release Year:
2013
Studio:
Warner Brothers
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

The 'Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition' marks this film's second home entertainment release.

As such, portions of this review appear in our original coverage of 'Gravity'. The Movie Itself and Video sections are essentially unchanged. Vital Disc Stats, Audio, Supplements/HD Exclusives, and Final Thoughts have been updated for this specific release.

Introduction

At 600KM above Planet Earth the temperature 
fluctuates between +258 and -148 degrees Fahrenheit

There is nothing to carry sound
No air pressure
No oxygen

Life in space is impossible

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Sometimes it's near impossible to talk about why you like a film without, you know, talking about the whole thing. As such, this review is seperated into two sections. A SHORT reveiw that aims to be spoiler-free. And a LONG review that openly discusses mid-to-late plot points, twists, and setpieces. Consider yourself warned.

THE SHORT OF IT

'Gravity' was co-written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, an extremely talented filmmaker who has helmed a string of visually dynamic movies  -- 'Children of Men', 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban', 'Y Tu Mama Tambien', 'A Little Princess', and 'Great Expectations' (1998) -- in multiple genres. 'Gravity' extends Cuarón's infamous fluid camera movements and long takes to an extreme, all while asking the terrifying what if: when an unexpected chain reaction of hurtling debris slams into the middle of a routine Space Shuttle mission, killing all but two of the crew members, can the survivors find a way home? 

The film stars Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone, a bit of an everywoman on her first mission to install a prototype on the Hubble Telescope, and the ever-charming George Clooney as Matt Kowalski, a charming veteran astronaut on his final mission. Together, Stone and Kowalski must push past their fears to do the impossible, all before the oxygen in their space suits runs out.

Simply put, 'Gravity' is my favorite cinematic experience of the last few years. I've seen it seven times since October (five of those theatrically, the last one a week ago as part of a double feature with 'IMAX: Hubble 3D'). It's an excruciatingly tense, edge-of-your seat survival thriller with gobsmacking visuals, almost-never-ending suspense, and photo-realistic visual effects on top of a beautifully poetic metaphor for rebirth. This is a movie that screams, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how scared you become, never give in... Never stop fighting.

Not everyone will love 'Gravity' -- some for its simplicity, some for the scientific compromises made -- and that's perfectly okay too. But I sincerely hope everyone gives it a chance. If it's not too late, try to find it on the largest screen possible. I personally found the IMAX 3D version to be visually arresting, though I enjoyed the Dolby Atmos sound mix more, which was only available in a limited number of theatres during the initial release. If it's not still out in cinemas as you read this, which is very likely despite its recent Oscar nominations, please check out this Blu-ray on the biggest TV or projector setup you can find. Like 'Lawrence of Arabia', 'Jurassic Park', 'Avatar', or any grand Hollywood adventure, 'Gravity' is a motion picture experience meant for the big screen with booming sound. The bigger the better.

THE LONG CON...VERSATION

"All of these tools were used to capture the thematic and emotional story we were trying to tell." - Alfonso Cuarón.

Okay, so you've hopefully already seen the movie. My aim isn't to ruin the movie, or to give a beat-by-beat synopsis of the plot, but the truth is you should see 'Gravity' the first time with knowing as little as possible. However, for me to fully describe what parts I love most, or what could possibly improve, I'm going to have to dive into key sequences. 

Final spoiler warning.

First, I know the short review was a wee bit hyperbolic. I genuinely, sincerely, enthusiastically love 'Gravity', but let's be super clear. In no way am I defining "favorite" as "best." Sure, if I were to make another Best Of 2013 List, I would slap 'Gravity at the tippity top along with 'Frozen' and 'The Wolf of Wall Street'. But I kinda hate lists. I don't get them. There is no Best in filmmaking. Business objectives be damned, at the end of the day movies are hugely subjective emotional experiences (aka ART). And though 'Gravity' is cleaning up at various awards season ceremonies, I'm so, so glad Warners released this Blu-ray before the actual announcements. Right now, a couple weeks before the Academy Awards, it's looking like a bakeoff between 'Gravity', '12 Years a Slave', and maaaaaybe 'American Hustle'. But screw that. 

Movies aren't a competition. 

I know the one trillion award shows and weekend box office reporting make movies seem like a sport. Where you can get behind Team Movie A, and look down at Team Movie B because they, um, like something you don't. But it's silly and distracting.

[Hey, Palmer, get off the tangential soapbox!]

Sorry. My point: it doesn't matter how successful 'Gravity' is, or ho many awards it collects when all things are said and done. Hell, it's even too early to talk about whether or not 'Gravity' will, or will not, attain some type of lasting cultural relevance. All that I care about is what 'Gravity' was trying to to, and how truly successful it is in achieving those goals.

To explore this, I want to talk about how I experience(d) 'Gravity'. God, I hope this makes some sense, but watching this movie, I bounce between three simultaneous experiences. Let's call them The Thrill Ride, The Metaphors, and The Filmmaking.

The Thrill Ride. On the surface 'Gravity' is roller coaster cinema in the best possible sense. I happen to adore what's called survival or "contained" action thrillers. Give me the likes of 'Die Hard', 'Speed', 'The Edge', 'The Descent', or 'The Grey' any day of the week, and I will immediately get sucked into the story. I love that sense of isolation, of people thematically learning to let go, of people fighting to live. It's extremely human to imagine a terrifying situation and wonder, "oh, shit, what in the hell would I do?"

In that sense, 'Gravity' is a exercise in abject terror, tension, and release. Hitchock would be proud. It knows when to ramp up and give the audience a breather, but it never ever, ever cuts away and lets you leave your protagonist. Dr. Stone begins as an everywoman -- a character we don't know very much about and, therefore, thrust our own selves onto. After the Kessler Syndrome inspired chain reaction kills everyone and leaves them stranded -- in fucking space! -- Kowalski must save Stone because she can't let go. At the beginning of the her journey, Stone would have died. But because Kowalski pushes Stone to change, and helps her face her own past, Stone is reborn (more on rebirth below). Stone transforms from an everywoman into a veteran astronaut, which is not only awesome, but also believable as we learn more and more about her training. She's not an everywoman at all. She never was. She sheds that fear, and becomes a very special person who does the impossible.

And all the spectacle? Wow! As I said before, it never ends. It's just a shit-show of unrelenting challenge and obstacles, filmed in a way that is both intense and beautiful. Some folks couldn't handle 'Gravity' in cinemas because it made them too motion sick, and I really feel for those people. Because I've never been to space, but at the end of 'Gravity', my palms were sweaty and it was a relief to step out of the theatre.

The Metaphors. Underneath the ride and the story, we get a beautiful tapestry of metaphors for Stone's rebirth. And the best part, this isn't some secret code designed to be snooty or hidden. Nor is it beaten to death by anyone talking about it. Nope, it's all visual and super clear. This is a story of a woman who ends up stranded alone. She is afraid. And she can't do what is right because, as I've said, she can't let go. But when Stone "dies" (not literally, though this happens after her oxygen runs out when she is outside the I.S.S... so do with that what you will), she finds the sanctity of the I.S.S., which is clearly meant to evoke a womb. It nourishes her, brings her back to life. From there, Stone grows and fights for her survival, seeking guidance under various faiths (we see Jesus in the Soyuz, Buddha in the Shenzhou capsule), and eventually crawls out of the water in a clear nod to Darwinism -- at first on all fours, and then rising to two feet, taking her first steps anew in the primordial ooze.

Another fun visual metaphor: the use of Earth geography to help define the character's arcs in the story. The Earth is clearly the film's third character (the filmmakers say as much in the making-of documentaries), a representation of all that is good and protective. Mother Earth, therefore, acts not only as a goal, but as a balance to the infinite blackness of space (of death). Further, various geographical locations to stand in for where Stone is on her journey. When she is most alone, there's nothing but space in the background. When Kowalski is helping Stone to the I.S.S., they travel over Africa and the Middle East -- that is, they are on a biblical-esc journey, two lost souls crossing the desert. Later, when Stone is at her lowest, she and the Soyuz capsule are "stranded" over the frozen, glacial north. And, my personal favorite: when Stone is given a moment to rest at the film's mid-point, she looks down on the "eye of the storm"... seconds before all hell breaks loose. Simple layers, but a lot of fun to think about.

The Filmmaking. At the cross section of the literal story and clear metaphors, I've watched and rewatched 'Gravity' so many times simply because I am in awe of Alfonso Cuarón... along with his co-writer Jonás Cuarón, their producing partners, the cinematographer, the composer, the production designers, the actors, the visual effects departments, the sound mixers and re-recorders. Everyone.

Tip of the hat. Raise of the pint. Slow of the clap.

From a technical standpoint, whether or not you love, loathe, like, hate, or don't care about this movie, 'Gravity is a masterclass. It's absolutely stunning in just about every way. I've always been impressed with Cuarón's visual style. He often uses fluid steadicam shots as well as long takes (or oners), which are not only impressive from a production standpoint, but really sell being in the moment with the characters. Basically, when a team of movie makers do something bold in their filmmaking, I can't help but cheer and be impressed at the circus-like bravdo.

'Gravity' also has a lean, tight script. It starts slow, ramps up quickly, and though it never really lets the audience off the hook, knows when to give us a moment to breath, or a moment to hope, or a moment to give up and accept all is lost. What makes the script particularly impressive, to me at least, is how everything structurally serves two purposes. Not only in the thrill ride / metaphor sense discussed above, but also in the way it sets up future payoffs, like the location of the two space stations, Dr. Stone's ability to pilot certain vehicles, how important parachutes and certain landing mechanisms will be, how Stone thinks to use a fire extinguisher 'Wall-E' style, the recurring usage of oxygen running out. I've talked to some who don't always like all the answers the film gives (for example, the reason for the initial chain reaction), but nothing in this movie is irrelevant or unexplained.

Finally, the visual effects are pretty incredible. And, if you get a chance to watch the Blu-ray's behind-the-scenes documentaries, you'll be even more impressed. Sure, there are a few shots here or there that aren't perfect, but generally 'Gravity' has my favorite type of special effects: the invisible ones. To best mimic the look and feeling of zero gravity, the filmmakers had to invent an entire new way of photographing the actors. What they ended up doing was -- for much of the film -- concentrating on filming actors' faces or bodies. The sense of movement, of floating, was created with a combination of relatively-still actors, motion control cameras, and a brand new lighting system dubbed the "light box" -- think of it like being in a small room with LED TVs all around you. At the end of the day, 'Gravity' is essentially an animated movie that looks 99% photo realistic (especially when comparing it to the Hubble documentary).

But is there anything I do NOT like?

Eh, sorta. We all have our own little things that bug us. A line of dialog here or there, etc. But the one thing that I would actively try to change is the moment that Kowalski sacrifices himself to save Stone (about 32 minutes in). Personally, I think it works, but I've talked to a few folks who seem to think Kowalski and Stone are at a full stop, and his presumed death is therefore an unnecessary gesture / "a plot hole." Because he's weightless, right? Actually, no. He's not "weightless." Kawalski and Stone are falling through space. Because of the scene's choreography, I can understand why it looks like, to some, as though these two characters have stopped, when they're still arcing outwards at the end of the parachute straps. There's even a key shot where you can see the parachute moving around the I.S.S. Also, Kowalski and Stone probably talk a little longer than they should. One solve may have been to orchestrate the scene so that Kowalski and Stone come together sooner, so it can play out as they're swinging on the pendulum at the end of those straps (technically, that IS what is happening, but perhaps it could be more clear).

Time will tell if 'Gravity' has any lasting impact on cinema or the culture at large, but for me this film is already one of many personal favorites. Though nothing can recreate your first viewing on the largest screen possible, I would also argue this thrill ride of tension and suspense improves, or at least maintains its initial impact, on repeat viewings thanks to bold filmmaking and detailed layers of visual metaphors.

To read more about 'Gravity', from those much smarter than I, check out these essays:

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

The 'Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition' is a two-disc release housed in shiny booklet-style packaging held closed by magnets. I'm not sure how durable this casing will be over time, but it's quite attractive, and the discs are easily accessible. 

Blu-ray Disc One contains the feature film with access to the Dolby Atmos surround mix or a Dolby Digital based Silent Space Version. Blu-ray Disc Two boasts all the Bonus Materials from the original release plus three new HD Exclusives. 

There are no forced trailers on either disc, nor are there any included DVDs or Digital HD Copies included. Lastly, the Diamond Luxe Edition does NOT include the 3D version of the film.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

After comparing both releases, it appears the Diamond Luxe Edition has recycled the original 2D Blu-ray's video transfer. As such, here's what I said about that original release :

'Gravity' hurtles onto Blu-ray with a pristine MPEG-4 AVC encode, presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1.

Though my preferred format / experience is 3D, 'Gravity' is also a two dimensional stunner. Detail and resolution are endless, from the pores on the actors faces to the various space suits and vehicles. Space itself is filled with inky blackness and infinite stares. Shots of, or reflecting, the Earth are particularly gorgeous, with bold and bright colors across the entire spectrum. Skin tones are surprisingly accurate, though they tend to reflect various lighting sources (as they should). It is here where the filmmakers' "light box" really grounds the film, giving accurate iris movement and corneal reflections.

As for flaws, I simply don't see any. No banding, no macroblocking, no damage or dirt, no crush, no edge enhancement, no noise in darker moments. Nada. 'Gravity' looks terrific.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Early Atmos adopters, meet your go-to Demo Disc. 

The 'Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition' rights the aural wrongs of the original 5.1 Blu-ray release. Yes, the original 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround mix was pretty damned good, but in back-to-back comparisons, it cannot compete with the new Dolby Atmos mix that wonderfully replicates the film's original theatrical sound experience. To say it another way, this Blu-ray offers the definitive way to experience 'Gravity' in surround sound.

Audio options include Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 Discrete Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Discrete Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital. 

Please note: if you select Dolby Atmos from this Blu-ray's Language options and you do NOT own an Atmos-capable AV processor or receiver, the Atmos mix will collapse all of its individual objects down into a 7.1 or 5.1 or 2.0 Dolby TrueHD mix (depending on your setup). In addition to Atmos and 7.1/5.1/2.0 capabilities, the Diamond Luxe Edition also offers the Silent Space Version audio experience as an alternate, music-free experience.

Dolby Atmos

For the Atmos portion of this review, Pioneer was kind enough to let me crash their demo room. Much like my Pioneer trip last September to hear the first Atmos Blu-ray, I reviewed 'Gravity' in a 5.1.4 configuration. This set up included the Elite SC-89 9.2 channel AV Receiver, the BDP-85FD Elite Blu-ray Player, the SP-EC73 Elite Center Channel Speaker, the SW-E10 Elite Subwoofer, and four Dolby Atmos enabled SP-EFS73 Elite Floor-standing Speakers. At the present time, Pioneer does not offer an AVR with enough amplification or processing for 7.1.4 Atmos configurations (only 5.1.2, 5.1.4 or 7.1.2). However, Pioneer's new sister company, Onkyo, does. 

I need to spend some more time with a set of these at home to get a full sense, but after about five total hours with them, the Andrew Jones floor standers are terrific speakers with an incredible range and clarity. Not once did they fail to reproduce Gravity's extremely dynamic sound mix. I'm still a big fan of side surrounds, personally, but if I was considering 5.1.4, this system does a nice job of filling a sizable room, and it's relatively compact for a nine-channel setup.

Okay, shout-outs aside, let's talk about 'Gravity' Atmos. 

'Gravity' remains one of my favorite theatrical surround mixes of all time. It uses its Steven Price orchestral score to fill in the pulsating tensions and heartbreaking emotion where traditional sound effects don't appear. It also features wonderfully active side-to-side, front-to-back, and ear-level-to-overhead panning that is equal parts aggressive (booming bass and loud metallic collisions) and subtle (listen closely enough, and you can hear tiny desecrate objects ricocheting around the room, adding the finest layer of extra detail).

The best word to describe it all is precise.

The 'Gravity' sound mix is also a bit surprising, giving viewers percussive, bombastic sensations in ways that aren't traditional in the modern surround era. Meaning, this track is more than just the expected big bangs featured in most action thrillers. For example, after watching 'Gravity', a I demo'd a couple quick scenes from 'Mockingjay Part 1' and 'John Wick'. Both offer detailed immersion, but their greatest sonic moments are also their most literally explosive. In this way, 'Gravity' stands out for not only being good at what it does, but also for offering more than literalism (Don't worry, there are literal explosions too. Hurrah!). Also, unlike other Atmos discs I've demo'd, 'Gravity' uses height speakers for much, much more of the movie's running time. Most of this is orchestral elements, which both immerses you in the world, and makes your living room feel much taller than it is.

Evaluating this 'Gravity' in Atmos was such a joy for all the crazy things it does, but it also captures the essence of what makes a great sound mix. Dialog is crystal clear, emanating from every corner of the room (though not necessarily above). LFE effects are deep, not only during outer space debris collisions, but also in emotionally effective elements such as pounding heart beats. Sound effects are active and precisely laid out, matching the theatrical presentation. But the real star of the mix is Steven Price. Wow, what a score, sometimes acting as music, sometimes acting as sound effects, always adding to the pacing, escalating tensions, and emotional struggles. 

I could go on longer, heaping praise, but instead I'll offer you a chance to check out my favorite demo sequences. Atmos takes all of them to a new level not heard in 7.1 or 5.1 configurations, but these are go-to demo chapters regardless of your setup:

Chapter 1. Everything in this chapter is wonderful, particularly the vocal panning. However, at about 10 or 11 minutes, the action really ramps up. Also, at about 14:30, you can pick out some of the more subtle 360 panning effects (not sure if it's musical elements or traditional sound effects)

Chapter 5. By this point, you've had a couple action sequence. Chapter 5 is special because our characters get into an environment with actual oxygen and the sound designers have filled it all with some wonderful atmospheric elements. There's also some nice explosions and deep LFE in here.

Chapter 6. Right as you click into the sixth chapter, 'Gravity' ramps up into another stunning edge-of-your-seat action sequence that makes the audience feels as though they're tumbling around space.

Chapters 8-9. From about halfway point of Chapter 8, the film readies the audience for its climax. No more slow down. Go, go, go. This sections again brings in some oxygen environments so more traditional sound effects elements whip around the room, enhanced by the fact that, in space, when people move through structures, it looks like they're flying. Turn these chapters up all the way, neighbors be damned!

Bottom line. Featuring, and replicating, one of the greatest sound mixes off all time, 'Gravity' might just be the best Blu-ray demo disc ever released. It's certainly the best Atmos title thus far (in terms of both movie and sound mix quality). And yes, of course there are lots of other great tracks. This one being amazing and maybe (<--key word alert) the best doesn't take away from all the great sound options we have right now. Sorry, I'm geeking out a little bit. I'll see myself to the door.

7.1 vs. 5.1

Since I've personally been delayed in upgrading to Atmos, the first thing I did, before my Pioneer field trip, was compare the Diamond Luxe Edition sound mix back to back to the original on non-Atmos gear. To be clear, I watch everything in 7.1, regardless of the original source, using Dolby Pro Logic IIx to matrix out the rear channels. As such, I was able to directly compare the folded-down-from-Atmos-objects 7.1 TrueHD mix to the original 5.1 DTS-HD MA track up-mixed to 7.1.

Admittedly, the differences between the discrete 7.1 and 5.1 are not vast -- it's not as revelatory as jumping from 5.1 to Atmos. However, once you go discrete, you never go back. The original Blu-ray's 5.1 mix sounds very good, but it was always missing something. Simply by adding the two extra rear channels, 'Gravity' is so much more immersive. We gain very specific placement of voices, musical score, and panning sound effects as they wrap around you. Given the film's quieter, less aggressive moments, sometimes the two tracks sound similar. But move into the action, with space debris colliding, the camera swirling, characters weightlessly flying inside and outside of space crafts, you are immediately pulled toward the screen. Sound effect panning becomes seamless and enveloping. The two best sequences are Dr. Stone inside the ISS, and the rousing climax [SPOILER ALERT] as the Tiagong's falls to Earth culminating as the parachute opens and the capsule plunges into water. [END SPOILER].

Overall, the 7.1 mix, folded down from Atmos objects, is a definite upgrade over the previous 5.1 Blu-ray. Even when matrixing the 5.1 into a 7.1. Even if you don't own any Atmos gear.

Silent Space Version 

Played with or without an introduction by director Alfonso Cuarón, the Silent Space Version is presented as a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix.

The main difference, of course, is the missing Steven Price score. The remaining dialog and sound effects elements are locked to Dr. Stone's POV. We hear sounds only she could conceivably hear -- voices from her headset OR her own heart beat OR sounds carried through vibrations as she physically touches things. Also, inside space stations or capsules with their own oxygen, the environmental sounds return to normal. 

But we never hear the approaching high velocity shrapnel, or the cataclysmic collisions and subsequent explosions. Aside from what appeared to be a few minor cheats, this version is literally what a movie set in space would sound like for a marooned astronaut (though I suppose astronaut helmets don't have DTS Headphone:X to accurately pan voices around them).

While it's a bit of a bummer to get a lossy sound mix, this track sounds pretty good. Any feeling of compactness adds to a sense of claustrophobia. That said, the Silent Space Version works more as an academic experiment than it does a cohesive experience. I thought this version could isolate the audience more, and perhaps answer some critics who felt the film cheated its own no sound in space rules too much. It does more accurately reflect "the rules," but in the process loses much of the film's unique sense of pacing, tension, and emotion. Basically, what you learn from the Silent Space Version -- pay attention, budding storytellers -- is how important Steven Price's music is to the overall 'Gravity' experience, and what movies that cheat sound in space are more exciting. That said, 'Gravity' was never conceived to be sound effects only, so that could be why this track is a little unfulfilling.

The other cool thing about the Silent Space Version is, while comparing it to the traditional mix, I learned a lot more about certain individual sound effects. For example, there's a moment where Dr. Stone is hanging onto the side of space capsule as it is propelled away from the International Space Station. The capsule's solar panel rakes through a bit of debris (this shot was featured in the trailer). The individual sound effect is complex and metallic on its own. Very cool to hear. The surprise came when cueing up the traditional movie mix. Having heard the collision effect on its own, it seemed much brighter (in a good way) in the traditional mix. In fact, I had never really noticed the details within this effect before in quite the same way.

To put it another way, check out the Silent Space Version at least once; it might improve your experience when watching the film in the full Atmos, 7.1 or 5.1 mixes.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The 'Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition' boasts nearly six hours worth of special features (including the HD Exclusives listed below and the Silent Space Version of the movie noted above). As I stated in my original review, I wish there was an audio commentary, and that the documentaries were a little more fly-on-the-wall, like say 'Prometheus' or 'Avatar', but there's a lot of interesting stuff for fans and future filmmakers to learn. Also, still no movie trailers, which is a shame.

The following bonus materials can be found on the Diamond Luxe Edition, as well as the original Blu-ray / DVD releases:

  • Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space (HD, 22:28 ) Ed Harris narrates this documentary about the millions of pieces of man-made debris currently orbiting the Earth. The idea is that, if humans don't act to clean up the space around our planet, something akin to the events depicted in the film could happen, knocking out our GPS and communication satellites. There's even an interview with Don Kessler, the man whose Kessler Syndrome theory inspired the filmmakers to make the movie. Fascinating stuff, and really grounds this movie's big "What if?" They even discuss what inspired the idea for "the russians shooting their own satellite out of the sky".

  • 'Aningaaq' (HD, 10:11) A short film by co-writer Jonás Cuarón that shows the other side of Dr. Stone's radio conversation when she is alone in the Soyuz. This Greenland-set short, which debuted online a few months ago, can be played with or without an introduction by Jonás and Alfonso Cuarón.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Here's where the Diamond Luxe Edition diverts from the original Blu-ray release, offering three new HD Exclusives as well as the Silent Space Version of the movie noted above in the Audio portion of this review. The following bonus features are new to this release:

  • Looking to the Stars: The Evolution of Space Films (HD, 41:58). Filmmakers have been obssessed with science fiction / space movies since the dawn of the medium over a century ago. This nice documentary explore Space Film origins and how the evolution of special effects lead to improvements in the genre. Featured films include 'A Trip to the Moon', '2001', 'Star Wars', Apollo 13', 'Gravity' and a few more. Some nice filmmaker interview in here too, and now past productions influence the work on 'Gravity'.

  • Gravity: The Human Element (HD, 11:05). My favorite new Bonus Feature (asside from the Silent Space Version), this short documentary looks at the people at the heart of NASA exploration. What types of people become astronauts? What's it like to be one? What's it like to live in space? What were the 'Gravity' filmmakers trying to recreate and what did they get right about the experience? I could easily have watched more of this.

  • Sandra Birthday Wish (HD, 3:21). An absurd video birthday card from the film's leading lady to its director, complete with state of the art visual effects and green screen technology.

The following HD Exclusive special features were included on the original release. The only missing feature is a list of film festivals where 'Gravity' was an official selection.

  • Gravity: Mission Control (HD, 1:46:36)  This feature-length behind the scenes documentary is sometimes a little too self-congratulatory (like standard EPKs), but overall incredibly in-depth. It covers everything about the film's inception and production. Watch it all in one sitting, via Play All, or here are the individually accessible chapters:
    • It Began with a Story
    • Initial Challenges: Long Shots and Zero G
    • Previsualizing Gravity
    • The Hues of Space
    • Physical Weightlessness
    • Space Tech
    • Sandra and George: A Pair in Space
    • Final Animation
    • Complete Silence

  • Shot Breakdowns (HD, 36:48). A look at how and why certain CGI props, costumes, and sets were built. I simply can't believe how much of this film is pure digital wizardry rather than real-world sets. There's also a great part where Steven Price shows you how he used music to replace the sound effects. Just like above, you can Play All, or here are the individually accessible chapters:
    • Behind The Visor
    • Fire in the International Space Station
    • Dr. Stone's Rebirth
    • The Sound of Action in Space
    • Splashdown

Final Thoughts

Despite earning an overall grade of 5 Stars, the 'Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition' is a bit of a conundrum...

On one hand, 'Gravity' is an outstanding film, a modern day masterpiece executed by one of the most capable directors working today. This thematically rich, gorgeously produced, thrill ride excited audiences around the world, and makes one fantastic Blu-ray. It also boasts (finally!) a recreation of its original theatrical Atmos surround sound mix or, for those who have yet to buy Atmos-capable gear, offers an improved 7.1 Dolby TrueHD surround mix that is a clear upgrade over the first release's 5.1 mix. Further, the Diamond Luxe Edition keeps all but one of the previous Bonus Features while adding nearly three hours of new content when you include the Silent Space Version's running time. Then again, the new bonus materials aren't significant enough to warrant a double dip on their own.

On the other hand, the 'Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition' does not include a 3D option. Sure, the 2D version is still gorgeous, but 'Gravity' is easily one of the best 3D movies/Blu-rays ever produced. If this edition had included the 3D disc WITH an Atmos track, I would have zero qualms telling everyone to toss the old release and double dip. But it doesn't. This edition also drops the DVD and Digital HD copies. 

So, what does that mean for you, the cinema lover, the potential customer? Depends on your individual setup. So let's try to break it down:

If you already upgraded to Atmos, 'Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition' is Must Own. It's not only a demonstration-worthy, awesome surround mix, but also the best Atmos movie to be released on Blu-ray thus far.

Likewise, if you never purchased 'Gravity' on Blu-ray (assuming you want to) the Diamond Luxe Edition is superior to the original 2D release and retains the highly coveted Must Own rating.

If you're considering an Atmos upgrade, or already have a 7.1 surround set up, and you don't care for 3D, this Diamond Luxe Edition is Highly Recommended. Again, this release is definitely an upgrade over the original 2D Blu-ray.

If you're considering an Atmos upgrade, or already have 7.1, but prefer watching 'Gravity - 3D', this Diamond Luxe Edition is a bit of a compromise. Unless you can find a way to rip the 3D video from one and the Atmos audio from the other, and then put them together (not even sure if this is possible, or legal), you can only see the best 'Gravity' visual experience separately from the best 'Gravity' audio experience. Recommending this to 3D lovers really comes down to how interested you are in audio. If Atmos isn't your thing, and you prefer the 3D version, the 7.1 TrueHD mix and new Bonus Materials are probably not enough to warrant an upgrade. If you're like me and Atmos / 7.1 excite you, definitely give this disc a try despite the lack of 3D.

If you don't have/want Atmos or 7.1 and you really, really adore 3D Blu-rays (ie, visuals are more important that surround mixes), there's no need to double dip. Skip it.

Overall, the 'Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition' slips below a Must Own rating because not everyone will want or need to double dip. However, the movie and newly available Atmos track (7.1 for those without Atmos gear) are so good, it's impossible to call this flick anything less than Highly Recommended.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible)
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital (Silent Space Version)
  • English 2.0 Dolby Digital
  • French 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • English Audio Description

Subtitles/Captions

  • English
  • English SDH
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese

Supplements

  • Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space
  • 'Aningaaq' short film

Exclusive HD Content

  • Silent Space Version, with or without Introduction (NEW)
  • Looking to the Stars: The Evolution of Space Films (NEW)
  • Gravity: The Human Element (previously Limited Availability)
  • Sandra's Birthday Wish (NEW)
  • Gravity: Mission Control
  • Shot Breakdowns

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