Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Her Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Set in Los Angeles in the slight future, Her follows Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a complex, soulful man who makes his living writing touching, personal letters for other people. Heartbroken after the end of a long relationship, he becomes intrigued with a new, advanced operating system, which promises to be an intuitive and unique entity in its own right. Upon initiating it, he is delighted to meet “Samantha,” a bright, female voice (Scarlett Johansson) who is insightful, sensitive and surprisingly funny. As her needs and desires grow, in tandem with his own, their friendship deepens into an eventual love for each other. From the singular perspective of Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Jonze comes Her, an original love story that explores the evolving nature—and risks—of intimacy in the modern world.

Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
In Spike Jonze's Her, we get a look at how relationships may evolve in the near future and just how much will remain the same because human emotion will remain the same no matter how technologically oriented we may become. The movie raises a fascinating concept because while we've all seen many movies about relationships that shows the good and the bad ones, we've never seen that relationship play out with a human being and a computer system like we do in Her.

Of course, the OS in Her is well beyond Windows Vista, as Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) is so life-like and omnipresent that she represents the end all and be all of all software engineers' hopes and dreams. Even more startling is the fact that Samantha is so amazing and she's the first version past beta testing and she shows none of the usual issues that have plagued every other operating system throughout history.

In another interesting juxtaposition, Samantha comes across more human in both action and emotion than her human "owner" Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), who is emotionally stunted and who lives the life of a hermit for the most part. Theodore keeps to himself, plays videogames, and handles every interaction with the outside world through technology through his earpiece that connects to his email and more. Theodore at the start of the movie is more machine than Samantha.

Even his job has him cut off from the human race as he dictates letters written for other people in their voice instead of his own. His only real human interaction is with his neighbor/friend Amy (Amy Adams) and her husband who seem to have a great relationship. For Theodore, he's essentially shut down after his divorce. Instead of looking for a new relationship, Theodore calls chat lines looking for phone sex, which usually ends up with him talking to crazy people (like the woman who wants to be strangled with a dead cat during sex).

This whole setup is funny and sad to see but it explains why and how Samantha impacts his life as much as she does. Upon activating her, Samantha starts to get his life together and pushes him to better himself like a real friend would. She's funny and sexy and it's easy to see why someone like a recluse like Theodore would be so interested in having a relationship with her. She's all of the fun with none of the drawbacks that a real woman would have. Theodore doesn't have to wine and dine her, meet and pass the judgement of her parents and friends, or really do much to keep her happy.

Or so it seems at first. It's not long before Samantha starts to evolve and exhibit some real life traits such as not being happy, meeting other operating systems, and it's not too long before she's also met a sensitive poet OS who offers her something different than Theodore can provide. Some things never change whether it's a relationship between humans or one between a human and an OS, the one constant will always be that things will always get messy at times. Love is love and when you put yourself out there with another person/entity, you are risking a lot to get a lot. Or as others might say, "You've got to risk it to get the biscuit." With Her, Spike Jonze shows us that love can also be universal and transformative if you meet the right person - even if it's an artificial life form.

With the way things are going, it's not too hard to believe that Spike Jonze has presented a very possible future and the ramifications that would entail. With society moving more and more to becoming entirely depended on our technology, the idea of something like Siri evolving into the new and improved Samantha is all too feasible. I did find it a little unrealistic that Theodore and his relationship with Samantha was accepted with no questions by everyone. In fact, we see that Theodore isn't alone in having a relationship with his OS and no one bats an eye. That's a concept that's great in theory, but considering how long and difficult our society has struggled to accept interracial and same sex relationships, I doubt we will progress that far in the near future. I'd love to be wrong, but our history tells us otherwise.

The cast is fantastic in this movie, especially Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johanssen. It's amazing how much life Johannsen brings to this movie considering that only her voice is in the movie. It's a shame that she wasn't considered for awards because she is the beating heart of the movie. Her, is both romantic and realistic which is a tough line to walk. I also liked how Jonze kept the movie grounded even with the futuristic aspects involved. The ending is far too believable and it contains a lot of truth that is relatable and feels honest even if some of it may be painful. This is a very original film and one that I will be happy to watch again and again. Until then, I will bide my time until Apple comes out with their version of Samantha.
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is stunning to see with vibrant colors and a very sharp picture. It looks especially good during the many close ups shots where we can see a ton of details on the actors' faces which really helps when you consider that most of the movie features Theodore talking or listening to Samantha. It's seeing his expressions and surface emotions that really sells the movie. The black levels are solid and inky and contrast is spot on. There's no digital defects to speak of and this transfer looks absolutely pristine.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
This film's DTS-HD Master Audio is also very good even though this isn't the kind of movie that's going to show off how great your home theater system is. What this mix is really good at is delivering clear dialogue which is important since so much of the movie involves Samantha and Theodore talking. The way the film uses Samantha's voice to fill the room is very cool and it really adds a lot to the movie. The rear channels offer a lot of accurate ambiance that makes the environments come alive. The music also comes across very well without overpowering the rest of the mix.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars)
It seems like they tried to make these extras comes across as different from the usual package which they are but I've got to say that I wasn't that thrilled with this direction either. All of them are in high definition.
  • The Untitled Rick Howard Project: Creating Her - This is a twenty-four minute look behind the scenes of the movie that has some interesting aspects but it's freeform design leaves a lot to be desired. 
  • Her: Love in the Modern Age - A fifteen minute look at various people (who have no connection to the movie) who share their thoughts on love and relationships. There's some recognizable faces here but I honestly couldn't care less about what their thoughts were. I would have preferred to hear from the people that were actually involved in the making of the movie instead. 
  • How Do You Share Your Life with Somebody? - Some clips from the film that are devoted to the idea of sharing your life with someone else. Skip it.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
Her is a fun and original movie that contains many fine performances from the main cast. This film is also now my favorite Spike Jonze movie by a long shot. The Blu-ray itself offers top notch video quality and excellent audio too. The extras should have been a lot better than this but overall this is still a easy one to recommend.

Order your copy today!

No comments:

Post a Comment