Giovanni's Blu-ray Review: WAR HORSE
Published: April 7, 2012 - 5:29pm
Legendary Academy Award®-winning motion picture director/producer Steven Spielberg presents the critically acclaimed and multi Academy Award®-nominated epic adventure "War Horse" on Blu-ray™, DVD, Digital and On-Demand, April 3.
Out of all 9 of this year’s Oscar nominated best pictures, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse proved to be the most polarizing. Based on a children’s novel, the story of a boy and his horse separated by World War I drew both praise and criticism for its unabashed sentimentally. While some may find the nostalgic aesthetics endearing, there’s no question about their hokiness. War Horse begins on a quaint family farm, as warm and perfect as a 1940’s matte painting, where Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his father Ted (Peter Mullan) start training an exuberant young pony, Joey, to plow. Overly theatrical performances and production make the first part of War Horse a nearly unbearable experience that feels like a self-indulgent trip into nostalgic filmmaking.
The film gets better once the war sets in, but it still has a fair number of problems throughout. The straightforward “boy and his horse” story soon fades away to a vignette based narrative. It’s more interesting, but it’s a sudden departure from the classic American film style to something more similar to 60’s European films. War Horse simply suffers from a cinematic identity crisis. Spielberg jumps from style to style just as Joey travels from owner to owner. Whenever he hits a good stride, Spielberg takes the film in an entirely new direction. Sure, the filmmaking shifts emphasize the cultural differences present in a war-torn world, but it also creates a fragmented flow only united by consistently over-the-top emotions. At its best, it’s a classy World War I story, and at its worst, it’s about as appealing as horse droppings.
Special Features Breakdown
- Leading the extra-loaded 4-disc set is a roundtable discussion with Spielberg and a handful of cast and crew members discussing the film. Rather than offering much insight, a good deal of the feature consists of the interviewees explaining the plot. There’s a bit of talk about work that went into making scenes, but it’s a mostly uninteresting talk piece.
- This unique feature focuses on one extra in the film. He talks about the experience about being a small cog in such a large project, which would be interesting if the incredibly short clip had any real substance. Instead, it’s a complete throw away of a good idea.
- Spielberg discusses how he came to discover the story of War Horse and why he found the story so compelling. There’s plenty of neat making-of footage, but some of the clips here are inexplicably recycled later in the set.
- This look into some of the post-production work is actually nice, as editor Michael Kahn talks about some of his cutting decisions, and John Williams discusses scoring. People like this don’t get enough credit, so it’s great to hear them speak. Though, as is the case with many features on the discs, there’s also a bit too much of everyone praising one another’s talents.
- War Horse received Academy Award nominations for sound mixing and editing, so including a feature about sound is a good move. Essentially, it’s got the same value as the editing/scoring feature, giving a nice look into the complexity of sound design.
Through The Producer’s Lens - Producer Kathleen Kennedy shares some of her production stills, and, again, praises those involved with the film. The feature has a Ken Burns approach, panning over pictures while Kennedy talks. It’s quick and relatively dull.
- In this brief feature, the cast and crew praise one another, as well as the locations and costumes of the film. It’s always good to see a bonded team like this working hard, though this clip isn’t much more than a mildly obnoxious pat on the back.
The extraordinary journey of courage and friendship as seen through the eyes of one unforgettable horse named Joey and his miraculous journey to find his way back home, “War Horse” is a must own contemporary classic for everyone’s home entertainment collection. Spielberg’s renowned creative passion and artistry not only shine throughout the film but are also evident in all the fascinating bonus features included exclusively on the Blu-ray disc.
The premium 4-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack in particular allows viewers to explore the filmmaking process and storytelling adventure though a special 60 minute documentary (named “A Filmmaking Journey”), created by Spielberg, that offers a never-before-seen inside look into the making of “War Horse.” Additional bonus features include a behind the scenes look at Spielberg’s Award-Winning “Dream Team” – the film’s scoring session with five-time Oscar-winning composer John Williams, the editing room with three-time Academy Award winning film editor Michael Kahn, the sound room with seven time Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom, and a look through Producer Kathleen Kennedy‘s lens as she shares photos she took during the filming and recounts her discovery of “War Horse.”