Moon (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Aug 05, 2019
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Moon (4K UHD Review)

Director

Duncan Jones

Release Date(s)

2009 (July 16, 2019)

Studio(s)

Sony Pictures Classics (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B

Moon (4K UHD Disc)

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Review

[Editor’s Note: The film portion of this review is by Tim Salmons. The A/V portion is by Bill Hunt.]

Excellent in nearly every detail, Moon is a fantastic one-man show and character study from director Duncan Jones, with a brilliant performance by Sam Rockwell. Running in the same vein as previous “marooned astronaut” stories like Silent Running, Solaris, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon not only takes inspiration from those classics of the genre, but incorporates elements of them with a new twist, making for a new and unique experience.

Well designed and executed using mostly simple techniques and practical, model-based special effects photography, Moon could easily have been made in the same timeframe as many of the films it draws upon. Everything here drives the story forward and grounds it in a firm sense of realism. Visually, it’s not ground-breaking, but its personification is simple for the story that it’s trying to tell. Moon doesn’t delve into heavy technical details or grandiose science fiction concepts; those elements are present simply because they’re a part of the environment. The focus here is the narrative, and it’s very well told.

Moon was shot photochemically using Arri and Panavision cameras and Panavision lenses in the Super 35 format. It was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate back in 2009 and is presented here at the 2.40:1 “scope” aspect ratio of its theatrical exhibition. The original Blu-ray release offered a terrific 1080p presentation, so it would be hard to improve upon it. However, for this new “10th anniversary” UHD release, the original camera negative has been scanned in full native 4K, resulting in a significant uptick in fine detail and texturing in the live action footage. The visual effects were finished at 2K, so those are upsampled, and they do have a bit of baked-in edge enhancement. The grain—which is moderately strong throughout the film as a whole—is obviously more apparent in those scenes too, but it does befit the lunar surface environment. Still, the effects hold up fairly well, especially with the film’s new HDR10 color grade, which also makes a difference in live action. The brightest areas of the frame are now a cleaner and starker white, while the shadows are deeper. The space exteriors are now more purely black, as they should be, and that enhanced contrast is more accurate to the lunar environment. Moon is not a colorful film per se, but the color that does appear now has a richer and more nuanced quality. While this isn’t a reference quality image, it represents a very nice upgrade on the Blu-ray experience.

Primary audio is offered in a new English Dolby Atmos mix, which makes the entire soundstage feel more spacious and significantly more atmospheric. There’s a real sense of ambience here now, a sense of depth, that lends weight to Sam’s feelings of isolation. Panning is smoother and the height channels lend a bit of immersion as they enclose the listener more completely. Music and dialogue are presented with great clarity and fidelity. This is a more restrained surround mix by design and yet it’s never sounded better. Optional audio is also available in English, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, and Castilian Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as Catalan, French, Latin Spanish, and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, French, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, and Thai.

The 4K disc itself includes the following new extras (some in HD, the deleted scenes in SD, both of varying quality):

  • Duncan Jones Retrospective (9:23)
  • Deleted Scenes (2 scenes – 1:25 in all)
  • Performance Elements (4:49)
  • Fan Art Poster Gallery (6 images)

The new retrospective is the best of the lot, featuring Jones being interviewed via Skype over the Internet. He offers a few interesting insights on the film and—because this is new—he discusses the film’s Netflix soft sequel, Mute, as well as a potential third film in the trilogy. (Side note: Mute deserves its own physical 4K release.)

The package also includes the film on Blu-ray (the same disc as before), which carries over all of the previous special features (in a mix of HD and SD). These include:

  • Audio Commentary by writer/director Duncan Jones, DP Gary Shaw, concept designer Gavin Rothery, and production designer Tony Noble
  • Audio Commentary by Duncan Jones and producer Stuart Fenegan
  • Whistle (a Short Film by Duncan Jones) (28:46)
  • The Making of Moon (16:18)
  • Creating the Visual Effects (11:09)
  • Science Center Q&A with Director Duncan Jones (20:48)
  • Filmmaker’s Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival (11:15)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:08)

The original content is as terrific as always. And there’s a Digital Copy code on a paper insert in the package.

Many film fans over the years have developed a particular soft spot for Moon, thanks in no small part to Sam Rockwell, who is absolutely engaging in the lead role. It’s truly one of the better science fiction films of the 21st century, and in a grouping that includes films like Apollo 11, Prospect, and The Martian, that’s high praise. In other words, pick this 4K release up right away. You won’t be disappointed.

- Tim Salmons (with Bill Hunt)

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