Contact appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, I felt satisfied with this presentation.
Sharpness looked very good. Only the slightest hint of softness ever appeared, as the vast majority of the film presented solid clarity and definition. I noticed no examples of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was absent. Source flaws also failed to appear. Various shots showed expected levels of grain and no problems like specks or marks materialized.
Colors looked strong. The movie went with a lively palette that always seemed concise and well-developed. Blacks were dark and dense, and most low-light shots appeared fine. However, some shadows were a little too thick; these didn’t occur frequently, but they caused a few slightly unappealing shots. Even with those instances, however, I thought the movie looked good enough for an “A-“.
No problems came with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Contact. Though not a constantly active mix, the audio came to life well when necessary. Actually, the flick started with a bang, as the initial journey through the galaxy created an intricate mix of source recordings.
From there, the scenes with the Vegan transmission and the spacecraft fared the best. These used all five channels to create a vivid, involving setting. Elements were appropriately localized and meshed together well to form a solid impression.
Audio quality seemed very good. Some looped lines distracted, but speech was always concise and natural. Music seemed bright and dynamic, and effects worked well. They showed nice highs and deep lows. The louder scenes packed a serious impact that made them quite impressive. This was a terrific mix that merited an “A-“.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the original DVD? The lossless TrueHD track added a little kick but wasn’t a tremendous improvement. On the other hand, the Blu-ray visuals looked much better. Contact came out in DVD’s infancy; it actually has held up reasonably well, but the Blu-ray was tighter, cleaner and better defined across the board. It offered a definite upgrade.
Expect all the same extras from the DVD to show up here. We start with three separate audio commentaries. For the first, we hear from director Robert Zemeckis and producer Steve Starkey. Both men sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss the opening shot and other visual effects, cast and performances, camerawork and cinematographic issues, music and audio, story and the adaptation of the original novel, set design and locations, and a variety of additional issues.
Despite the breadth of the information covered, this never becomes a particularly great commentary. It tends to move a little slowly, and we find too much dead air. Still, it does get into a good array of topics, so as long as you prepare yourself for some dead spots, it merits a listen.
For the second track, we hear from actor Jodie Foster. She offers her own running, screen-specific discussion. Foster goes over character and performance issues, themes and story, working with Zemeckis and dealing with technical elements, her co-stars, locations and other production topics.
While Foster never turns this into a captivating piece, she does okay for the most part. She comes across as nicely introspective and thoughtful, though I must admit she can frustrate at times. Foster doesn’t dig too deeply into her performance choices; she stays with more superficial acting notes. I’d like to hear more about why she did what she did and less about bumps and bruises. Still, we get a reasonable amount of good information here despite a moderate amount of dead air.
Finally, we get a track with senior visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston and visual effects supervisor Stephen Rosenbaum. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. To the surprise of no one, they primarily discuss the various visual effects that appear in the film. We learn many details of these as well as some related production subjects.
Surprisingly, I found the commentary from effects guys Ralston and Rosenbaum to be the most interesting of the bunch. They were the wittiest and most engaging of the participants. Unfortunately, if you listen to these tracks in the natural order, this one comes last, which means that you'll already know much of the material they tell you. Yes, three tracks of commentary means a very high level of redundancy. Many facts are repeated on each track; for example, each participant tells us that Jenna Malone, the actress who plays young Ellie, has brown eyes that needed to be artificially colored to match those of Foster. This is interesting to know, but not to hear three times. Anyway, taken on its own, the effects commentary proves useful.
It's a good thing that Ralston and Rosenbaum were engaging, because we hear a lot more from them in the other supplements. Four similar segments appear that comprise 40 minutes, 51 seconds of footage and depict various aspects of the special effects. We get The Making of the Opening Shot (20:02), The Making of the NASA Machine Destruction (5:52), The Making of the Harrier Landing (8:55), and High Speed Compositing Reel (6:08).
These shows us scenes in varying degrees of completion and come accompanied by narration from Ralston and Rosenbaum. They remain entertaining, but this section is somewhat dry. If you’re interested in effects, though, these offer solid tutorials.
Information about computer animated concepts shows up in the next three clips. These provide raw footage along with narration, this time from 3-D computer graphic artist Tim Wilcox. We find Machine Fly-By (1:32), Hadden’s Plane (0:26) and NASA Control Room (0:23). As with the prior components, these can be dry, but they offer good information.
In addition to two trailers, we get a 5.1 music-only track. This presents Alan Silvestri’s score in all its isolated glory. This is standard Dolby Digital 5.1, not TrueHD, but it’s still a nice bonus.
Though it doesn’t always succeed, Contact provides an above-average piece of science fiction. It manages something more thought provoking than usual and works fairly well, though it remains too darned long. The Blu-rau presents excellent picture and audio and some good extras. While not one of my favorite films, this Blu-ray does it justice and acts as a nice upgrade from the 12-year-old DVD.
To rate this film visit the original review of CONTACT