Forrest Gump appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For most of the film, Gump looked very strong.
Sharpness consistently appeared solid, as most of the movie seemed to be crisp and detailed. Only a minor smidgen of softness ever appeared. The majority of the film offered excellent clarity and accuracy. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge enhancement. Source flaws remained minor. I saw occasional small specks, but these were tiny and infrequent.
Colors looked nicely natural and well saturated. The movie featured a lifelike palette, and the disc made these tones appear clean and vibrant at all times. I saw no problems related to bleeding, noise, or other concerns, as the colors remained consistently vivid and distinct. Black levels also came across as nicely rich and deep, and shadow detail appeared appropriately opaque without any excessive thickness. Much of the transfer looked great; it barely fell short of “A”-level consideration.
As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Forrest Gump, the soundfield presented an unusual affair due to its frequently subdued nature. Throughout much of Gump, the mix remained very firmly anchored to the forward channels, and even there it appeared fairly quiet. In addition to the nice stereo reproduction of Alan Silvestri’s score and the many rock tunes we heard, the track focused largely upon general ambience. In that vein, Gump created a gentle but convincing atmosphere.
During a few scenes, however, the soundfield came more forcefully to life. Some solid environmental effects cropped up during the football games, and a few other segments offered light surround elements. The real showstoppers were the shots in Vietnam, though, which kicked the mix to life in a very loud and active way. I’ve read some criticisms of this technique that felt the shift was too jarring. Well, duh! Since the film was told from Forrest’s point of view, it should blast the audience with the same impact he would have felt. As such, the change of pace was absolutely appropriate, and it helped make parts of the soundtrack much more involving and active.
Audio quality appeared to be solid. Dialogue sounded warm and natural, and I discerned no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects were crisp and accurate, and even during the loud scenes, they showed no signs of distortion. Music also seemed clear and bright. Some of the period rock tunes displayed a little crackling, but this appeared to relate to the original recordings, not the disc’s soundtrack.
Dynamic range seemed to be good but not exceptional. While highs sounded clean and distinct, I thought that bass response was merely decent; low-end could have packed a more powerful punch. Ultimately, Forrest Gump provided a fairly positive soundtrack, though not one that presented a consistently exciting package.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-ray compare to the film’s DVD version? Audio was pretty similar; the lossless track here was a little stronger than the original disc’s mix, but it didn’t present a remarkable difference.
Visuals were a different story. The DVD had a mix of problems; it tended to be soft, messy and flawed in many ways. The Blu-ray improved in virtually all areas. It was tighter, brighter, cleaner and better defined. The Blu-ray provided a substantial step up in quality.
The Blu-ray offers most of the same supplements found on the DVD as well as some new ones. I’ll note Blu-ray exclusives with special blue type.
Most of the extras appear on Disc Two, but the first platter provides some goodies. There we find two separate audio commentaries. The first - and superior - comes from director Robert Zemeckis, producer Steve Starkey and production designer Rick Carter. Zemeckis was recorded separately, but Starkey and Carter were taped together; I’ve read other reviews that argue they made their statements individually, but that’s nonsense, as the two clearly interacted with each other often throughout the piece.
In any case, their remarks were intercut with Zemeckis’ for this commentary, and the results usually seemed to be entertaining and enlightening. The track’s biggest problem stemmed from a surprising number of empty spaces; with three participants, I expected a more consistent flow to the piece, but quite a few spots went without material.
Nonetheless, the overall caliber of the commentary was strong. The men generally avoided the usual happy talk as they provided a lot of good information about the making of Gump. I learned a lot of interesting technical bits plus aspects of the storytelling and minor - but fun - pieces of trivia, such as the identity of Elvis’ speaking voice. Overall this was an entertaining and informative track that merits a listen.
Somewhat less compelling was the second commentary, a running, screen-specific track from producer Wendy Finerman. This track suffered from even more empty spots than did the first. While these rarely became inordinately long, they did crop up fairly frequently, and they occasionally made the commentary something of a chore.
When Finerman spoke, she periodically added some useful details, and she gave us the most information about the ways in which the book was adapted as a film. However, much of the time she did little more than provide minor statements about the characters and their actions, few of which contributed much insight. I didn’t dislike Finerman’s commentary, especially because her passion for the film came through, but I thought it was slow-paced and a little dull.
For a look at the movie’s tunes, we go to Musical Signposts to History. In a three-minute, 54-second intro, Zemeckis, musicians Michelle Phillips, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Ray Manzarek, rock journalist Ben Fong-Torres and music supervisor Joel Sill discuss the use of songs in Gump.
After the intro, the disc launches an interactive feature. With this activated, the film occasionally branches off into short clips that tell us about the movie’s tunes. The viewer can access this in a number of ways. “Manual Mode” places an icon onscreen when a clip becomes available; hit “enter” to watch it. “Auto Mode” simply detours to the segments without viewer input, and “Selective Mode” lets the viewer check out the snippets independent of the movie.
Since 44 of these appear, that’d take us away from the film awfully frequently, so I absorbed the info via the “Selective Mode”. We get notes from Fong-Torres, Zemeckis, Sill, Phillips, Manzarek, Starkey, McGuinn, Crosby, songwriters Mike Leiber, Jerry Stoller, Barry Goldberg, Jerry Goffin, and Lamont Dozier, and musicians Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Erik Darling, Marty Balin, Jack Casady, Scott McKenzie, John Phillips, Pete Seeger, Marilyn McCoo, BJ Thomas, Gary Rossington, and Jackson Browne. The snippets tell us a little about the songs as well as why the movie used them. Though these pieces are brief, they’re interesting and add to the package.
Now we move on the Disc Two, where a large variety of additional extras await us. A featurette called Greenbow Diary goes for 25 minutes, 59 seconds as it throws out notes from Zemeckis, Starkey, and actors Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Sally Field, and Mykelti Williamson. The program takes us to the movie’s various sets and offers a production diary of sorts. While it features a number of soundbites, much of it concentrates on raw footage from the locations, and that makes it especially interesting.
We look at the script in the 26-minute, 57-second The Art of Screenplay Adaptation. It features Finerman, Starkey, novelist Winston Groom, screenwriter/cultural critic Stephen Schiff, and screenwriter Eric Roth.The show examines the original book, its development, and its move to the big screen. “Art” digs into its subjects in fine fashion, as it explores related topics in a rich, compelling manner. Expect many fascinating insights here.
Getting Past Impossible: Forrest Gump and the Visual Effects Revolution fills 27 minutes, four seconds with notes from Starkey, Zemeckis, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, visual effects artist Doug Chiang, and ILM visual effects supervisor/Photoshop co-inventor John Knoll. “Revolution” looks at the development of visual effects techniques over the years as well as specific work done for Gump. Other parts of this disc look at effects, but “Revolution” becomes the most satisfying take on the subject matter. I really like the tutorial about older effects methods, and the program digs into Gump-related elements well. This is a fine program – I wish it ran even longer than it does.
After this comes Little Forrest. In the 14-minute, 48-second piece, we hear from Zemeckis, Hanks, Starkey, Finerman, and actor Michael Conner Humphreys. The piece examines Humphreys’ casting and performance. It’s fun to see Humphreys as a grown-up and also to learn how his work affected Hanks’.
Finally, An Evening with Forrest Gump goes for 55 minutes, eight seconds and presents a spring 2009 Q&A session. Hosted by USC Dean of the School of Cinematic Arts Elizabeth Daley, the panel discussion involves Zemeckis, Hanks, Sinise and Roth. They discuss adaptation/development issues, characters and performances, deleted sequences, whether Gump could be made today and its impact/legacy, working with effects, thoughts about 3D films, the director/actor relationship, music, and a few other thoughts about the flick.
Some of “Evening” rehashes info that appears elsewhere, but we still find plenty of new content. In addition, it’s simply enjoyable to see these guys chat together after so long, and that helps make “Evening” a good addition.
Under “Archival Special Features”, we get components from the DVD. The Make-Up of Forrest Gump goes over exactly what the title implies. The eight-minute, three-second program consists of interviews with makeup artist Dan Striepeke plus movie images and test material. I thought this was a surprisingly compelling program because it went over issues I rarely hear discussed. In addition to the expected topics such as Sally Field’s old-age look, Striepeke talked about the subtle ways that the maturation of Forrest and Jenny were conveyed. We also got to see some makeup tests that involved the cast members. This featurette provided a nice little look at this area.
Within Seeing Is Believing: The Visual Effects of Forrest Gump, we get nine smaller segments. In these we learn a little more about how the movie’s visual elements were created. Each snippet includes footage from the set and demonstrations of how the work was done, and we also always hear from visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston; in addition, computer graphics supervisor George Murphy and CG supervisor Stephen Rosenbaum show up separately at various times. Each clip lasts between one minute, 26 seconds and seven minutes, 35 seconds for a total of 30 minutes, 23 seconds of footage.
Although the material could become redundant at times, I generally enjoyed the information. Ralston helped break down the elements so that they made sense on their own, and it was interesting to see the different stages through which the footage needed to go.
Through the Ears of Forrest Gump works in a format similar to that of the prior section. Here we get five subsections that looked at the audio of the film. These consist of interviews with sound designer Randy Thom and snippets from the movie. Each of the five segments lasts between one minute, 20 seconds and seven minutes, 55 seconds for a total of 15 minutes, 20 seconds of material.
Thom offers good remarks about his work, which will come as no surprise to anyone who heard his part of the Cast Away audio commentary. The biggest segment of these five is the third one, which discusses the Vietnam scenes. For those who don’t know much about sound design, that section provides a nice tutorial, as Thom covers a lot of basics during it. Overall, these featurettes were reasonably interesting and informative.
Next up is Building the World of Forrest Gump, a program that focuses on production design. The show offers interview snippets from production designer Rick Carter as he discusses the work he did on Gump, and it also provides some glimpses of the planning created along the way. The seven-minute and 18-second program wasn’t fascinating, but it gave us a decent look at this aspect of the film.
In the Screen Tests area, we discover auditions for a number of cast members. There are trials for Michael Conner Humphrey and Hanna R. Hall - both shot together - plus Robin Wright and Haley Joel Osment. The first section includes three screen tests, while each of the others offer two auditions apiece. Each of these runs between 35 seconds and 125 seconds for a total of eight minutes and 50 seconds worth of footage.
While all of them were interesting, the Wright and Osment clips offered the most fun since they featured Tom Hanks as well. He clearly hadn’t finalized the character yet, as he seemed much more like “Tom Hanks” than “Forrest Gump”. The second test with Osment was particularly entertaining, as it really wasn’t a performance. Instead, Hanks simply chatted with Osment, and it was a cute and charming little piece.
Lastly, we find two trailers for the film. One provides the original clip, while the other - referred to as “Remember” - clearly tried to tempt a return audience.
The Blu-ray drops a few elements from the original DVD. It omits a photo gallery, two segments of “Seeing Is Believing”, and a documentary called “Through the Eyes of Forrest Gump”. I suspect that much of “Eyes” probably became integrated into the new components, but I still think it should’ve reappeared here. I have no idea why the Blu-ray drops the other pieces.
Although I continue to harbor some reservations about Forrest Gump, I admit that most of these revolve around the film’s profile, not the work itself. On its own, Gump offers a reasonably entertaining and winning experience. It didn’t deserve all of the success it earned, but I can’t hold the reactions of others against it.
The Blu-ray provides positive picture and sound as well as an excellent collection of supplements. While Gump will never be one of my favorite films, it remains entertaining, and this Blu-ray works really well. It’s an easy recommendation as an upgrade for folks who already own the DVD.
To rate this film, visit the Special Collector's Edition review of FORREST GUMP