Hollow Man (Superbit) (2000)

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Released 3-Jan-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 108:02
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Paul Verhoeven
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Elizabeth Shue
Kevin Bacon
Josh Brolin
Kim Dickens
Greg Grunberg
Joey Slotnick
Mary Randle
William Devane
Case Soft Brackley-Opaque
RPI $49.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Dutch
Hindi
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, for plot movement
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Hollow Man is among the first films to be released in Region 4 as a Superbit title. I find this a rather interesting choice, as the original collector's edition DVD was an excellent example of how much you can fit onto a single disc without seriously degrading the picture quality. In fact, some aliasing aside, the original DVD of Hollow Man boasts one of the best video transfers the format has seen to date. The improvement that the Superbit formatting makes to this film is apparent from the first frame of the opening credits - whereas the original Collector's Edition boasted mildly smeared, mildly grainy backgrounds with a smooth, film-like foreground, this new version is smooth and film-like all the way.

    The plot of Hollow Man demonstrates that Verhoeven just can't win with English-speaking audiences, in that the more mainstream he gets, the more people will deride him or take cheap shots at him. But it does beg the question of what some people will do if anything that constitutes moral restraint is lifted from them, a question I have been fascinated by for many years. If nobody could see you doing it, would you go out and rob a bank, or would you try to help those in worse straits than you? The answer to questions such as these is what determines our character to a large extent, and it is around this principle that Hollow Man is more or less entirely based.

    Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) is the man with no morals - if all restraint were lifted from him, he'd trip people over in the middle of the road for a giggle. He also happens to be the leader of a science project in which his task is to make primates invisible, then bring them back with no serious after-effects. As he himself explains to the people at the Pentagon he reports to, making the gorillas invisible is easy enough, but bringing them back is another matter. After one successful attempt to bring a gorilla back into sync with the visible universe, however, Sebastian decides that he wants to be the first human that this process is tried upon, much to the justified fears of fellow researchers Matthew Kensington (Josh Brolin) and Linda McKay (Elisabeth Shue).

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Hollow Man is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and of course it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    Having seen this film many times in the theatre, and even more times on DVD, I was dumbfounded by the improvement that is apparent from frame one of this transfer. Whereas the original Collector's Edition had a bitrate that often fell as low as two megabits per second and rarely got above seven, the bitrate on this transfer generally stays between 7.7 and 8.1 megabits per second. The improvement this makes to the sharpness of the foreground is minimal, but when one looks at the backgrounds, particularly during dark scenes, the difference is dramatic. Speaking of which, the shadow detail is much improved by the looser compression, with darker parts of the image taking a little longer to fall off into complete darkness. No low-level noise was present in the transfer.

    The colours in this film have a certain dull, earthy look to them that would appear to be intended to emphasise the cold, clinical environment in which the scientists work. During the sequences that were shot with an infra-red camera, there is a lot of smearing to be found, but the colours in this transfer are otherwise free of any artefacting.

    MPEG artefacts were nowhere to be found on this disc, as one would expect from the Superbit concept. Film-to-video artefacts, however, were slightly increased compared to the previous Collector's Edition. Blinds were the most common problem, with these objects showing the worst aliasing artefacts at such places as 56:00 and 67:28. The second most distressing source for this artefact was a glass partition with horizontal lines in it at 27:46, closely followed by the bunker doors at 81:36. All of the other aliasing artefacts in this transfer, on such things as the cages or fine lines in the infra-red shots, were either persistent enough to be mildly annoying, or just a blink-and-you'll-miss-it thing. Film artefacts were not noticed in this transfer, reflecting some rather clean and well-cared-for source materials.

    The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are reasonably accurate, although there are moments when whomever wrote the subtitles seems to get rather confused, such as during the song Power Struggle.

    This DVD is RSDL formatted, but the exact location of the layer change eluded me.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Two soundtracks are available on this DVD, both of which are renderings of the original English dialogue: a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort encoded at 448 kilobits per second, and a DTS 5.1 effort encoded at 768 kilobits per second. I listened to both of these soundtracks in their entirety, and before I go on, I have to say I am quite disappointed that the audio commentary on the Collector's Edition was left out. Between missing out on said commentary and sacrificing a measly 192 kilobits per second from the data rate of the transfer, I will happily sacrifice those bits in a heartbeat.

    The Dolby Digital soundtrack seemed to be slightly softer, by about a decibel, than the DTS counterpart. Aside from this and slightly more fidelity in the surround channels with the DTS soundtrack, there is not a lot separating the two.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times, which is very important for a slow-paced, science-based thriller as this. No serious audio sync problems were noted.

    The music in this film consists of a few contemporary numbers by artists that were (obviously) signed to Sony at the time of the film's release, and a score by Jerry Goldsmith. The contemporary numbers are pretty bland and forgettable, with the possible exception of the aforementioned Power Struggle, which gives the subwoofer a good workout. The score by Jerry Goldsmith, on the other hand, is an absolute masterwork, with the use of subtle, creepy themes often augmented by the composer's knowledge of when silence is a good thing. This makes me also miss the isolated score with commentary by Goldsmith that graced the original Collector's Edition.

    The surround channels are aggressively utilised to support the music, the disembodied voice of Kevin Bacon, subtle reverberations from the confines of the compound, and a whole host of other sound effects. While the DTS soundtrack manages to separate these effects into the surrounds a little more noticeably, both soundtracks create an immersive sound field with which no serious DVD enthusiast will be disappointed.

    The subwoofer also had a whale of a time supporting the bass-heavy effects in the film, such as Isabelle the gorilla's footsteps, or the rather dangerous movements of the elevator. The subwoofer supported the whole soundtrack quite well without calling any undue attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static, 16x9 Enhanced, and silent. On the plus side, it is extremely easy to navigate.

Dolby Digital Trailer - City

    Please, if you're going to sacrifice all extras in the name of a better picture, then for heaven's sake let's get rid of this annoyance, too.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I can solve this question quite easily. The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this title is actually marketed in a range known as Superbit Deluxe. Given that neither of the Superbit versions of this DVD have the audio commentary by Paul Verhoeven, Kevin Bacon, and Andrew Marlowe, I feel that one is better off with the original Collector's Edition of this title, at least if they are heavily into extras or audio commentaries, and Paul Verhoeven certainly delivers the best commentaries you'll ever hear. However, given the massive improvement in picture quality on the Superbit edition, serious fans will want both versions, although if you already own either Collector's Edition, either Superbit version will do fine.

Summary

    One viewing suggestion I have read on the IMDB that I tend to agree with is that one should stop viewing the film once we see Matt and Linda being locked away in the freezer, then imagine your own ending. Aside from that, Hollow Man is quite unique among Paul Verhoeven films, in that he hasn't deliberately inserted any political statements or satirical elements, unless you count the ramifications of invisibility in a man who doesn't have a very strong sense of restraint. I think the film errs too much on the side of accessibility, as it is the combination of extreme violence and intelligence that makes the best of Verhoeven's English-language films work. Still, it is those who dismiss the film without addressing its argument that are truly missing out, and I don't know what else I can say about it.

    The video transfer is excellent, and proof positive that films like Hollow Man should in fact be marketed as two-disc sets.

    The audio transfer is excellent, with plenty of directional cues to justify the investment in a Dolby Digital or DTS decoder.

    Unfortunately, even the most essential extras are missing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
I continue with my Superbit attacks :) - Simon O'Connor (I wouldn't suggest reading my bio)
Minutiae - CatonaPC© (read my bio)
Superbit Deluxe DVD's are on two disks - Rhodes_96 (read my bio)
Reply Minutiae - Rhodes_96 (read my bio)
Details are Great -
re: Details are Great - CatonaPC© (read my bio)
Enlighten ME - REPLY POSTED
Essential extras? - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
No layer change pause on Superbits (ever) -
Why can't we have commentaries on Superbit? - Bradavon