A new remaster revives a beloved Tim Burton fable
Based on the novel by Daniel Wallace, Big Fish follows the tandem journeys of all-American small-town hero Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor/Albert Finney) and his epic tall-tale adventures, in addition to that of his son Will (Billy Crudup), who struggles to separate the man from the self-spun myths that have overshadowed their relationship from the day of Will’s birth. As Edward Bloom faces the uncertain conclusion of a life well-lived (and much-envied), Will faces his own upcoming parenthood — and the insecurities of his own capabilities as a father. As Edward’s fatherhood was defined by his absence as much as it was by a fame earned by happenstance, Will’s determined to untangle fact from fiction–unable to accept that the deeper truth about his father may lie somewhere in between. Both men face an uncertain destiny — and the key to bringing Edward and Will’s life stories to an emotional finale may be in accepting just how much their lives are intertwined with one another.
For better and for worse, Tim Burton’s aesthetic has become so well-defined by its auteur that its amount of sincerity (Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood) or self-parody (Dark Shadows, Alice in Wonderland) seems almost defined by a coin toss. But regardless how polarizing some of Burton’s films may be nowadays, he’s a director whose gleeful grimness and spine-tingling sense of wonder has made an indelible impact on American cinema. With its unabashed love of Wilderian small-town Americana — and the signature Burton macabre elements lurking beneath it — Big Fish ranks among the best of Tim Burton’s filmography, and has finally received a proper restoration in 4K courtesy of Sony.
What makes Big Fish stand out the most among Tim Burton’s films is just how much the subject matter is an unexpected fit for his unique style — as well as how much Burton ensures that his signature flairs are employed in service of the story at hand. Films like his short Frankenweenie, Mars Attacks!, or Edward Scissorhands gleefully amplify aspects of American pop culture–from the shocking colors that paint cookie-cutter houses in suburbia to the just-as-freakishly-picturesque normalcy of the nuclear family. Burton has a passionate fascination towards a collective American myth, twisted just so that its absurdity and menace are reveled and reviled in equal measure. With Big Fish, Burton’s able to imbue all those comedic contradictions in Bloom himself–a man so perfect, so ripped-from-the-town-newsletter that even the most bizarre circumstances are utterly commonplace to him.
To their credit, Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney are note-perfect as Bloom. Finney’s bombastic brogue immediately grips us in the clutches of whatever tall tale he spins next. On the other side of the coin, McGregor’s dedicated to playing everything completely straight — whether it’s scoring a touchdown, a winning basket, and saving a dog from a burning building all in the same day, or jumping out of plane into hostile enemy territory, or befriending a misunderstood giant, or coming across shapeshifting fish at the bottom of an instantaneous lake. Burton never tries to sneak in a realistic tell to demarcate fact from fiction, nor does he play any of the larger-than-life moments of Bloom’s life beyond the limits of their own feasibility. Burton, McGregor, and Finney’s unflinching sincerity in the face of whatever absurdities Big Fish throws at them works wonders in creating a verisimilitude out of the impossible life of one man — which is utterly crucial in making the film’s central conflict between Bloom and Will work at all.
Because at its heart, Big Fish is the story of how the stories we pass on to those we love make the most lasting impact we can ever try to make — regardless of how true those stories ultimately are. Much like the heightened Americana at the heart of much of Burton’s films, Big Fish recognizes how much emotional weight these shared memories have on us — and how that weight isn’t tied to quibbling notions of cold hard truth. The last moments of the film, as the real-life figures of Bloom’s journey congregate in both a fictional and all-too-real final departure, are breathtaking–finding a beautiful coexistence between fathers, sons, and the mythic memories that tie them together.
Sony presents Big Fish in a newly re-mastered 4K transfer with an new accompanying Dolby Atmos 7.1-channel audio mix. English subtitles are available for both the 4K and Blu-ray presentations of the film, as well as all of the film’s special features on the Blu-ray Disc.
Tim Burton’s films are well-known for their opulent and eccentric production design and all the details therein–and this new transfer restores the wonderful minutiae of Big Fish in crisp, vivid clarity. From the more striking reds and blues of the film’s circus sequence to the muddled greens and blacks of haunting forests and Alabama backcountry rivers, there’s a rich color spectrum well-defined by the HDR transfer. Exact threads in characters’ costumes and fractures in decaying sets are clearly visible, while many of the film’s visual effects still hold up nearly twenty years after the film’s release. The new Dolby Atmos mix further immerses viewers into the unpredictable world of Edward Bloom’s stories, with a complex layering of diegetic sound, dialogue, and Danny Elfman’s Oscar-nominated score.
Additional Language Options:
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish (Castilian) DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Czech Dolby Digital 5.1, Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, Polish Dolby Digital 5.1, Russian Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
- Subtitles: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified/Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (basic and HOH), Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovene, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin), Swedish, Thai, Turkish
Note: All Special Features are only on the film’s accompanying Blu-ray Disc.
In a welcome departure from similar releases, the accompanying Blu-ray of Big Fish isn’t the barebones original Blu-ray from 2007, but a brand-new disc that features the new scan of the film in 1080p and restores the Special Features that were on Big Fish’s original DVD release. Featured here are dueling lengthy making-of featurettes that focus on the film’s story and themes versus the meticulous and inventive production behind the camera, as well as brief easter eggs from the original DVD. Also included are additional original EPK featurettes from Big Fish’s marketing campaign that further flesh out the film’s production process and insights from its creative crew.
- Audio Commentary with Director Tim Burton, moderated by author Mark Salisbury. Note–the Tim Burton Commentary is subtitled, but isn’t accessible via the film’s menu, but as Track 22 via your remote’s subtitle key.
- The Character’s Journey: Three featurettes that focus on Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney’s analysis of their shared role of Edward Bloom, Danny DeVito’s wild circus impresario, and finally how Billy Crudup, Ewan McGregor, and Albert Finney bring to life the flawed, strained relationship between Will and his son Edward.
- The Filmmaker’s Path: Various short featurettes focusing on Director Tim Burton, the film’s production design, creature designs and special effects, and the relationship between the film and the author of its source material, Daniel Wallace (who cameos in the film as a college professor).
- Original EPK–Interviews: With Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Lohman, Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito, Tim Burton, Richard D. Zanuck, Bruce Cohen, and Dan Jinks, separated by organized marketing title cards.
- Original EPK–Behind the Scenes: Verite, non-narrated behind-the-scenes glimpses throughout Big Fish’s production.
- Easter Eggs: Broken into The Finer Points, breaking down the film’s “time stop” sequence, and Tim Burton Golf Cart, featuring a celebration by the cast and crew on the set of Specter, Alabama.
- Theatrical Trailer, presented in 1080p HD.
Big Fish is now available on 4K Blu-ray courtesy of Sony.