The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe
  • Director: Wes Anderson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Blu-ray, NTSC, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Release Date: May 27, 2014
  • Run Time: 118 minutes


            Wes Anderson has such a distinct style that it would appear safe to assume that a fan of one of his films would automatically be a fan of all of his films, but I find myself teetering back and forth between admiration and irritation from one film to another and often find his unique cinematic approach entirely responsible whichever the case. There is such a fine line for his deadpan comedic styling to work within each narrative. Sometimes this humor enhances a film, and then there are times it feels overly detached, sarcastic and contrived. They also begin to lose a bit of their original style with each film Anderson makes, and occasionally he begins to feel derivative of his own accomplishments.


            The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou had the difficult task of being the film to follow Anderson’s greatest success, The Royal Tenenbaums, and for that reason I distinctly remember feeling disappointed on first viewing. Watching it again ten years later allows me to see The Life Aquatic in somewhat of a different light. Still not near my favorite of his film, it is also not my least favorite and clearly fits in the familial themed narratives of the rest of Anderson’s filmography.


            The biggest reason I find it difficult to feel any kinship for The Life Aquatic is the emotional distancing caused by the deadpan humor in this film, whereas The Royal Tenenbaum succeeded in at least some expression of emotion from characters, however minimized. The story itself seems far less sentimental in The Life Aquatic, killing off characters as more of a comedic punch-line than any melodramatic inclinations.


            The storyline is both simplistic and imaginatively designed with childlike creativity. Logic and practicality take backseat to fantasy, and this is clear by all representations of ocean life captured on film by internationally acclaimed oceanographer and documentary filmmaker Steve Zissou (Bill Murray). The movie begins with the premiere of his latest adventure documentary film, in which his longtime friend and partner is eaten by a mysterious never-before-seen Jaguar shark. The film is poorly received and Zissou’s career appears to be on the downswing, but he is determined for his next film to be about his journey for revenge by killing the shark that ate his friend.


            Adding comical deadpan humor to the expedition is the inclusion of new team members, a young pilot named Ned (Owen Wilson) who believes himself to be the bastard son of Zissou, and a pregnant journalist (Cate Blanchett). The crew also has an overly sensitive German (Willem Dafoe), Zissou’s wealthy wife (Anjelica Huston), a herd of college interns, and an assortment of other crew members aboard an imaginative ship filled with rooms for every imaginable comfort at sea. The mission to find the shark is plagued by money troubles, criminal activity, kidnappings by pirates, and plenty of petty relationship issues amongst each other.


            This director-approved Blu-ray release of The Life Aquatic has a newly restored 4K digital transfer of the film, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack. The special features have been previously released on the DVD, but the high definition alone makes the upgrade worthwhile for fans of one of Anderson’s most visually inventive films. The special features include a commentary track with Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach, the making-of documentary This is an Adventure, a segment from an Italian talk show with an interview with Anderson and Baumbach, an interview with composer Mark Mothersbaugh, Seu Jorge performing the film’s featured David Bowie songs sung in Portuguese, video journal from Anderson’s assistant and bit actor in the film, additional interviews with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, a stills gallery and a trailer. There is also a foldout insert included with a conversation between Anderson and his brother, Eric Chase Anderson.  



    Entertainment Value: 8.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10

    Historical Significance:  7.5/10

    Special Features: 8.5/10

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