The Whole Ball of Wax
How on-point The Truman Show was in 1998. Or rather, how on-point The Truman Show IS, and continues to be.
Before social media, Truman Show considered reality TV as a corporate poison on culture and empathy. It’s masterful, but relevant today. As the Truman Show generation grows up and those seemingly innocent videos of their childhood spread across social media, it’s becoming a nightmare for kids and teens. Imagine potty training videos being discovered by a high school bully, then used against their target. Truman Show warned us.
Truman Show warned us
Truman Show warned us
Truman Show needed a sequel. Blasphemous as that sounds, the Truman Show ends as Truman’s (Jim Carrey) life begins – maybe. Trapped in a broadcast reality show his entire life until his 30s, that man will never lead a normal existence, and those repercussions matter, arguably more so than Truman finally escaping his intricately designed televised bubble.
As initially written, Truman Show exposed human credulity for profit, warning of wealth about person-hood. It’s striking as an allegory, and now even more unnerving. Ed Harris’ billionaire Chrisof displays the blindness toward basic empathy that seems all-too-real in an era where wealth hoarders continue to exert their will.
Christof’s statement that the stage he created is, “the way the world should be,” elicits a chilling shudder, as this grotesquely artificial, faux-1950s facade and smiling product placements within is beyond distorted. Also, one of the “safety” measures implemented to keep Truman in place is financial – his wife (Laura Linney) presses their future plans and what things cost. Meanwhile, the rich bloat the bank accounts, smiling as their artificial systems keep working as intended.
The late ‘90s saw a short rush of movies designed to make people question reality. The Matrix, of course, and the softer Truman Show both make a case to consider our place in the world. Ultimately, Truman Show is about Truman’s awakening, but it’s equally so a film about exploitation as entertainment, and how the wealthy exert control. So infinite is money’s power, Meryl (Linney) is willing to have Truman’s child, and on live TV, just for a paycheck. It’s absurd, and then networks came up with Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant, with the same nefarious ideals, even if those shows didn’t occur in a simulated bubble.
Truman Show continues to circle in pop culture because it’s not just treating the topic of reality television as apathetic entertainment, but the root causes as well – advertisers eager to sponsor content, the capitalist endeavor at any human cost, the people willing to go along to aid their own lives/careers, and how those designing this are more divorced from reality than Truman himself. That’s the difference, and it’s a wonder what Truman would (or even could) be doing today.
Mercifully remastered after a truly terrible Blu-ray presentation, Paramount’s 4K debut for The Truman Show looks splendid. Retaining the natural film grain and devoid of edge enhancement, the sharpness doesn’t let up. This natural, organic imagery finally brings this classic home in the appropriate way. The only suspect scene happens around 47-minutes. With Laura Linney in the car, her and Carrey both appear weirdly processed and smear with motion.
Graded for Dolby Vision, Paramount keeps the scan respectful. Contrast doesn’t glow unless absolutely necessary (car lights, for example), but it’s propped up for this release. Black levels retain their solid state without any rigidness to dilute shadow detail.
Soft, warm color suits Truman Show; that’s beautiful, especially flesh tones. Firm primaries look lively. Note various shots employ focal tricks to simulate “hidden” cameras, and those dim the fidelity. Same goes for the worn, now ancient digital effect composites. Those can’t be corrected, but each represents a sliver of the total runtime.
In Atmos, Truman Show’s flashback storm sequence makes full use of the overheads, with thunder crashing loudly in the heights. On the shoreline, waves crash into the stereos and rears. Downstairs, Truman hears footsteps on the floor above. Ed Harris’ voice booms from the sky at the end. The spread is a wide one, surprisingly, giving life to the town as Truman wanders.
Range isn’t extensive, but where possible, the subwoofer offers support to the music, larger waves, and other elements. It’s a fun mix, clearly given full attention during the remastering phase to help Truman Show delight in audio as much as it does video.
On the Blu-ray – which uses the same hideous transfer as before – Paramount clones the bonuses of old. The two-part making of dates back to the DVD era, but runs 41-minutes and it’s still great. A look at the visual effects lasts 13-minutes, with deleted scenes, stills, and trailers finishing up.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
The Truman Show
One of the ’90s most potent social allegories, The Truman Show stands among the best studio films of the decade.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 43 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: