It’s a rarity to see Hollywood let a full-scale epic through anymore, especially rivaling classics in terms of scope. Australia is Baz Luhrmann’s sweeping take on Australian history through the eyes of three main characters. The film as whole however is too disjointed in story, pacing, and tone to fully come together as it should.
Australia begins with a feverish pace, with edits so quick narration is added to help it make sense. Even then, words and characters are introduced without time for the audience to grasp what’s happening. The cheery, slapstick tone never really gels with the rest of the film either, despite being entertaining.
Australia is everything from classically styled comedy, rancher film, war drama, race divide exploration, and romance. All of these aspects stand out separately, but rarely feel together as a whole. The movie is tied together with a young boy named Nullah (Brandon Walters), and his eventual adoptive parents, Sarah (Nicole Kidman) and Drover (Hugh Jackman). Their slapped together, melodramatic romance is predictable and clichéd. Nullah’s odyssey is far more intriguing, and probably better focused.
The film is loaded with beautiful visuals, provided by natural cinematography and tiresome special effects that detract rather than add. There’s little question numerous shots will stay with you long after the film is over, as Luhrmann takes full advantage of the location.
Nearing the three-hour mark, with even one aspect of the film gone, Australia would have been a stronger piece of work. As it is, this remains an entertaining, refreshing piece of cinema that certainly stands out in a crowd of lesser-scaled films Hollywood pumps out regularly. It’s a shame it doesn’t feel connected with its numerous story arcs.
All of the beautiful photography has made the transition to home media perfectly. This is a marvelous AVC encode, loaded with fine detail, bursting with color, and housing a brilliant level of contrast. Blacks are rich and deep, and the whites never feel overblown. Individual stitches on the clothing, pores on faces, and perfectly legible text on buildings during long shots are the enormous benefits of this razor sharp transfer. The light film grain is thankfully left intact to preserve the film as it should be. A minor artifacting issue on Kidman’s face at the hour and thirteen minute mark is the only notable flaw.
Likewise, this DTS-HD Master mix is brimming with spectacular audio. Bass is prominent, easily the most impressive aspect of the audio presentation. It’s deep, clean, and resonates through the room with a vibration that makes a cattle stampede a benchmark for testing a subwoofer. The surrounds are mostly engaged for the expansive soundtrack, filling the soundfield with a rich audio presence.
Oddly, the rears are engaged sporadically elsewhere, best used during the Japanese attack on the shore. The cattle drive also uses them well, but not as aggressively as one would suspect. Ambiance is also flat despite numerous moments with animal calls detectable in the front channels.
Extras begin with two brief deleted scenes, following by a promotional piece that’s titled as if it were a history of Australia, yet focuses solely on the filming. Nine featurettes are where the disc shines, although annoyingly there is no “play all” option. These detail the visual effects, costumes, the location, actors, and more. They’re well put together. Some trailers finish this disc off, no doubt limited in features due to a lack of space thanks to the film itself.