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Blu-ray Review: 'Under the Skin'

Scarlett Johansson in "Under the Skin"
Scarlett Johansson in "Under the Skin"
Yahoo Images

The Film:

Under the Skin” is a cold, empty film that attempts to tell the story of an alien (Scarlett Johansson) who takes the form of a beautiful young woman in order to seduce men who then become her food supply. However, the longer she stays in the guise of a human, the more she begins to change, even to the point where she truly wants to explore what being human is all about. In the right hands, such a premise could make for a fascinating look at the human race through the eyes of an alien who merely sees them as food at first, but unfortunately, as we discover very early on, writers Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer are completely lost as to what to do with their potential-filled story.

There will no doubt be those that feel the filmmakers are trying to pull a joke on them as the first hour rolls on. As the film opens, we find the unnamed alien attempting to draw men into her car by pretending to be lost. After trying this a few times, she finally gets to give someone a lift, eventually ending up in an entirely black room where the man believes they are about to make out. However, his fate merely involves sinking into a mysterious pool that consumes him. After this, instead of advancing the plot forward, we are treated to the exact same progression of scenes, resulting in another man sinking in the mysterious pool. Surely two would be enough for the filmmakers to get their point across? No, we get to witness the same sequence of events again and again for over half of the film, with the only difference being that she ends up killing one of them beforehand later on.

Eventually we do come to the portion that involves the alien undergoing her subtle change, but given that there has been no character development, no plot development, or any substance of any kind, it’s nearly impossible to care. That’s really where the major downfall of “Under the Skin” lies, in the fact that there is no substance to be found anywhere throughout the entire film. There is nothing here for an audience to get attached to, nothing to stimulate the mind either emotionally or even as a piece of entertainment. For those who don’t end up being bored silly by the incredibly repetitive nature of the majority of the film, there’s still the monotonous and drab atmosphere to put up with that will surely do the trick. In fact, the film’s only saving grace is a few gorgeous visuals, and yes, that includes the beautiful Scarlett Johansson, who sadly sleepwalks through this role.

Ultimately, “Under the Skin” results in one of the biggest disappointments of the year, especially after the amazing buzz that’s been floating around it for the past few months. It’s unclear what the filmmakers were thinking when putting this together, but surely they must have realized that such an approach would only serve to drag their film down into a deadly pool of its own. In the end, it’s rather ironic that they would choose such a title, for when the viewer looks below the surface, it’s all too obvious that there’s nothing there.

Video/Audio:

“Under the Skin” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of great quality. For the most part, the picture is bright and sharp, allowing the film’s visual beauty to shine through. There are several dark scenes spread throughout the film, but the image remains clear enough for a decent viewing experience even then. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is very soft, but given that there’s hardly any dialogue spoken, it ends up not mattering very much. However, should you wish to hear the bizarre score, you’ll more than likely have to make a slight volume adjustment. Overall, the film was given pretty good treatment, giving you satisfying quality in both areas.

Special Features:

The Making of Under the Skin: A series of featurettes that total up to over 40 minutes of interviews, covering various areas of the film including the script, locations, poster design, and the camera. They’re pretty informative, so it’s worth the time investment to check them out.

Conclusion:

“Under the Skin” is a hollow film with a fascinating premise that could have been so much more. Instead of a detached, monotonous, and tedious film, it could have been an intriguing exploration of an alien who tries to adapt to human society, but with a total lack of substance, all it can do is sputter along until it finally comes to the highly-anticipated credits. If the writers had actually put a little effort into the screenplay instead of just running around in circles, there may have been more to recommend here than just the visuals. Unfortunately, as it is, there’s not much chance of you remembering it five minutes after the credits start to roll.

Score: 2/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Jodorowsky's Dune, Lake Placid, Nymphomaniac, Afflicted, House of Cards: Season Two, The Lego Movie, Ernest & Celestine, 13 Sins, Joe, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Tim's Vermeer, Alan Partridge, RoboCop (2014), Alexander: The Ultimate Cut, Ravenous, Son of God, The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection, Stalingrad, The Monuments Men, Pompeii

Now playing in theaters: How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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