APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX
Reviewed November 25th, 2001 by Dan Jones
”It's a way we had over here with living with ourselves. We cut 'em in half with a machine gun and give'em a Band-Aid. It was a lie. And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies.”
Apocalypse Now is one of the best films ever made. It serves as a bar for cinematographic excellence and beauty, demonstrates how powerful films can be, how deeply enveloping lands presented on film can become... it represents the power of pure filmmaking, and it should serve as a movie that dwarfs just about every other movie of its kind, or, for that matter, any other movie ever made. Scenes like the ever so basic, yet ever powerful opening scene in which we see the burning of trees by the dropping napalm, with Willard’s head upside down transparently floating over it, all backed up with The Doors “The End” playing overtop, to the helicopters coming in at dawn to attack the Vietnamese village while playing “The Ride of the Valkyries.” Cinematic beauty.
Based on the novel “Heart of Darkness,” by Joseph Conrad, and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola and John Milius, Apocalypse Now is set around the Vietnam War, and one man’s top-secret mission to take out a rebel Green Beret, Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (played by the infamous Marlon Brando) whom has taken it upon himself to win the war, using means “beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct.” Played by Martin Sheen, Captain Benjamin L. Willard must traverse down the river into Cambodia, find the Kurtz compound, determine the coordinates, take down the Colonel with “extreme prejudice,” and order an air strike on the compound itself.
Spanning a relatively lengthy (yet very cut down from all the filming that was done) two hours and thirty-three minutes, the original theatrical presentation of Apocalypse Now moved quite well, revolving mostly upon Willard’s trip up the river from Vietnam into Cambodia, moving towards the Kurtz compound, along with all the terror and horror going on around him on the way.
Now, Coppola has decided to go back to the editing board once again with the film, scrounge through the hours of unreleased footage, and try to redesign his vision of how the film should play out. How did he do? Well, it is definitely a mixed bag.
Apocalypse Now Redux presented me with quite an interesting opportunity. Barring a re-release in this popular time of re-releases, I never expected to be able to enjoy Apocalypse Now the way it should be seen: on the big screen. Now that I have seen it in the theater, I must say, it was definitely worth it.
Adding just over forty-three minutes, bringing the film to three hours and seventeen minutes in total, Coppola has added some interesting new scenes to this Redux version, some of which are nice additions, and others that just seem to drag on a bit too long.
As I said before, most of the original film dealt with Willard’s trip down the river, with little else pulling him from this symbolic move towards the mouth of the Kurtz camp. Redux seems to pull Kurtz away from time to time, much more so then the original ever did; making the film somewhat less able to flow as well as the first cut did.
The lengthiest of the new scenes added revolves around Willard’s meeting up with a French colonel, and the resting of Willard’s crew at this plantation for the night. In this scene, Willard meets up with a widow, Roxanne, played Aurore Clement, whom he ends up spending the night with. This scene does add some insight into the war, but really does not add much to the film, and overall just seems to slow the movement of the film down, it just went on too long, coming at over twenty minutes by itself. Other scenes added to the film come with another encounter with the Playboy Playmates, in which Willard trades two barrels of fuel, for him and his crew to have a few hours with the girls. We also get some additional boat footage, a stretched out scene in which Willard steals Kilgore’s surfboard, and some more dialogue from Kurtz. Overall, these few scenes are nice additions to the film, although I would have been okay with the French scene being left out entirely as it was originally.
Redux also presented Coppola with an opportunity to remaster the video and sound of the 1979 masterpiece. Using new Technicolor dye-transfer prints, Coppola was able to make the picture look better then ever, with very saturated colors and true, deep blacks. Overall, this new transfer is quite a bit better, in my opinion, then the original ever was. Kudos to Coppola.
So, how does Apocalypse Now Redux fare on the DVD format? Well, like the movie itself, it is a mixed bag. I was optimistic that this release would be a two-disc set that would include a lot of behind the scenes footage, and the true theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio, from this highly important film. Yet, as it stands now, we just get the movie. Nothing more, nothing less.
Video wise, Apocalypse Now Redux is presented in a slightly cropped 2.1:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. Even though this is not way the movie is shown in theaters (as it was 2.35:1), the newly created transfer still looks great and the slight cropping should not be too apparent. Blacks are rich and deep, colors are vibrant without bleeding, there is very little noticeable grain to speak of (amazingly enough), and there is hardly a digital compression problem or artifact to speak of. Overall, this is an amazing transfer considering how old this film is.
Audio wise, Apocalypse Now Redux gives us an extremely good, and again remastered, 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. This movie just sounds fantastic, and this track does it great justice. The sound is very enveloping, bass is deep and powerful, and the surrounds get great use. What else can you ask for? It sounds fantastic. English subtitling is also included.
Extras wise this Redux version fall flat on its face. Quite frankly, besides the theatrical trailer, there are no extras to speak of. For me, this was a huge disappointment. Even the original release included the alternate ending with the destruction of the Kurtz camp. If anything, a second disc with the inclusion of this and the Hearts of Darkness documentary on the film would have been nice... Paramount?
So, Apocalypse Now Redux is out on DVD. Even with its shortcomings and pitfalls in terms of extras and aspect ratio, this release still holds one of the most powerful films ever made. If you own the original, I would probably purchase this one to go along with it; if not at least give it a rent. If you do not own either release, please pick one of them up. This epic is truly representative of filmmaking at its greatest. Highly recommended.
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