Plot: What’s it about?
Jacob (Robert Pattinson) has just suffered an intense tragedy, as his parents were killed in a brutal accident. He soon learns that his father had gone into immense debt in order to finance his education, as Jacob had been studying to become a veterinarian. This means that debt has now become his, adding even more burden to his tragic situation. He decides to make a new life for himself, one that starts by hopping on a freight train, or so he thinks. As it turns out, he jumped on a circus train, though his skills with animals have made him invaluable to the troupe. Jacob is tasked to work with an elephant who is become a new star attraction, along with the circus owner’s wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). The two quickly realize there is passion between them, but the love is a forbidden one. Can the two manage to keep their feelings suppressed and if not, what will become of them if the circus owner discovers their hidden romance?
Call me old fashioned, but a romance can hardly smolder when the leading man looks constipated for the duration. Robert Pattison of Twilight fame does just that in Water for Elephants, with a look like he is always in awkward pain. Reese Witherspoon might not be a great actress, but she looks fantastic here and turns in a solid effort. But those crucial scenes with our romantic duo fall flat, since Pattinson looks like he holding back childbirth in those tender scenes. The story also seems to be missing some details, as if exposition from the book wasn’t ported over, leading to moments of plot movement that make little to no sense. As mediocre as the movie is in most regards, the visuals are superb. The circus locale is rich with visual flairs, including some of the most seamless CGI I’ve seen. If you’re a fan of the book or Pattison, then you’ll see Water for Elephants regardless, but for everyone else, this one is only worth seeing for the lush visuals.
Video: How does it look?
Water for Elephants is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. As I said, the movie has some remarkable visuals and of course, they’re splendid in high definition. The circus is lively and vibrant, with incredible detail and even the CGI blends in, so this is some top tier visual effects work. The image shows off vivid colors and stark, consistent contrast as well, so this one of the better visual transfers I’ve seen of late.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD 5.1 soundtrack brings the circus to life quite well. The atmosphere is great in those scenes, between the roaring crowds, loud animals, and various other elements. The non circus scenes are more low key, but still sound great. The dialogue is crystal clear, the music sounds good, and the background noise is well crafted. This release also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An audio commentary track with the film’s director and screenwriter is present, but I’d have rather listened to the production designer or visual effects team. The session is the typical self praise and back patting, almost of all which is undeserved. To hear from the people who crafted the film’s visuals would have been a much better inclusion. There is a terrific featurette that lets you watch as the visual effects are injected into the movie, so that is good news. This just lets the visuals speak for themselves too, which was a wise choice. A few promotional featurettes round out the extras, though a digital copy is also included.