The Greatest Showman

We started this blog last October to explore a different way of experiencing movies at home — one that doesn’t involve spinning 4K Blu-ray discs or streaming movies from Netflix and other services. I’m talking about the server-based Kaleidescape movie system. You can read my impressions of the system in A Marriage Made in Movie Heaven) and my previous Kaleidescape-based movie reviews here.)

Kaleidescape Scenes
The Greatest Showman is a musical inspired by the life of Phineas Tayler “P.T.” Barnum, creator of the world famous (and now defunct) Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. It’s the story of how an ambitious and imaginative entertainer rises from humble beginnings to become a showbiz pioneer. Motivated by dreams of creating a unique and captivating spectacle, Barnum (Hugh Jackman) brings together a diverse cast of performers to fill seats and make a buck or two along the way. As he builds his empire, he faces both praise and scorn, especially from a local critic who deems his show a "circus." Through it all, Barnum is determined to gain acceptance from society elites who have spurned him his entire life so he forms a troupe with playwright Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) and travels to England where he meets the noted opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson).

Set against a backdrop of catchy show tunes and dazzling performances, the film explores themes of acceptance, individuality, and the pursuit of dreams with the underlying message that success means nothing if you have no one to share it with. Throughout the movie, Barnum's journey is marked by his desire to create a place where the outcasts and dreamers can find a sense of belonging, while navigating the challenges that come with fame and fortune.

My wife and I were interested in seeing the film when it debuted in 2017, but underwhelming reviews kept us away. What a colossal mistake! (Ironically, 2017 was also the year Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus staged its final performance.) The Greatest Showman has become one of our all-time favorites after we experienced it in the home theater of friend and fellow reviewer, Ralph Potts, who opened our eyes to its grandeur. We love sharing Showman with friends and family who visit our home, which brings us to the convenience of Kaleidescape: Having the film on a server makes it easy to run a quick demo or swiftly navigate to favorite musical segments from the comfort of my couch.

Showman made its home video debut on 4K Blu-ray in 2018 and immediately garnered critical acclaim for its exceptional presentation — a quality that shines through in the Kaleidescape transfer. Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the movie was shot using Arri Alexa digital cameras and finished with a 4K DI (digital intermediate) that captures the magnificence of the elaborate 19th Century sets and nuances such as facial pores, fabric textures, and more. Shadow detail is flawless and the color is rich and pure — Barnum's scarlet jacket is a particularly striking visual element — with high dynamic range that is used to great effect in the film’s many light/dark scenes.

The Dolby Atmos audio track is every bit as impressive as the visuals, making it one of my go-to movies for testing out subwoofers. The opening sequence, featuring Barnum and the lively number “The Greatest Show,” boasts reference-level dynamics, ranging from Jackman's soft opening lyrics to some of the most exceptional low-frequency effects you'll ever hear (and feel) as the crowd stomps to the beat of the music. Overhead channels are used masterfully to infuse ambiance into dialogue-heavy moments, while the circus sequences and musical performances highlight an exceptional sound design that allows each speaker in the room to contribute to a riveting audio experience.

In lieu of the usual bookmarked Kaleidescape Scenes, you have the ability to jump to any of the nine songs featured in the film. My personal favorites include the captivating opening tune, which never fails to delight guests, and “The Other Side,” the musical backdrop for some of the finest choreography ever captured on film. The dancing might be rudimentary but the nuanced interactions between characters and audio cues that blend seamlessly with the music are fascinating.

The lineup of supplements — all presented in 1080p resolution — differs from the bonus material included with the disc-based version of the film. Though Galleries are missing along with the Sing Along mode, theatrical trailers, and audio commentary from the director, the most valuable features have been retained. Among these is the standout featurette, “The Family behind,” featuring cast interviews and rehearsal footage from the 81st Academy Awards, “The Songs,” which delves into the intricacies of the film’s musical numbers, and a short entitled “The Spectacle,” which delves into the choreography, cinematography, scoring, and other aspects of production.

Watching the The Sound of Music was an annual ritual when I was growing up — one that instilled the enjoyment of musicals. Though La La Land held the spotlight among critics and Oscar voters the year prior to the release of this film, I still like this one better. If the critics managed to also dissuade you from giving The Greatest Showman a chance, I urge you to reconsider. You won’t be sorry. The music is exciting and the narrative remains compelling even after multiple viewings.

Studio: 20th Century
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Download Size: 58.0 GB (4K HDR)
HDR Format: Yes
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos
Length: 1 hour 45 mins
Director: Michael Gracey
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Keala Settle

NatHeathcote's picture

The Greatest Showman was a mesmerizing, thought-provoking experience. It left me dancing, pondering, and questioning long after the credits rolled tunnel rush. It's a film that celebrates humanity's diversity and yearning for connection, but also challenges us to confront the complexities of ambition and historical truth.

Lee Black's picture

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