Updated: Jun 24, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1994; PG-13 for drug content, sensuality, war violence, profanity; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Q&A with director Robert Zemeckis, screenwriter Eric Roth and actors Tom Hanks and Gary Sinise
IT’S EASY to see why the heartwarming Oscar winner “Forrest Gump” made the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Greatest Films of All Time – and why it’s earned its place on 4K Ultra HD from Paramount.
Positioned at No. 76 between the racially charged “In the Heat of the Night” (1967) and political thriller “All the President’s Men” (1976) on AFI’s 10th Anniversary list. After all, it was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning six for Best Picture, Best Director for Robert Zemeckis, Best Actor for Tom Hanks, Best Adapted Screenplay for Eric Roth, Best Editing and Best Effects.
The film was based on Winston Groom’s 1986 novel. Producer Wendy Finerman adored the book’s first line: “Bein’ an idiot is no box of chocolates.” She optioned the story with partner Steve Tisch. They locked Warner Brothers into a possible a movie, but the studio backed out thinking it was too similar to Oscar winner “Rain Man” starring Dustin Hoffman.
Finerman convinced Groom to write the script’s first draft, which went through numerous rewrites and writers. “It would’ve been very difficult to make Forrest Gump into a movie just like the book,” Groom says in “The Art of Screenplay Adaptation.”
Eventually, veteran screenwriter Eric Roth (“The Insider,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) was hired to polish the story, changing the opening line to one of cinema’s most memorable: “My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Paramount Studios signed on to finance. Tom Hanks, who had just won the Best Actor Oscar for “Philadelphia,” would play the film’s hero Forrest Gump, a mentally challenged man with an IQ of 75. Hanks and Roth convinced Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”) to direct.
Hundreds of boys across the country auditioned for the role of young Forrest after a Memphis TV news broadcast delivered a regional casting call. Eight-year-old Michael Humphreys’ mother heard it; they drove to the audition from their Mississippi home, and his audition tape was sent to casting director Ellen Lewis. Michael and a half-dozen other boys and girls were flown to Los Angeles for screen tests.
“Everybody was so enamored with what they saw, that we finally had found our young guy,” producer/second unit director Steve Starkey says. Hanks had struggled for weeks to find the right pitch and tone for his Forrest. “I’m no fabulous linguist, so I was trying to soft-pedal it. I was really lost until Michael was cast as young Forrest,” Hanks says. “He had this voice that seemed to come right out of his backbone.”
The next summer when “Forrest Gump” hit the theaters, young Michael had no idea what to expect on screen.
I had imagined it over and over and over again, wondering what it would be like… Wow, I can’t believe I’m up there.” – Michael Humphreys
Most of the production was filmed around Beaufort, South Carolina, the same general location for previous Hollywood productions including “The Prince of Tides,” “The Big Chill” and “The Great Santini.”
A third disc includes the majority of bonus features including an insightful “Production Diary,” which highlights five key scenes. The best is Day 50 and 51, when production moved to historic Savannah, Georgia. The iconic bus bench scene, where Forrest tells his life story to strangers, was filmed there. The bench was actually a Hollywood prop place along Hull Street at Chippewa Square. The camera sweeps down from an elevated height following a feather drifting past the steeple of Independent Presbyterian Church.
“It was just reams and reams and reams of pages of dialogue,” Hanks says. Zemeckis wanted his leading man to say the lines on location even though much of it would only be heard as a narration track. “I wanted it to be believable,” he says.
The supporting cast is wonderful, with Sally Fields as Forrest’s mother and Robin Wright as Forrest’s best friend Jenny. Both were Zemeckis’ first choices for the roles.
The director spent a year locating archival footage, with key historical moments to incorporate: Forrest interacts with Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, and listens up close when Gov. George Wallace grudgingly agrees to allow African-American students to enter the University of Alabama. The folks at Industrial Light & Magic, who had just finished work on “Jurassic Park,” blended Forrest into the black & white and color news footage.
In an entertaining Q&A hosted by Elizabeth M. Daley, Dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Hanks and co-star Gary Sinise take turns doing impersonations of the animated Zemeckis. Zemeckis talks about cutting Forrest in with Dr. Martin Luther King during the march from Selma to Montgomery, and Sinise recalls how illusionist Ricky Jay constructed a special wheelchair, so he could hide his legs while playing Lt. Dan Taylor, a double amputee veteran of Vietnam.
The 4K disc includes two conversational commentaries: One with producer Wendy Finerman, and the second with Zemeckis, producer/second director Steve Starkey and production designer Rick Carter, who detail how they built the Gump boarding house in Oak Alley. Located at the end of a long driveway bordered by huge southern oaks draped in Spanish Moss, a stately house had burned to the ground years earlier. Sally Fields was so taken by its reproduction, she first thought it was a 100 plus-year-old home.
The 4K presentation is a mixed bag of success and failure sourced from a 4K master scanned from the original 35mm camera negative from Oscar nominated cinematographer Don Burgess. Many scenes are super-sharp from wide shots showing crisp, distant objects, and close-ups that reveal an extra level of texture in costumes and facial markings.
But many times the film grain nearly disappears and that shouldn’t happen. Film grain is the fabric of every image. Perhaps digital noise reduction been applied, common with older masters. We wonder if this is actually a new 4K master. It doesn’t compare to Paramount’s grand 4K restoration of "Saving Private Ryan," “Gladiator” and “Braveheart.” It’s still a more cinematic experience compared to the old Blu-ray, but we expected better.
For example, most of the special effects scenes are lower in quality as when Forrest speaks to thousands during a Vietnam War protest in front of the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflective Pool. Thousands of protesters around the pool were digitally created, but look soft compared to the normal 35mm shots.
HDR/Dolby Vision seems dialed to a harsh contrast level in many scenes. The shadows lack detail in the darkest areas, especially when Forrest stumbles into an anti-Vietnam War meeting between the Black Panthers and the Students for a Democratic Society. Still, the colors are toned naturally and balanced for majority of the scenes.
The 4K disc includes a Dolby Atmos track, but sound effects are extremely quiet, while the majority of pop hits from the 50’s, 60s and 70s are delegated to the front and center speakers. The soundtrack was a huge seller on CD when it was released in the summer of ’95.
The original Oscar-nominated score from Alan Silvestri is still emotional, with its simple piano solo in the film’s opener “I’m Forrest…Forrest Gump” to the fully orchestrated “Run Forrest Run,” one of my favorites for nearly 25 years.
Overall, “Forrest Gump” is an enjoyable watch on 4K, but it could have been so much better.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer