Criterion’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ Blu-ray Deepens One of Anderson’s Best

by Eric Melin on September 26, 2015

in Blu-ray/DVD Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Up]

More than any other film director working today, Wes Anderson has created a movie universe that could stand on its own as a kind of alternate reality. Within the larger spectrum of his body of work, each of Anderson’s wry, sophisticated films has meticulously crafted art direction that make them feel unique to their themes.

With the new Blu-ray release of Anderson’s 2012 standout Moonrise Kingdom, The Criterion Collection has now issued all but one of his movies with a deluxe treatment that celebrates that universe.

Sure, there’s the bountiful amount of extra features on the disc itself that has become the standard for Criterion, but Moonrise Kingdom also includes some extra print goodies like a flyer for the film’s church pageant, an illustrated postcard featuring the characters, and a map of New Penzance Island, the movie’s fictional location. Even the booklet itself, which contains the usual Criterion-quality essay, is formatted to look like an issue of Khaki Scout magazine “Indian Corn.”

Browsing these creative supplements is the perfect way to enter (or re-enter) the world of Moonrise Kingdom, set in 1960s New England — where the unhappy adults are all suffering from restless mid-life crises, and two precocious preteen youngsters (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) are willing to run away from home in order to find a place where they won’t end up like their parents. They run away together to go camping on a secluded cove, which sets the adults of the small island town on a manhunt.

Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, and Bill Murray are perfectly cast, realizing their characters with the requisite amount of dry humor and ennui, but the police chief (played by Bruce Willis) gives the actor the opportunity to show a rare warmth and humility. Jason Schwartzman and Edward Norton are still as funny as I remembered the first time, reaching a stylized screwball-comedy level that few modern directors are willing to attempt.

Moonrise Kingdom casts a charming spell, and despite all the melancholy overtones, it is surprisingly hopeful. Robert Yeoman‘s stylized cinematography, weirdly symmetrical and ripe with yellows and blues, gives everything a fantastic feel, which is backed up by an ending involving a thunderstorm and hurricane that’s open to interpretation.

Anderson is a true iconoclast. He has a distinctive vision, and has been accused of being all style with no substance. But with Moonrise Kingdom, his flourishes are informed by an emotional core. Everyone can relate to childhood experiences, and Anderson brings both the playfulness and the seriousness of those formative years to the forefront.

The audio commentary featuring Anderson, Murray, Norton, Schwartzman, and co-screenwriter Roman Coppola, has its moments, but it’s a little fractured. Norton’s home movies from the set, Murray’s quick set tour, and interviews with the cast and crew illustrate the feeling of fun and community that seemed to pervade during filming.

Anderson’s use of storyboard animatics is well known by now, and there are selected scenes included on the Blu-ray, as well as a fun short film with Schwartzman and the scouts. The best extra is an original documentary about the making of the film. It’s full of revealing b-roll that shines a light on the atmosphere and working methods of Anderson and his crew.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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