As movie theaters slowly start to open back up and recover from the Covid period in which few new theater releases came out, we’re getting a brand new 4K release of the 1996 classic Space Jam. Obviously timed around the upcoming release of Space Jam: A New Legacy, we decided to go for a refresher course on the Michael Jordan/Bugs Bunny adventure before venturing back into theaters.
We’ll go ahead and assume that most people are familiar with the basic plot for Space Jam, where Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes enlist the help of the greatest basketball player alive in Michael Jordan – at the time very much in his prime. What results from that is a hybrid cartoon/live action family adventure that transcends the sport of basketball and appeals to fans of the Looney Tunes characters even if they’ve never seen an NBA game in their life.
Now, 25 years later, we’re progressed from DVDs to BluRays and now 4K resolution discs with HDR support. For Space Jam, that’s a good combination, as the cartoon work in particular benefits greatly from the new remaster treatment. Color and contrast are big factors when it comes to the animated antics on screen, and for the new 4K release they’ve been enhanced as well. This is especially noticeable in the live action elements of the movie, which felt washed out in earlier transfers (I remember the DVD not being great in this regard) but now feel much more vivid and mesh better with the bright colors of the animation.
If you have an HDR-enabled screen this is even more apparent, and Space Jam has never looked better. It’s not perfect, but most of the shortcomings can be attributed to the movie’s age – with the combination of grainy film and CGI/hand-drawn animation sometimes looking a bit rough around the edges. It’ll be interesting to see how Space Jam: A New Legacy will look, considering the advancements in digital film making we’ve seen since 1996. Worth noting on the video front, however, is that the new 4K BluRay release of Space Jam is also the first time we’re getting the movie with its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio – the earlier BluRay release was reframed to 1.77:1.
A special shoutout needs to be given to the audio on this new disc. If you’re playing one of the English language tracks (French, Spanish and German are also included) then you a choice between either a Dolby Atmos and a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track, and both sound fantastic. The Looney Tunes crew can be pretty wild so there’s plenty of action going on all around you, and the audio is always quick to follow. What’s also a rich audio experience is the big showdown with the Monstars at the end, which takes place in a full stadium – vividly brought to life through Atmos in great detail.
Even 25 years later, Space Jam is still a blast, taking us back to MJ’s glory days, a soundtrack that’s fitting of the era, and the timeless antics of Bugs Bunny and his friends. The 4K BluRay that was just released is a great appetizer for the new sequel with LeBron James, and we can’t wait to see it.