Errol Morris' fantastic 1991 documentary about astrophysicist Stephen Hawking never made it to DVD, which makes Criterion/s new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack all the more impressive. The film itself is excellent, offering a unique look at one of modern history's greatest minds and his life's work up until that point. We get a pretty equal balance of input from Hawking, his friends and relatives and, of course, a look at the debilitating disease that ultimately left him almost completely paralyzed. The parallel between one man's fragile life against the backdrop of an ever-expanding universe makes this essential viewing. It's based on Hawking's own bestselling book, but Morris' addition of biographical elements usually works in the film's favor, even though it runs a bit short at less than 90 minutes.
Criterion's Blu-ray looks and sounds just about perfect, as the new 4k transfer (downsampled to 1080p) really brings out a lot of detail and the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix lets Philip Glass' score shine. The extras are definitely on the light side: we only get two interviews with Morris and cinematographer John Bailey, which only add up to about 50 minutes total. So the total disc running time is just over two hours, which makes this kind of a tough sell at $30-$40. The packaging is nice though, and includes a fat booklet with an excerpt from Hawking's original book and a chapter from his 2013 memoir.
Also: Criterion is also quietly releasing a DVD-only edition in April for roughly half price, so those who aren't sure about the film or don't care about high definition may want to go that route. But this Blu-ray, in my humble opinion, is still worth the price of admission.