The Social Network: Raw, Unrated & Uncensored Cut!

Despite being a hugely successful and critically lauded feature by some of Hollywood's most successful players, 2010's The Social Network isn't a blu I imagined I'd ever have cause to replace.  It's a 2k digital film (shot in 4k but edited and finished in 2k) that was already in HD in its initial release.  That's probably as good as it was gonna look, and it was already a thoroughly packed special edition.  Where could you go from there?  Well, it turns out, there was somewhere to take it: a nice little surprise in the Columbia Classics Volume 2 box.
I also didn't see this one getting double-dipped because, as surprisingly impressive as it turned out to be, even for a film written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, I wasn't sure how well it would hold up.  I mean, "the facebook movie" seemed like a film very much of its fleeting time, touching on a particularly controversial topic that the world was just happened to be hyper-focused on right then.  But no, rewatching it now, when you'd say, "Mark Zuckerberg, yeah, I get it," and we've since had a procession of boring biographical dramas and docs about tech guys from Jobs to Steve Jobs, it still holds up.  It's an honestly human story, presented almost like a thriller, but with a weirdly truthful heart to it.
A large part of that hangs on its cast.  This is the film that turned Jessie Eisenberg from that kid in The Squid & The Whale and Rodger Dodger to a top level film actor, and introduced us to Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer who've both become huge stars while still struggling to match the work they've done here.  And it's supporting cast is just as strong with great characters presented by Rooney Mara, Rashida Jones and of course Justin Timberlake.  Meanwhile, Trent Reznor's first feature score is both subtle and strange.  It's probably actually a more engaging film now that time has passed and its free of all the associations and expectations.  Which is not to say that we, as a culture, are over Facebook or Zuckerberg yet.  Sorkin keeps talking about reconnecting with Fincher for a second one, and when the time is right, it could be quite interesting.  But there's just something about this film, the story of young men and being driven apart by adulthood, that works on a broader and deeper level than all this legal sociopolitical stuff, which is still entertaining in its own right, but would likely feel more casual and weightless in a sequel.
1) 2011 DVD; 2) 2011 BD; 3) 2021 BD; 4) 2021 UHD.

All four discs are 2.40:1, but the DVD is slightly vertically stretched (and therefor also loses slivers along the top and bottom), which the BDs and UHD all fix.  Everything you'd otherwise expect about the DVD being blurrier than its HD counterpart are true and good.  But the purist in me got a little worried when I cracked open the "Upgrade Notes" for the new UHD release.  There's a lot of talk about this "opportunity to revisit" the film, "remaining true to the director's vision," but how "a work of art is never finished."  This is a digital film, so there's no question of re-scanning film; but they have gone back to the digital intermediate files to re-time the film for HDR, stabilize the image and remove flaws like "an errant drop shadow in the title sequence."  Talk of "opening up the framing in places" stood out as the most potentially revisionist; though as you'll see in the comparison shots, most of the framing is untouched, and the changes they did make were subtle enough that I couldn't spot them without scrubbing through but versions side-by-side.

There are flag-raising signs of what I would normally consider tampering, like DNR and edge enhancement, but this is presumably work Fincher did in post-production rather than anything that could be blamed on the home video departments down the line.  And, just to be clear, it is present in every edition, past and present.
2021 BD left; 2021 UHD right.
I bring this up more to say that most of these flaws couldn't have been fixed, but there are a long series of subtle improvements.  Most flared out bright spots are still flared out, but some are less so.  You only have to look at the above enlargements to see how much more lifelike the image is now on the UHD.  Yes, it's an older 2k film, but the resolution really does make a difference, and the new HDR is more naturalistic.  But that's only on the UHD, because the included  2021 BD uses the exact same transfer as the 2011 BD.  It doesn't even have the uncut audio.

Yeah, we gotta talk about this audio.  All that "raw, unrated" talk in the title?  That's actually a real thing.  See, one of the most exciting aspects of this new release is that Sony has included the original, uncensored audio for the first time.  See, in order to get qualify for a PG-13, they had to loop one of Armie Hammer's lines to declare, "let's gut this friggin' nerd."  You can guess what he originally said.  AV Club wrote a whole article about how phony it rings.  Well, for the first time ever, Sony is releasing it with the original, unrated audio restored to their UHD.  And, if you want it, they've included the theatrical audio, too.  In fact, they really deck out the options: DTS-HD 5.1 for both the theatrical and rated tracks, a descriptive audio version of the theatrical audio and a new Atmos mix with the unrated line.  And they also include two sets of optional English subtitles (standard and HoH), eleven foreign language dubs and 26 foreign language subs.
As for extras, nothing's changed.  But that's okay, because the original releases were fully stacked.  There's two great audio commentaries: one by Fincher and one by Sorkin accompanied by most of the stars.  Well, sort of... it's clearly several of them recorded separately and edited together.  Then there's a great, feature-length documentary and a series of additional featurettes to cover every aspect of production, including pre and post.  The 2011 releases came in a digipack housed in an outer slipcase, while the new 2021 set is so far only available as part of the Columbia Classics Volume 2 14-disc set.  It includes a hardcover, 80-page book with some sections devoted to The Social Network, as well as the rest of the films in the set, and the individual 3-disc cast comes in a stylish slipcover.
So this is the definitive way to go.  The UHD is a genuine improvement in picture quality despite whatever misgivings we might've had about the limitations of an older 2k master being upscaled to 4k.  It's still better in terms of resolution and color.  Plus, while it does boil down to only one word, it's great to finally get the uncut audio.  If you're someone who thinks of The Social Network as just a decent, timely drama, that may not be enough to warrant a double-dip.  But Fincher devotees will need this.  And fortunately, the whole set is terrific and well worth having, so it can work as just a "bonus upgrade" alongside the other essential UHDs.

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