Tommy is a musical rock opera based on the same-titled album released by The Who in 1969. The story stars Tommy (played by The Who’s own Roger Daltry) whose birth coincides with the British victory over the Germans in WWII. After assuming he was shot down in the war, Tommy’s mother, Nora, an assembly line worker in a weapons factory, begins dating her husband’s brother Cobb. However, Walker, Tommy’s real father, not only survived the war, but returns home only to find his wife and brother in bed together. Cobb kills Walker in the heat of the moment in front of his own son so he, along with Nora, tell Tommy not to speak of what he witnessed. As a result, Tommy grows up pretending to be blind, deaf, and dumb.
Now all grown up, Tommy’s parents attempt to cure him by taking him to various new age healers including a medical specialist, a drug dealing prostitute that gives him LSD, and a religious cult leader. Tommy however, only finds solace in a long full length mirror and eventually a pinball machine which raises him to fame once he defeats a local pinball champion. Upset with being unable to awaken him from his detached state, Tommy’s mother shatter his mirror and ultimately snaps him out of it. Tommy then uses his new found grasp of reality to paint and start a holiday camp of his own.
Tommy is an intriguing piece of visual storytelling that is at times avant garde in its use of visually abstract representations of Tommy’s internal struggle. Despite the sometimes sloppy and cheesy cinematography, that many films of the 70s featured, Tommy stands up surprisingly well after 40 years with great performances from heavy hitting musicians such as Tina Turner, Elton John, and Eric Clapton as well as a rocking epic soundtrack from The Who. Though this type of film isn’t for everyone, it’s an undeniably ambitious and sometimes even impressive rock opera that’s capable of pleasing more than just the diehard Who fans.
Tommy rocks the shelves in 1080p HD with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but the despite the fact that this restored version is likely the best the film has ever looked, its age is immediately noticeable via the thick layer of grain that plagues the image. Considering the age of the film though, it actually looks pretty decent, and many closeups of the characters faces look surprisingly sharp. The colors also impress at times with their surprising vibrance. It’s certainly not the best looking blu-ray around, but not a particularly bad transfer either.
Though there’s technically no dialogue in the film, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio does a relatively superb job, making the music resonate with crystal clarity. From the slower rock ballads to the pounding operatic crescendos, Tommy is a film whose sound is almost more important than its visuals. Old school classic rock aficionados can also enjoy watching the film with the original Quintaphonic 5.0 soundtrack. Either way, The Who fans and all fans of classic rock will be pleased.
Well there’s not much to say, other than there are no special features included. There is an internet movieIQ feature but who counts that? Disappointing.
I’m not a big fan of musical films, but as far as rock operas go, you could certainly do worse than Tommy. Even I found my skepticism fading away beneath the bizzare drug-induced imagery and undeniably epic rock and roll music. Still, unless your a huge fan of The Who, or classic rock, or rock operas, you may want to pass on this one.