PictureWhilst the film may well divide viewers, I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed when they first put this disc in their player. I have had the pleasure of viewing many HD discs this year, but this is quite simply a stunning image. Until now, my reference disc was Pirates of the Carribean : Dead Man's Chest. That disc now has competition
The transfer is presented in a 1080P VC-1 transfer and colours are vibrant and clear without ever looking washed out or false. Whether swooping low over a desert battlefield, or shooting an interior lit only by candlelight, this transfer brings out an immense level of detail in all scenes.
The depth of field is stunning with detail remaining clear as far back as the eye can see. In a film like this, background detail is important, and you can clearly see detail that was never present in the SD version. The battle scenes is particular benefit from this increase, with every sweep of a blade, and every drop of blood clearly visible amongst the mayhem
Close up detail, too, is amazing - with every hair and pore standing out with vivid clarity. Just look at the shot near the end of disc one, when Alexander stands on top of a mountain. The background pallet is a muted blue, yet the detail in the background is clear as anything. Alexander is wearing a dark red cloak, and you can make out every individual fray around the edge. It truly is amazing quality.
The end result is a significant upgrade over the SD editions, and a transfer which is likely to amaze even the movie's greatest detractors. Certainly one of the best transfers I have had the pleasure to review.
SoundAfter the quality of the transfer, the sound mix has a lot to live up to. Whilst it might not quite match the quality of the picture it certainly isn't far behind.
The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, and makes very good use of all six speakers. In movies like this it is sometimes possible for the dialogue to get lost amongst the chaos of the battles, but this is never the case here. Dialogue is always pinned well to the center channel, only varying when it needs to in order to present a sense of ambience to the viewer.
This sense of direction is heightened during the action scenes, with the chaos of battle well highlighted through directional use. The best example is the climactic battle in the jungle of India on disc two, but the whole film uses the soundfield imaginatively.
The sub as well gets a good work out, underpinning and enhancing the action scenes. It never sounds over done but when it is called into action, it does a superb job. Listen in particular for the elephant's footsteps - although you wont easily miss them!
Some have criticised the disc for not including a PCM track, but I have to say that this is amongst the best Dolby Digital mixes I have ever heard. I have knocked a mark off for the lack of the PCM track - but really the sound compliments the rest of the package superbly and draws you into the film.
ExtrasWhat a package we have here. The film is divided unevenly with the bulk of the feature appearing on disc one. This is to allow nearly ten hours of extras onto the second disc. When you consider the quality of the transfer and the length of the film, this is probably the biggest example of the capacity of HD discs yet seen.
We begin with an Introduction by Stone himself, where he candidly explains his reason behind the third cut, and addresses reaction to the film. He is painfully honest here, and it is certainly the best director's introduction I have yet seen on a director's cut.
We then get thee three documentaries which were originally shot by Stone's son for the Director's Cut release. These tell the story of the making of the film candidly, and are divided into three sections of around half an hour each. These are not your usual promotional fluff, and instead are a genuine and honest attempt to look behind the scenes of the making of a major epic. They make a fascinating watch.
Finally, we get Vangellis scores Alexander a brief and disappointing four minute piece that can never tell us enough about a potentially fascinating aspect of the film.
All these extras were included on older releases, but we also get some welcome HD exclusive extras. Oliver Stone present a riveting and fascinating new Commentary. I have mentioned before that I am not a fan of commentaries, but this kept me fascinated through the whole running time as he talks about the film, and the historical background. He is clearly enthused by the subject, and hurt by the criticism the film received, but he is totally honest and candid about the whole experience, and this is what makes the commentary so interesting.
If only the Historical Commentary was as good. With Stone giving so much background in his commentary, did we really need another commentary? No, we didn't, but we get one anyway - and it is extremely boring. One for historical fanatics only.
Finally, we get another 90 minute documentary by Stone's son Fight against Tine : Oliver Stone's Alexander which again pulls no punches and should be a fascinating watch - whatever your opinions on the finished product. One day, all extras will be made this way. The honesty of the Stone's on these documentaries are like a breath of fresh air. Superb.
VerdictHype and vitriol should always be ignored when considering whether to invite a movie into your home. You need to make up your own mind. And never is this more clear than with Oliver Stone's Alexander. Now presented in a third and final cut - his vision gets more time to breathe. And more time to fail as well.
The truth is that this film has it's flaws - but it also has many majestic moments. As a study of the life of Alexander, it may miss some key points but is certainly a good introduction to the life of a man. As a historical epic, the film delivers in spades with epic and brutal battle scenes mixing with political and familial divides in a way that will keep you interested for the entire running time.
Presented on two discs, as the director intended, the film is served with a simply stunning transfer, a great sound mix, and over ten hours of extras, many exclusive to the HD release.
If you are not a fan of the film, this will not change your mind. But if you have never experienced Stone's vision then there will never be a better time to do so. Even if you do not enjoy the film, the stunning transfer, and sound will wow you. Certainly worth a look.
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