PictureFox has provided a theatrically correct 2.35:1 aspect anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs picture with an average bitrate of 6.67 Mbps. The first thing you notice about the picture is how dark it is, unnaturally so. However, the contrast and brightness are set such that the blacks are reassuringly deep, and the detail level is such that you do not loose definition in them. Other colours are dependent on the filters used, bleached yellows for the sands, or blues for the nights, all retain an element of naturalness to flesh tones within the confines of stylistic licence. Digitally there are no compression problems, but there was the merest whiff of edge enhancement. Lovingly cared for by Fox there is no print damage or film grain. Much like the film this print tries very hard to look its absolute best, but not quite managing to do so, I felt it was just a little too dark and it lacks that certain lustre associated with a perfect score.
SoundNo such misgivings with the sound though. The disc has got three Dolby digital tracks, an English 5.1, French and Spanish 2.0 surround, and an English DTS 5.1 track. The only grip I have about these tracks is that you cannot switch between them with the remote, so whatever you choose from the menu is with you for the duration. Other than that reviewer's nitpick, the sound is without exception wonderful. There is full dynamic surround with every speaker getting a full work out. There is a full range with equal attention being given to bass mid and treble. Dialogue is clear and never drowned out by the incredible rendition of the score, which is represented by room shaking clarity and bass. Of the two 5.1 tracks the DTS won out with its clearer tone and deeper bass, but the Dolby is no slouch matching every dynamic effect of the DTS. The 2.0 surrounds are predictable bland by comparison, but for their bitrate they are still quite excellent, both containing effects and bass in equal measure.
ExtrasThe first disc play's host to the Pilgrim's Guide, a Star Trek-esque trivia track but without the humour, being purely historical facts. The information is extremely comprehensive and those with a bent toward history will gain much, those of us that know a little have the chance to improve, those that don't care won't turn it on. Personally I felt it was a bit like information overload, at least Michael and Denise Okudais incorporate fun in their tracks, not so here.
The second disc plays contains the majority of the extras. The first is the Interactive Production Grid, which is really a fancy way of playing a variety of behind the scenes featurettes. You can choose to view pre, prod or post production from the perspective of the director, cast or crew. If you can't be bothered with all this fancy tosh, you can then choose the play all function, a far more sensible option. Fox, certainly know how to put together a fully comprehensive behind the scenes documentary, and this is a good as any I've seen and incorporates everything you could possibly want to know about the production. Makes up of the lack of production information in the text commentary.
Next up is History Vs Hollywood from the History channel, now I was looking forward to this because the same feature on the Last Samurai disc was excellent. This version, however, is not quite so, it concentrates more on a medieval castle and delves very infrequently into the facts behind the film. It is light hearted in nature, a departure from the heavy going history of the trivia, and it is entertaining in an entertainment channel, rather than a historical perspective containing as it does many interviews with the cast of the film.
Following that there is the A&E Movie Real, features predominantly the same line up as the above piece but is a far more satisfying watch. It concentrates on the crusades in general and contains significantly more information though packaged within the promotional material of the film. Of these two features, this is the far batter watch.
Next up there are four two minute internet featurettes; Ridley Scott: Creating Worlds, Orlando Bloom: The Adventure of a Lifetime, Production Design: Bringing an Old City to Life and Costume Design: Creating Characters Through Wardrobe, snippets to introduce you to the 'excitement' of the film.
Finally there is the theatrical trailer for the film.
I don't count inside look as an extra, sorry.
VerdictWild, bold, spectacular and engaging, everything an epic is, and everything Kingdom of Heaven is not. Though not as bad as most would have you believe, it is certainly a thorn in Riley Scott's side, I can't believe that Gladiator came from the same person. As a DVD Fox has once again delivered a very good package, excellent picture, fantastic sound and enough extras to keep you going for weeks and weeks, or is that just what if feels like....
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