PictureFramed in 2.35:1 anamorphic, the transfer here is cinematic. The colour saturation looks pleasingly natural with the palette of earthy tones rendered well - in particular the forest scenes look excellent - and the feel of the grimy, muddy outback is brought to life convincingly. The dour tone of the movie is backed up well by solid blacks which add a depth to the print which is pleasing.
Grain is apparent in some of the early scenes - particularly where we see swathes of slate-grey sky, and sadly edge enhancement does become visible at various times. Mainly noticeable where characters are outlined against skies and light backgrounds, it's certainly visible on a larger display such as projector or plasma screen, but you'd probably have to look hard to spot it on a normal sized television. Although I didn't have our Region 4 review copy to hand (reviewed Nov 2003) it certainly looked better than I remember the Australian counterpart looking, which is a relief.
Detail overall is good; outlines are reasonably sharp, compression artefacts are absent and save a number of scratches (er hello, this is a new movie?) overall the transfer is a reasonable effort. Just like the film itself, this won't set the world on fire...
SoundWe have the choice here of watching the movie in both DTS and Dolby Digital variants. I chose to watch the movie in DTS, and this mix offers a solid - if uninspired - audio experience. The soundstage is mainly locked across the front three speakers, and here dialogue comes through clean and crisp, with steering executed reasonably well.
The surrounds are used sparingly, and although they do come into play they would benefit from more frequent use. They do, however, add ambience in a number of scenes (just not enough), and some directional effects come into play in the action sequences. Again, though, it all feels rather average.
LFE usage is restrained, although your subwoofer will get a handful of cone-trembling workouts at some of the key moments of action. More apparent is its main role of reinforcing some of the dialogue - which it underpins nicely - and other moments such as where we see horses galloping past the camera. It certainly adds some richness to the mix, which would otherwise feel very flat.
Comparing the DTS mix to the Dolby Digital variant reveals some obvious differences. Replaying a number of scenes in Dolby reveals an altogether duller audio experience. Gone is the depth, and indeed it almost feels like the 5.1 has just lost the .1 - it's that lifeless in comparison. In the scene where we see the Kelly gang practicing their shooting skills in the forest, the gunshots in DTS hold some weight and feel lively: upon switching to the Dolby counterpart it sounds like they're firing cap guns. Even Heath Ledger's voiceover after the firing has finished sounds flat in Dolby compared to DTS, which offers richer dialogue. It's worth noting that the bitrate for this Dolby Digital soundtrack is only recorded at 384kbps, which may go some way to explain its obvious shortcomings (though that in itself is no excuse).
If you didn't have the DTS option obviously you wouldn't know the difference, and there are still moments in the Dolby track where the LFE channel does its work, and all channels are still used. But compare the two options and it's a night and day difference.
So overall we have an average soundtrack, but do yourselves a favour: pick the DTS option.
ExtrasThe extras in this DVD package are rather lightweight. Most substantial is the 13 ½ minute documentary “Ned Kelly in Popular Culture”, which is an interesting look at Ned Kelly's origins in Australia's history, including a look at his previous incarnations and references in various movies (who ever thought Mick Jagger could have played Ned Kelly?).
Also included are two theatrical trailers, featured in 1.85:1 anamorphic with Dolby 2.0 sound. Wrapping up the slim pickings are a series of static - and ultimately pointless - screens, which feature pictures of the real Kelly gang, an Artist To Feature comparison, and Poster Concepts. All of which sounds about as dull as actually are.
VerdictAn average movie, coupled with an average video transfer and a solid, though unremarkable soundtrack, makes this is an essential purchase only for Ledger/Bloom fans and those interested in the legend of the man himself.
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