The Millennium series comes to UK Region Free Blu-ray complete with a 1080p High Definition rendition, presented in the original aspect ratio of widescreen 1.85:1. Now, as standalone features, the films all have varying results in terms of video performance: Dragon Tattoo was released cinematically, and obviously had the most care and attention (and budget) afforded to it; the latter two ‘films’ were not so gracefully rendered. Dragon Tattoo was also presented in a more cinematic 2.35:1 aspect ratio when it was released theatrically. Here, for the extended TV format, the 1.85:1 aspect ratio has been adhered to across all six parts, so thus Dragon Tattoo must have been converted. I assumed that this would be done using un-matting techniques to ‘reveal’ more picture information at the top and the bottom of the image, but actually it appears like the 2.35:1 image has been cropped on the sides to produce the 1.85:1 ratio, effectively 'zooming in' on a portion of the 2.35:1 image. Whilst we do lose a bit of information, the framing actually feels quite natural this way, and, perhaps most importantly (at least on the technical front), it does not detract from it in terms of visual quality; Dragon Tattoo still stands above the rest of the instalments as better in quality.
Indeed all 6 parts look fairly good, but only when you regard them as decent quality TV mini-series instalments – when compared to just about any medium-to-big-budget mainstream movie release, the Millennium series just does not stand up whatsoever. Peppered with very variable noise levels that go way beyond acceptable ‘filmic grain’, softness can also be an issue sometimes, although overt DNR and edge enhancement are not to be found. Bleeding and crush are also not in issue. The colour scheme is realistic, but bleak, and the interior shots generally look much cleaner than the exterior shows, no doubt thanks to better lighting options. Overall, taking into account the inherent limitations of the TV-format material, this is a good video presentation, but it’s not the kind of thing that particularly stands out on Blu-ray at all.
The entire Millennium series get a decent dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 overhaul here, after the succession of limited Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks that accompanied the three ‘film’ releases. Always a dialogue-driven affair, I never really thought that the series would noticeably benefit from an HD upgrade, but it certainly does sound more refined, with better resonance. Dialogue still takes the centre stage, largely dominating the frontal array for the majority of the proceedings, but effects are better observed, from the occasional gunshots to the car crashes, police sirens and blazing infernos, offering up better dynamic separation and exhibiting enhanced surround usage.
The score is very good throughout, perfectly suiting the material and providing an excellent accompaniment to the narrative events. Originally only the first and second ‘movies’ had scores that impressed me, where the third ‘movie’, Hornet’s Nest, had a disjointed and sparingly effective score. I noted on my original review that it was ‘as if, in the editing room, they moved scenes around but forgot to change the score to suit them’. Well, guess what? That’s exactly what happened – as you no doubt already know from reading the main review. So here the scores impress across the board, and are given even better coverage than before with this new HD mix. Whilst it is not demo quality material, it’s good nonetheless, and certainly promotes the material in a worthy fashion.
There is of course the alternative English dub but, seriously, who listens to those anymore? Instead we get decent English subtitles to help you understand the dialogue, and, for the most part, they are pretty good – with just a few jarring mistakes peppered across the 9 hours of material.
The original ‘movie’ releases were pretty-much bare-bones affairs, with some interviews, brief featurettes, a couple of gimmicky family tree features, and the theatrical trailers – all of which have been included here – but this new release, whilst not feature-packed, does include one single weighty exclusive: a whopping 50 minute Documentary entitled Millennium: The Story. With its primary focus being, not the adaptations, but the original late author himself, Stieg Larsson, we get a well-researched and extremely informative affair, which delves into the origins of the material, Larsson’s experiences as a journalist, what he brought to the books, and where he gained his inspiration from. There is plenty of time devoted to the subsequent success of the book (outselling the Bible), and the film projects (increasing tourism in the shooting location of Stockholm), but this is a thoroughly rewarding background look at the most important element in this whole production – the original author himself.
The late Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series is something of a global publishing phenomenon – released in dozens of countries across the globe, and selling around thirty million copies in the process. Adapted into an extended TV mini-series with a theatrically released ‘pilot’, the first story, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was so popular, and so well received, that they edited the remaining four episodes into two further movies designed for theatrical release. Unfortunately, whilst Dragon Tattoo remained a compelling, excellent mystery thriller, its sequels were more disjointed and increasingly lacklustre. Now the whole series has finally been released as it was originally intended to be seen: in a 6-part extended mini-series of 93-minute episodes; the considerably longer runtime (we get about 2 hours of new footage) allowing for a more respectful adaptation of the original source novels, and finally doing justice to them.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get a decent enough release, sporting solid video and good audio, and a hefty documentary that somewhat makes up for the lightweight supporting extras. To those who enjoyed Dragon Tattoo on its original release, who loved Noomi Rapace’s visceral take on the tough lead heroine, Lisbeth Salander, and who were marginally disappointed by the theatrical sequels – this is what you have been waiting for. Honestly, after you’ve seen Rapace’s Lisbeth, and seen the original Swedish TV series in its original extended format, you will likely find it hard to know what, if anything, Hollywood is going to be able to bring to the table with their own adaptation due out over Christmas. Highly recommended viewing.
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