The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Blu-ray Review
PictureAn early release for the format, this US BD features a 1080p MPEG-4 (at 16 MBPS) transfer that can be inconsistent with the good stuff, but is still far better than the SD version that I also own. For a start, there is much more detail on offer and the 2.35:1 picture is certainly sharper. But where the downside begins is with a contrast level that is not properly maintained, leading to several scenes in which noticeable fluctuations and loss of distinction occurs. Since the film is set predominantly in shadowed interiors or outside at night, this shouldn't really be much of a problem but couple these lapsed transitions from light to dark, and even from shot to shot in some cases, with some black crush and the detrimental side begins to become all the more apparent. But, just when you had come to terms with this, the transfer proves that it had what it takes all along. The scenes set in the snow are great, revealing marvellous high-end whites that don't bloom or dazzle and contrast excellently with the Fantom's dark factory-fortress.
There is some grain apparent in the picture, but this is so slight it does not hamper the image. Some backgrounds can look a tad soft, too, the matte-paintings (which are nice to see, in my opinion) losing a fair degree of detail and delineation. However, the pure CG colonial hotel in Quatermain's African retreat looks very convincing to my eyes ... just before it blows up. Reassuringly, close-ups are just fine. Faces, whiskers, cobblestones, machinery, weapons etc mostly appear with a great level of finite accuracy that leaves the SD edition in the shade. Colours, which are definitely down-played are reasonably well-kept, too. Nemo's costume, the bright sunny seascape as various members of the League take the air on the deck of the Nautilus, the blue of Mina's eyes, the blood upon her lips and the bright red scarf around her neck, the descending fireball of a collection of flaming zeppelins - all look nice, crisp and warm and definitely stand out from the intentionally drained pallor of the rest of the image.
The film does not have any three-dimensionality that you can quickly point to and say aha, that's some of that hi-def glory and for a film that boasts so many sets and locations, a multitude of dynamic action sequences and some excellent photography that frames the characters so stylishly, this is a definite letdown. Fast-action does not suffer from any form of motion drag or smearing, which is a relief, but ironically, I did detect some slight trailing when characters simply walked across the screen - nothing major, I might add, and I was actually looking for such things in the first place, so I can't imagine that anyone else will be distracted by it. Edge enhancement isn't a major problem, either, but there was a slight area of slow-processing taking place in the upper left of the picture during a quick shot of the Nautilus powering through the sea at night which was a little irritating.
Overall, I still liked this 1080p transfer of LXG. The new level of detail makes it a concerted step-up over the SD version.
SoundWell, the first impression given with this explosive DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is one of WOW! This is truly loud and aggressive and dedicated to delivering full-on, blast-off sonic overkill, but as rewarding as this multi-channel bombast is, there is a considerable lack of subtlety and discretion. Everything is wild and bludgeoning which, I admit, I love, but some finesse would have made for a much better mix. As things stand, all the speakers literally roar practically all the way through the film without the expertise of a properly gauged sound design. Every effect is cranked up and the directionality is slightly wasted in that sound levels across the environment appear to be universal ... meaning that whip-around moment of steerage, whilst all-too obvious to hear, almost totally lacks believability. Even the scene when the Fantom is calling out to Quatermain from behind various tombstones and his voice should be emanating from around the speakers, the track fudges the steerage so that space and distance seem exactly the same wherever he is.
But, this said, there is no denying the sheer exuberance of such a powerful track and it would be a lie to say that I wasn't grinning like a fool whenever gunfire, explosions, heavy impacts (mind you, every impact in this sounds heavy) and tumbling masonry filled the room. The thudding footsteps of Hyde and his even bigger nemesis in the finale are thick and deep; gunshots bark with real ferocity and the rumbling of the tank during the opening immediately ignites the sub. I would say that the bass, whilst incredibly strong, is often quite clumsy, and lacks detail - making up for it with an all-consuming anger. I would have liked the eruptions of stones and slates during the capture of Mr. Hyde, for example, to have been allowed a bit more clarity. All these individual effects are definitely in the mix, but they are merely thrown in with the general cacophony, without thought for their positioning within the track.
Naturally, Trevor Jones' music is given a suitably thunderous workout and the mix does manage to keep the balance between score, dialogue and effects reasonably tip-top and refrained from swamping one another.
So the DTS-HD does a fine job of rocking the room and disturbing the neighbours, but it can't find it within itself to allow the subtler elements of the track to shine through its own bombast. This isn't the worst case of sonic overstatement that I've heard, but it is still something of a disappointment. Aural-adrenaline junkies will find much to savour though, so long as their tastes are not too discerning.
ExtrasSadly, the BD release is not carrying the plethora of features that adorned the SD Special 2-disc Edition. Really, this only features the commentary tracks that are of any worth. Although a couple of Blu-ray exclusive gubbins have been incorporated, they are a complete waste of time and effort. Even bearing in mind that LXG was an early release for the format and such things as My Scenes, a pop-up Trivia Track and an interactive game were virtual novelties, their inclusion here is woeful. Who needs two surplus “jump to a scene” functions - one of them a completely ridiculous word-search type of deal - when you already have a thing called SCENE SELECTION, huh? The LXG Shooting Gallery is a dud, too. Once activated, you are played the scene of the library ambush and you have to place your unbelievably slow crosshairs over a bad guy and click to kill him. Of course, since this is just the actual scene from the film, nothing at all happens when you've hit him, except your number of bullets goes down and your score goes up. Now, this function may progress onto other scenes from the film - but I don't know because I shut this off after about a minute of utterly squandered time. Lousy.
So the real meat of the deal are the two commentaries. Whilst the second one - from a costume designer, the Visual Effects Supervisor and Makeup Effects guru Steve Johnson - is a fairly tedious affair except for when the stitching-lady gets a little over-excitable and yawn-inducing - the first, with the producers and some of the cast, is well worth listening to. Featuring producers Don Murphy and Trevor Albert who are recorded together, and actors Tony Curran (Invisible Man), Jason Flemyng (Hyde) and Shane West (Sawyer) who form a trio for their sections, this is fast, fact-packed and, from the cast especially, anecdote-filled. Tony Curran, who has been a bit-parter in a vast number of movies (usually wielding a sword, such as in Gladiator and The 13th Warrior) but blotted his copybook when he appeared in a large role in the god-awful Underworld: Evolution, is incredibly funny and tells lots of stories. Listen out for his uncanny Connery impersonation - then again, being a fellow Scot, that shouldn't be too hard to do.
So, whilst the producers get on with telling us about the locations - it was all shot in the Czech Republic, even the Kenyan bookends, except for three days shooting in Malta - and filling in some information about the cuts that there made to ensure a PG-13, how certain sets and shots were constructed and how the material differed from Moore's books, Curran supplies a wealth of tales about golfing and after-hours meals with the Big Tam, as well as managing to celebrate the sheer number of “gingers” involved with the film. There's actually five in the main cast - which is a remarkable feat of minority casting. It is engaging stuff and the three are obviously having a good time reminiscing. This comes over well and the track is a fully rounded and enjoyable one.
Obviously, considering the goodies that were available on the SD 2-discer, the meagre assortment here is a letdown.
VerdictI love the sheer exuberance and spectacle of LXG, though I admit that I could be in the minority. Almost no-one else I know will confess to having much time for Stephen Norrington's frantic adaptation of Alan Moore's considerably more intellectual graphic novels. But there is so much action and flamboyance on the go that is hard not to warm to its non-stop cliffhanging, witty banter and romping, cavalier attitude to the story. Aided considerably by Trevor Jones' tempestuous score and terrific production design, LXG is a thunderous couple of hours of daft, no-brain excitement. The verbiage and incisive comment of the books have been jettisoned but the spirit of colonial backstabbing, mercenary adventure and nobly mysterious crusade is still very much in evidence. The Fantom is a poor villain, though! And Connery's grumbling is clearly not just acting.
The BD performance is variable with regards to the video, but it is always better-looking than the SD counterpart. The DTS-HD track is a real roof-raiser though, but whilst exciting and energetic, still drops the ball by being too aggressive for too much of the time, rendering the experience ear-blistering but nothing particularly special or convincing. Extras-wise ... better look elsewhere. One fun commentary track and one dry, back-slapping one is not enough.
Still, I get a lot from this film, flawed as it is and any other fans out there (and that, presumably, won't include Alan Moore) should find the transfer strong enough to consider upgrading to.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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