The Magnificent Seven Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Slick but Soulless Seven?
From Kurosawa to Sturges to... Antoine Fuqua, this classic tale comes back to life with a strong cast and lots of slick gun-toting action, but nothing that will leave it anywhere near a future classic.Akira Kurosawa's epic, Seven Samurai, has already been the source of a Western remake in John Sturges's 1960 The Magnificent Seven, itself an iconic classic (spawning several sequels and space-based re-imagining in Battle Beyond the Stars), so one might wonder why remake a classic remake in 2016 and add nothing new? Well, as it turns out, Fuqua has tinkered with it, but the changes are neither for the better, nor well-utilised, with this new incarnation scrambling around to find its own identity, and ending up an efficient but largely perfunctory exercise in Wild West action for a new generation. Driven by corporate genre box-ticking work from the top down, it is a slick but soulless affair.And for all of Fuqua's commitment to deliver his own vision of the tale, there's nothing here remotely resembling a director's work, although it's hard to tell what Fuqua's trademarks would be beyond generic slick efficiency and a penchant for violence (the last of which is arguably sometimes a breath of fresh air in modern Hollywood). It remains yet another slick - albeit uninspired (the motivations are largely nonsensical, and even Horner's last score is generic) - blockbuster to add to star Denzel Washington's resume, but it would have been better received without the magnificent heritage. It's certainly nothing new to the genre, and nothing that hasn't been done before, far better.
Picture QualityThe Magnificent Seven rides onto UK 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an excellent HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p transfer framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen. The UHD Blu-ray was reviewed on a Samsung UE55KS8000 Ultra HD TV and a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Shot in 35mm, with the potential to yield full 4K picture quality, it proves to be yet another 2K-upscaled feature in UHD, with its VFX finished in 2K and a 2K Digital Intermediate technically limiting the end result. Despite this, it's an extremely impressive, textured visual spectacle which benefits from some lavish vistas and remains a frontrunner amidst the better looking titles currently available on the new format.
The Magnificent Seven is an impressive release
In direct comparison to its 1080p Blu-ray counterpart, the difference is fairly noticeable, and perhaps surprisingly so given the 2K limitations, but the gorgeous open ranges and vibrant greens and rich browns definitely benefit from the High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) that the Ultra HD Blu-ray provides, which is often the saving grace of Ultra HD Blu-ray with its improved colour and peak highlights.
The film boasts a wonderfully filmic appearance, notwithstanding Fuqua's hot and over-saturated palette, which leaves everything that little bit sun-drenched, and whilst there are some softer moments, these feel more like stylistic choices in focus than moments where the technical presentation has fallen down. Blacks fluctuate marginally at the extreme, but at least lack crush or blocking, and it ends up largely looking like a very slick, stylish Western. An early, good start to the new year, The Magnificent Seven is an oftentimes impressive release that frequently achieves demo quality.
Sound QualityCas Harlow reviewed the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack on a 5.1-channel setup – If you don't have a Dolby Atmos setup then you'll be glad to hear that the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core is demo - and reference - through and through. It promotes the dialogue with precise discrimination across the front and centre channels, clearly and coherently throughout, whilst the boisterous and over-enthusiastic (although surprisingly unmemorable, especially since it was from the late James Horner) score provides more than enough background material to keep the track thriving. It's the effects which get the best coverage though, obviously punctuated by thunderous gunshots (each distinguished by the respective weapon wielded), particularly towards the explosive final act. Surrounds are expertly utilised, with discrete dissemination across the array, and a healthy LFE undercurrent keeping the whole thing together.
This excellent Dolby Atmos soundtrack perfectly compliments the impressive visuals
Steve Withers reviewed the Dolby Atmos soundtrack on a 7.2.4-channel setup – The superb Dolby Atmos soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to the marvellous HDR images, with an active and well executed sound design. Dialogue remains focused, even during the most chaotic action scenes, whilst the front soundstage delivers the score effectively. The use of object-based audio allows the soundtrack to take full advantage of the precision in terms of effects placement, with gunshots and ricochets bouncing all round the room and up the walls. There is a lovely sense of environment to both indoor and exterior scenes whilst the overhead speakers are used to good effect, especially when the church bell tolls. The LFE channel is also expertly woven into the rest of the mix, underpinning the action and giving certain sounds greater effect. The Gatling gun in particular benefits from a bass hit that gives each round a huge percussive impact. Overall this is a great sound design that is ably delivered by the Dolby Atmos format.
ExtrasBeyond its slightly pointless 'moments' option to play highlights from the main feature, the extras are, as is the norm, relegated to the accompanying standard Blu-ray discs which, in turn, mirror the separate Blu-ray package available.
The standard extras are fairly expansive
The standard extras are fairly expansive, even if the majority of Featurettes run around the 5 minute mark, with the headliner being Vengeance Mode - a video Commentary which alternates between Behind the Scenes snippets and clips from the movie comprehensively covering the production - is accompanied by a Featurette on the locations, The Taking of Rose Creek, as well as one on horseriding training, in Gunslingers. There's also a selection of four Deleted Scenes amounting to little over 7 minutes of additional footage. Oddly, the remaining Featurettes, albeit little more than 20 minutes of them, spill out onto a second Blu-ray disc, dipping further into the director, cast and characters.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictIt's a watchable, slick, and violent action-western, but it's certainly nothing new
On the other hand, this Ultra HD Blu-ray release is likely to go down as one of the best releases currently available, promoting excellent video and a stomping Atmos track, as well as a nice salvo of extra features. It comes recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £20.99
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