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HBO's Catherine the Great Blu-ray Review

From Elizabeth I to Catherine the Great

by Casimir Harlow
Movies & TV Review

6

HBO's Catherine the Great Blu-ray Review
SRP: £17.99

Catherine the Great Review

HBO's lavish period drama sees Helen Mirren on fiery form as the revolutionary Russian Empress.

Writer Nigel Williams first worked with Helen Mirren on her award-winning Elizabeth I series, which was also for HBO (in collaboration with Channel 4), back in 2005. Almost 15 years later, they take on another top female leader in the annals of history: Catherine the Great, Russia's longest-ruling female leader.

The 4-part production is directed by Philip Martin, who helmed a number of episodes of another lavish period drama about Royalty, Netflix's excellent The Crown. It kick-starts with Catherine taking the throne by force, with rumours surrounding the disappearance of her husband, King Peter III, and immediate talk of her reforming the country, particularly with regard to the abolition of slavery. Complications with her closest confidantes, shifting plots to wrestle control from the powerful lady, and the appearance of a charming military commander to catch Catherine's eye all complicate her years on the throne, despite her promises to make Russia stronger than ever.

 There is no doubt that this is Helen Mirren's baby

Defying an almost impossible-to-ignore age difference between the real Catherine the Great (who was decades younger at her death, than Mirren is now) there is no doubt that this is Helen Mirren's baby, and she absolutely commands the stage. Sure, the role requires her to be a somewhat over-sexed ruler, but for 74, she rises to the challenge and certainly has the gravitas to bring one of Russia's greatest rulers to life. Indeed, it is almost unbelievable to think that, in a country which is perhaps not renowned for its progressive behaviour with regard to either sex or sexuality, a female ruler could take the throne by force and change the country so significantly over her decades of rule - and in the 18th Century no less.

HBO fills the show with a strong cast, matching Mirren's presence with Jason Clarke (SerenityTerminator: Genisys) as a well-chosen counterpart in Commander Potemkin, whilst Naked's Gina McKee, Chernobyl's Paul Ritter, Game of Thrones' Paul Kaye, Mission: Impossible 2's Richard Roxburgh, Pirates of the Caribbean's Kevin McNally, and Skyfall's Rory Kinnear colour in the fringes. It is a well put-together show, but not as compelling as, say, The Crown; arguably relying too heavily on both Mirren and the novelty factor of this less well-served aspect of history to carry a story which is a little too preoccupied with the schoolboy bickering of its male characters, and the paltry and somewhat unconvincing romantic shenanigans, to fully embrace the great battles - and great fights - that this memorable ruler had to not just survive, but win.

Catherine the Great Blu-ray Picture


Dazzler Media bring Sky Atlantic / HBO's Catherine the Great mini-series to Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation in the show's original airing aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.

We reviewed the UK Blu-ray release of Catherine the Great on an LG 55B7 Dolby Vision 4K Ultra HD OLED TV with a Panasonic DP-UB450 Dolby Vision HDR10+ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

 A strong presentation

Certainly trumping the paltry NowTV presentation, this Blu-ray release does well with the lavish period drama here, rich with suitably authentic trappings, gorgeous in the candle-lit interiors, and impressively stylised in some of the broader exterior shots too. It's stylistically not without a hint of softness - Mirren's makeup trying to go some ways towards de-ageing her to suit the part - but the Blu-ray enjoys the wonderfully ornate palace interiors and stunning outfits, which all contribute towards a well-realised colour palette, again rich with a gold-hued twinge but still brimming with vibrant tones. Solid black levels round out a strong presentation. 


Catherine the Great Blu-ray Sound



A solid offering

The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a solid offering which promotes the core elements of dialogue, score and effects with aplomb, keeping the spoken word a priority across the proceedings, whilst giving voice to the rabble of the crowds, the battles and skirmishes, and the quieter moments, whilst a sweeping score - excellent over the opening credits - gives it a nice edge.

Catherine the Great Blu-ray Extras




 Unfortunately, there's nothing to see here


Catherine the Great Blu-ray Verdict

7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

HBO's Catherine the Great Blu-ray Review







 It is a well put-together show, but not as compelling as, say, The Crown; arguably relying too heavily on both Mirren and the novelty factor of this less well-served aspect of history
 
HBO's Catherine the Great comes to UK Blu-ray courtesy of Dazzler, who delivers a strong Blu-ray complete with very good video and audio, which should please fans who have either had to endure the NowTV streaming variant, or have not yet had the opportunity to investigate it.

Scores

Movie

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7

Picture Quality

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8

Sound Quality

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8

Extras

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1

Overall

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7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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