When this disc shines, it really shines. There are some terrific moments that look richly rewarding in hi-def. The most obvious and extensive would have to be the hunt sequence, when everything - detail, colours, hue and three-dimensionality - comes together to produce a picture that is positively leaps and bounds ahead of any prior edition. The widescreen image is gorgeously filled with detail - from the sharply etched riders and horses to the limbs and leaves of the trees and the undergrowth - and the fast movement is delightfully captured. One shot, in particular, is perhaps the greatest in the film and showcases the beauty of this transfer. When Damien has taken the bait and followed the false trail we have a glorious shot that shows him and his dogs thundering down the track towards us, then as the camera pans to follow them, we see the dogs rush past us, right to left, and then barrel onto the old stone bridge and charge directly away from us. The entire shot is fantastically rich with genuine depth and three-dimensionality. It is a breathtaking moment. Other shots of landscapes - Father Mattias plodding over the heathland and Damien's car on the horizon and the Ambassador striding across the park - offer great depth and detail with fore, mid and background.
Colours are much better than ever before. Skin-tones may wobble and vary a little, but blood is now more vivid - the mistaken multiple stabbing now has splashes and smears of gore that are more keenly defined and the gobbets of skull and brains that slide down the wall behind the Ambassador's wrecked head are definitely juicier and brighter. The greens of the fields are also better realised and saturated than on any previous transfer that I have seen, as are the plentiful red jackets worn by the huntsmen. The char-grilled flesh of the bumbling monk is also much more colourful now.
Blacks are strong, but there are still times when they come to dominate certain shots and, very possibly, submerge some detail within the shadows. But this is probably only minimal. However, what doesn't look so good is the lack of density of these blacks in other scenes. For example, Damien's secret chapel is bathed in a gloom that is actually quite horrible to look at, with misty, diffuse shadows that are sadly a tad shabby. The older SD collection transfer was also like this, but this, if anything, looks a little worse. I also noticed some slight banding in the deep blue night sky and there is some definite haloing around the badly monk's bonce when he and equally inept chum get trapped in the pit. Grain fluctuates as well in some of the darker pockets of the image, though is infrequent and the grain, by and large, is a welcome texture to the film. There is no evidence of DNR on this disc, by the way, but there is some slight blockiness taking place in those mischievous blacks.
Occasionally there is a slight blue tinge at the base of the image, though is part of the print and a good few shots are softly lensed as opposed to the much sharper rest of the film. These tend to be whenever Lisa Harrow is on-screen, incidentally. I also noticed a small portion of shimmering on the background faces of the disciples at Damien's sermon.
Now, whilst some of these digital bugbears sound quite annoying, let me assure you that The Final Conflict has certainly never looked this good before. The level of detail is revelatory (look at that forked lightning and the bullet-wound under the Ambassador's nose!) and the image, for the most part, is highly impressive. The inconsistent nature of the print and the transfer is really only of concern to someone who is actively seeking such detriments out in the first place - like me. So, if you are a fan, I can safely say that you will be very happy with the film's undeniable visual upgrade.
The Final Conflict is very frontally-based and, despite some nice, yet very subdued, effects for the whistling wind, the murmuring of Damien's gathering of followers, and assorted other instances of ambience, it fails to really reach around behind you with any gusto at all. There is bleed-through there, but it is so slight for the most part as to be almost unnoticeable.
Dialogue is always clear and finely produced, but little effects like someone knocking on a door or a shotgun going off have that definitely subdued and dated sound. Yet there is still much to enjoy ... because, yep, you've guessed it - Jerry Goldsmith's score sounds wonderful, with deep bass and soaring strings, a wide spread of brass and well-detailed percussion across the front. The Hunt sequence, naturally, comes over extremely well and all the major musical moments are suitably presented. Don't get me wrong, the track doesn't make any mistakes, it just doesn't seem to have a lot to play with. However, as with the previous two entries, it increases the volume, the clarity and the depth of the sound, and it does so without sounding bogus. Therefore, The Final Conflict's DTS-MA 5.1 mix is still the clear winner as far as I am concerned.
The Final Conflict is a much better movie than most people are prepared to admit. Sam Neill is excellent as the adult Damien and he mixes darkness with charm, intelligence with deceitful rage and so with supreme conviction. His charisma is unparalleled and his gift to the film and to the series is that he demands, and gets, sympathy for the Devil. But the problem exists with the wimp-out lack of dramatics that the film exhibits during the final act. Just when things should really be going over the top - infanticide on a grand scale, dark disciples around the world gathering for some ungodly showdown, the ultimate confrontation between good and evil - the film becomes little more than an all-too-brief, pre-dawn domestic. Sit back and think about it and the actual theme is still very powerful, it is just that it doesn't culminate in anything particularly exciting, leaving the series to bow-out with a climax that, visually and emotionally, doesn't satisfy. But there is still much to enjoy with Neill's outing as Damien.
The transfer is a good one, albeit marred by some niggles, and it fits very nicely alongside its brethren to form a great upgrade from any previous versions. Baker's commentary is slightly stilted and dry, but he does manage to provide some interesting production detail for a movie that is too-often disregarded. As a show-capper, The Final Conflict takes an interesting turn - but you can't help but wish that it examined its theological debate with a bit more consideration and provided a deeper sense of the battle, and what is really at stake. There was definitely a greater film struggling to climb out of this one.
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