Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sapphire Off To A Shaky But Promising Start?

Today sees the release on Blu-ray of two amazing films. Ridley Scott's 'Gladiator' and Mel Gibson's 'Braveheart'. Two titles that have been desired by fans of the format. I rank among the fans that include both films among my favorites. In fact, when I do my "best of the decade" list at the end of the year I can tell you that 'Gladiator' will be on it. Paramount is releasing both titles under their new Sapphire Series. Unfortunately it's off to a shaky start.

'Gladiator' contains much of the great features from the 3 disc DVD set from a few years ago. However the transfer has some problems. The high definition transfer is approved by Ridley Scott. One problem - it's the transfer he approved back in 2000 for its original DVD release. I have not seen the Blu-ray yet but I have seen it on cable. It looks good but not up to par with more recent transfers that are meant for Blu-ray. The HD transfer while good for 2000 suffers from the technical problems that were utilized at the time to make DVD's pop. A lot of digital enhancing to bring out detail. Something not needed for more current HD transfers. Unfortunate to say the least as I have been looking forward to this release. Blu-ray.com has some info on the issue with the 'Gladiator' disc.

However flawed, the disc does represent an upgrade from the previous DVD release. The audio quality benefits greatly from the lossless encoding, and viewers will definitely notice increase fidelity and clarity. Even the video represents an upgrade, though not on the scale usually seen on Blu-ray releases. So while you may hesitate to pick up a copy today, you can make a purchase with the knowledge that the Blu-ray release represents the best home video presentation of ‘Gladiator'. Hopefully, Paramount will soon come out with an official statement announcing a trade-in program for owners, but that may take some time as they first have to figure out what went wrong.

I hope so too as the film deserves better. Plus it will put Paramount in good light with the fans and not have their Sapphire Series be marred by this. You don't want people saying about future releases,"Is it really going to be good or just another 'Gladiator' release?"

That being said it does look like the Sapphire Series has a winner in the new 'Braveheart release. Outside of not having some extras available on older DVD copies I have heard it is a great edition with an outstanding transfer. Though almost 15 years old this film still holds up. Much has been said about Gibson's personal life but dammit the man knows how to make movies. And this is just one of the best films in the last 20 years. I've seen it so many times yet I still get emotional at the end.

I'm excited to watch both of these again. I have caught them in HD in the last year on cable. While it was nice I know that cable HD is not as good as Blu-ray HD. Both films hold up so well and it'll be nice to watch them in the format. I only hope the 'Gladiator' situation can be fixed. Still looking forward to watching it though. Transfer flaws and all. Are you not entertained?

No comments: