Updated: Sep 20, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW/ FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2010; Unrated, with violence, including intense sequences of warfare and some sexual content; Streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: Two versions from director Ridley Scott
DID SOMEONE fall asleep at the controls?
Universal Studios seems to continue to struggle with some of its catalog movies released on 4K Ultra HD.
Last year, Peter Jackson’s adventure “King Kong” (2005) was digitally dialed about 30 percent too contrasty and bright, with both the 4K theatrical and the director’s cut. I had to readjust my projector’s setting big-time, just for an acceptable viewing experience, and you would need to do the same on your setup. The 4K version on iTunes and other streaming sites have been adjusted correctly.
With Ridley Scott’s prequel of the “Robin Hood” tale, the percentages are much improved, but still not perfect. The theatrical cut that’s r-e-a-l-l-y long, running two hours and 20 minutes, has a five-second video blunder.
Most important, the original 35mm camera negative (2.40:1 aspect ratio) was scanned and mastered in 4K from the Super 35 format. Sharpness is terrific, from wide shots to close-ups, with a healthy dose of natural film grain. The HDR toning is much darker, and colors richer and bolder, making it comparable to Scott’s Oscar-winning “Gladiator,” released on 4K from Paramount, and one of the best 4K discs of the year.
But, at the 1 hour: 41 minute: 40 second mark, the exposure goes from rich and dark to overexposed, with a slight orange cast. It’s as if the clip was pulled from daily footage and never toned for HDR. Then at 1:41:46, it’s back to its exceptional levels. Strangely, it’s perfect on the director’s cut.
The “enriched director’s cut,” with 15 additional minutes, has its own issues. First off, the added footage was welcomed during its premiere for home viewers, back in 2010.
That version beefs up the screen time for Scott’s two stars: Russell Crowe as Robin Longstride, a warrior just back from the Third Crusade; and Cate Blanchett as a tough Maid Marion Loxley, whose husband was killed in an ambush in France. The extra time allows the couple's relationship to blossom – especially during a new scene in Sherwood Forest. Extended footage is also scattered throughout, mostly during battles sequences, while Scott reshuffles several scenes, such as introducing the Sheriff of Nottingham 10 minutes earlier.
But with majority of the director’s edit the added footage has defects. It seems it was never scanned from the original camera negative. The images have a completely different texture, which don’t match the splendid quality of the theatrical cut, their colors are subdued, and the sharpness is down a notch.
While not a night and day difference, it is obvious to the trained eye. The highlights are also overblown, while the film grain disappears in the highlights of several scenes. On the Blu-ray, you’ll see film grain in the brightly highlit sky, when Robin rescues a ram and Marion from a pool of quicksand. The lack of detail in the highlights is evident when Robin interrogates a French soldier for the location of King Philip’s invasion along the English Channel coast. Then, in a scene with Marion and the orphan boys of Sherwood Forest, the grain is completely intact. My guess is that the scenes were mastered in 2K and then upconverted to 4K, without full HDR toning from shadows to highlights, and possibly some applied digital noise reduction.
Whatever the reason, there is no excuse.
Universal should get a gold medal for applying the powerful DTS:X eight-channel expansive soundtrack with effects and Marc Streitenfeld’s (“Prometheus”) score pushing out to your height speakers. The bass rumbles throughout, as arrows whiz around the room, and dialogue is front and center, never getting lost. You won’t be disappointed here.
Similarities to "Gladiator" were intentional, says producer Brian Grazer, in the 60-minute making-of documentary found on the Blu-ray. This film is gritty, with no signs of Hollywood grandeur, as per "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938) with Errol Flynn.
Additional extras include an exclusive Blu-ray pop-up video commentary “Director’s Notebook,” with interviews; as well as behind-the-scenes clips and artwork from the director, only available on the theatrical version. There are also deleted scenes, with an optional commentary by editor Pietro Scalia; and a photo gallery composed of storyboards, production design, costumes, and behind-the-scenes photographs.
You might wonder why Universal Studios didn't release Scott's preferred edit in the theaters. Our guess is that the bean-counters got their hands on it and imagined moviegoers wouldn't sit still for that long. At home, with the pause button at our fingertips, it’s a different story.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer