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(Extended Version)

The first time I sat down to watch ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES ($29) for, I really didnít know what to make of the movie. Sure, there were things that I really liked about the film, and there are other things that left me wondering what the filmmakers were thinking. Robin Hood is one of the greatest of all English legends, yet it is an American actor with a recognizably American accent who has to carry this motion picture- something that I did and still do find oddly disturbing and disrespectful to the tradition of the character. Kevin Costner has the right physicality for the role, and his box office clout at the time would have seemed to make him the right choice for Hollywood, but what the film really needed was a charismatic British thespian to bring the character to life. On the other hand, casting selections that I did like included Morgan Freeman as Robinís Moorish companion, as well as Alan Rickman in the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Rickmanís portrayal brings a sense of comic villainy to the character, which almost makes it seem as if he were in a different movie from the rest of the cast.

As ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES opens, we find noble English Crusader Robin of Locksley (Costner) imprisoned in a Jerusalem dungeon. Just as he is about to face the chopping block, Robin escapes his captors, along with a Moor named Azeem (Freeman), who vows to remain at Christianís side, until he has paid back the Englishman for saving his life. Upon his return to England, Robin discovers that that his father has been executed as a devil worshipper and that the Sheriff of Nottingham has appropriated his family lands. Finding himself now declared an outlaw, Robin retreats to Sherwood Forrest, where he encounters a group of impoverished peasants that have been forced into a life of thievery by their inability to pay the taxes hurled upon them by Nottingham and his men. As expected, Robin becomes the leader of this ragtag group, and soon, he and his band of merry men are robbing from the rich and giving to the poor-- much to the chagrin of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Of course, in the middle of all this Robin does find time to romance the Lady Marian Dubois (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), the absent Kingís cousin, and the woman whom Nottingham intends to make his bride. The cast of ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES also features Christian Slater, Geraldine McEwan, Michael McShane, Michael Wincott, Nick Brimble and Soo Drouet.

Warner Home Video has made ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. While the 1080p presentation marks a nice upgrade over standard definition, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES isnít exactly the prettiest film to make its way to Blu-ray. I want to express the same opinion that I expressed about the movie on DVDÖ The transfer is as good as can be expected, considering that the filmís cinematography seems to be going out of its way to make the twelfth century look drab and unappealing. Now thanks to Blu-ray, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES makes the twelfth century look drab and unappealing in high definition. Image sharpness and detail is something of a mixed bag, sometimes the picture produces a respectable amount of detail, but there are places where the image appears filtered and a bit on the soft side. As with the DVD, colors appear subdued in places, especially on the filmís sun deprived English exteriors, but sunlight does make for a marked improvement. Additionally, hues are a bit more vivid for the interiors; but this too is dependant upon the available light of an individual sequence. Of course, the Blu-ray does offer some modest improvements in color reproduction over its SD counterpart. Again, the blacks appear fairly accurate, while the whites are stable. Dark sequences can still be a bit muddy, but that has more to do with the original cinematography, rather than any flaw in the hi-def presentation. The elements from which ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES have been transferred do display some blemishes. There is grain structure that remains visible throughout; however, darker sequences do show more. Fortunately, the presentation is very film-like.

ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The lossless encode adds some improvements to the fidelity of the track, but the sound mix appears to be the same as what was present on the DVD. That being said, my comments on the soundtrack will be of a similar nature. The sound mix isnít as aggressive as a brand new movie, plus the sound design tends to favor the forward soundstage, dates the soundtrack quite a bit. Channel separations are usually clean and distinct across the front three channels, plus the surrounds do come to life during key moments, which does help draw one into the movie. The lossless encode does improve the sound of Michael Kamenís musical score, as well as bringing the sound effects across with a fairly convincing quality. As for the bass channel, it is quite solid and deep, but not ground shaking. Dialogue is crisply rendered and generally easy to understand. English, French, Spanish, German and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as, the supplemental materials, which have been ported from the DVD release. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentaries; the first is with actor Kevin Costner and director Kevin Reynolds, while the second features actors Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater, along with writer/producers John Watson and Pen Densham. Both tracks have their merits, but the double Kevin track is definitely the place to start. Next is Robin Hood: The Myth, The Man, The Movie, a half hour program hosted by Pierce Brosnan that examines the legendary character origins and transcription to the screen. One-On-One With The Cast offers twenty minutes of vintage interviews from the filmís theatrical release. An Isolated Score option provides a 5.1 rendition of Michael Kamenís music. Also provided is a live performance of the hit song (Everything I Do) I Do It For You by Bryan Adams. A Theatrical Trailer and six TV Spots close out the supplements.

While I still have some issues with the film, I have to acknowledge that a lot of people do like ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES. The Blu-ray does offer a nice upgrade over standard definition, even if this is not a demo disc.



Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves [Blu-ray] (1991)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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