Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut (Blu-ray)
With all due respect to director Ridley Scott's other efforts, including Black Hawk Down, this medieval crusade drama may well be his finest work to date. The theatrical cut was seriously compromised when it was cut down from the director's preferred length, but this version is far more coherent.
For more about the movie itself and the 4-disc, standard definition DVD release, gohere.
The high definition picture on this disc is a significant step up from the standard definition DVD. You can spot the improvements immediately in clarity of the main menu, and you'll appreciate them even more as the film progresses. From the fine details in the costumes and sets to the resolution in the long shots, including those of the massed armies in the film's many battle scenes, this jumps immediately into the ranks of the best-looking Blu-ray discs.
It isn't perfect. There are a fair number of slightly soft shots (which appear to originate in the source material), but most of the transfer is sharp as a tack. The film has a wide video dynamic range, and while its dark grays and blacks are deep and rich, they can occasionally look a little crushed. None of this, however, takes away much from the overall superior quality of the transfer.
Fox is the first studio to provide a specification table on the back jacket cover that tells you the video codec used and the (average, presumably) video data rate. This disc was mastered in MPEG-2 at 24Mb/sec.
As with Ice Age: The Meltdown (below) and other new Fox BDs, the sound on KoH was mastered in DTS HD Master Audio. But for now, due to limitations in the available players, all can hear is the 1.5Mb/sec, core DTS track. No matter, the sound is spectacular, particularly the recording of Harry Gregson-Williams' stunning score, which contributes dramatically to the film's overall impact. I would have given the disc a perfect score of 10.0 for sound, but will hold off a bit to allow room for a possible higher rating for that lossless DTS HD Master Audio track.
The only downside here is the dearth of extras. This 194-minute Director's Cut was mastered in MPEG-2. The 4-disc DVD set, on the other hand, has two of its discs dedicated to special features. I would not be surprised to see a longer HD special edition of this movie at a future date, but not until the HD disc format war is resolved. In the meantime, if you have a shiny new Blu-ray player, it's waiting for this disc.
(Picture: 9 (out of 10), Sound: 9.5, Film: 9)