A Knight's Tale- BRD
(Brian Helgeland, 2001)
Theatrical: Columbia Pictures
DVD: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Feature film: 1080p
English PCM 5.1 Uncompressed
French: DD 5.1 Surround
English, English SDH, French, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Portuguese, Spanish
Standard Blu-ray case: 1 disc
25 GB single-layer
Release Date: September 19, 2006
A Knight's Tale
I suspect Brian Helgeland was reflecting on the literary and pop culture successes of Shakespear e in Love and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer for his 2001 medieval adventure romance musical, A Knight's Tale. We know we're in for an unusual ride when just a few minutes into the movie, Brian May's "We Will Rock You" emerges, first as part of the soundtrack, then sung and pounded in massive unison by the entire audience at a jousting tournament. It's as brilliant and bodacious idea. If you're still smiling when the number is over then you are most likely going to enjoy the play, because there is more of the same in store: Contributions from Thin Lizzy, Sly & the Family Stone, Rare Earth, AC/DC, Eric Clapton, War, and a second number, "We Are the Champions," by Queen and Robbie Williams abound.
The music for A Knight's Tale is just one of its delights. It's interesting watching this movie for the first time only now because my only knowledge of Heath Ledger as an actor is from Brokeback Mountain. You will remember that he was a serious contender for the Oscar for his jaw-gritted performance. I would have been more inclined to give him the nod if I knew he could really act – and act he does as William Thatcher, the low-born boy who alters his stars, becomes a tournament champion and courts a nobleman's daughter - but none of this without a detour in the stocks and some well placed whacks with a jousting spear.
The acting and characterizations are all first rate. Of special note are Rufus Sewell and Paul Bettany. Sewell plays the villain in the piece, Count Aldhemar. He has a particularly subtle and telling moment during the festivities where the dance taken up by the guests to the lead provided by his archrival, the young impetuous Ulrich (Heath Ledger). Aldhemar's look of disgust is not so much one of defeat as revulsion: it's a statement about class, which is what the subtext to A Knight's Tale is all about. Paul Bettany's turn as Geoffrey Chaucer is a brilliant invention in its own right, and it's what made me wish for just a wee bit more of that level of brilliance elsewhere in the script. Not that the script is ever weak, it just pales before the greatness of others so close to it in spirit. Bettany, you might recall was singled out three years later for his performance as Dr. Stevem Maturin in Master and Commander.
A Knight's Tale
The Score Card
The Movie : 8
Young William Thatcher is sold off as a servant to a knight at a young age for a better life than his father could have provided him. Years later, William sees his chance to alter his destiny when his squire expires after a tournament. Together with the faithful support of William's other two ex-servants plus one Geoffrey Chaucer (who first appears stark naked, having lost more than his shirt, gambling), provide him a new identity as Sir Ulrich of Gelderland. Chaucer, who finds material for his Canterbury Tales along the way while Helgeland adapts same for the movie we now enjoy, forges the necessary Letters Patent so that William can pass himself off as the invented Ulrich. The plot sets up an ongoing duel between William and Aldhemar on the field as well as their suit for the affections of the Lady Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), while keeping the authorities from learning Ulrich's true identity until the last moment – or nearly.
Image : 8.5 (8~9/9)
The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre. The score of 8.5 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs.
While sharp enough to rate a better than satisfactory score for a high definition release, the picture does show some minor imperfections (dirt and a slightly, though noticeably, sunburned look to the flesh tones.) Otherwise, the Blu-ray is demonstrable better in all respects to the Superbit SD that preceded it: brighter, richer and more dimensional.
Audio & Music : 8.5/9
A not inconsiderable part of the audio is the rock music track which, by its very nature, age and variety, cannot be as neat as a freshly minted dedicated score. Even so, the rock music in 5.1 really socks it to us, and never suffers from a sore thumb as versus the original score by Carter Burwell. The clanging, banging, and hoofing make for a great ride at high volumes.
Operations : 3
Considering the absence of features on this disc you would think Sony would have at least gotten the menu right but, alas, the scene selection function does not permit the seeker to know how many chapter there are until we get there. In other words, the thumbnails, large though they may be, are displayed one at a time and without titles: Let's see, is this where I want to go. No, on a bit. No, back one. Maybe. Let's see.
Extras : 0
Hard to believe, ain't it.
We are so used to DVD Extra Features these days that its absence strike us as insulting. My recommendation is to rent first, and buy it if you like it. I did, and haven't regretted the purchase for a moment. Makes for a great party movie for those tired of jock humor.
December 23rd, 2007
Enter the Dragon