L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

 

Introduction: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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Stargate: Ark of Truth [Blu-ray]

 

(Robert C. Cooper, 2008)

 

 

 

 

On March 3rd, 2009 - both Stargate: The Ark of Truth/Stargate: Continuum Blu-rays are being offered together in one package.

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: MGM

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: All

Runtime: 102 min

Chapters: 28

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 13, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 33.5

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; Spanish & French Dolby Digital 5.1.

 

Subtitles:

English SDH & Spanish

 

Extras:

• Commentary with Writer, Producer, Director Robert C. Cooper, Actor, Christopher Judge, and Director of Photography Peter Woeste

• The Ark of Truth: Stargate at Comic-Con – in SD (19:53)

• Uncovering The Ark of Truth – in SD (29:45)

• Stargate SG-1: The Road Taken: Prelude to Stargate: The Ark of Truth - in SD (09:05)

 

 

The Film: 7
While both DVD and Blu-ray editions of
Continuum were released together as Direct-to-Video feature films in July of 2008, we've had to wait nearly a year since the DVD of The Ark of Truth before it would make its presence known in Blu-ray. As those who haven't been following the long running television series can (and should) learn from the nine-minute summary/prelude to this movie in the Bonus Feature "The Road Taken," The Ark of Truth concludes the Ori story arc that was the core of the final two television seasons. And along with Continuum, The Ark of Truth may or may not be the last word from SG-1 by this cast. (You may refer to my review of Continuum for a more detailed background for the series and the feature films.)

 

 


While both Ark of Truth and Continuum demand a certain familiarity with Stargate lore and storylines, The Ark of Truth is designed to wind things up for devotees of the series, whereas
Continuum works as a standalone episode. Both movies are rewarded with a bigger budget and it shows, even though some of the sets and models (such as the opening mountain village and lift off from it) are entry-level mattes and CGI. I found the story and all its various crises and developments to be generally satisfying, never seeming to make things longer just to satisfy the temporal parameters of a television show. I thought less of the Replicators who come off as little more than an infection of erector set spiders, and when the crew fights them off it's hard not to be reminded of Aliens. On the other hand, I liked that the SG-1 crew were all professionals at their jobs, some with sensible lines to say. No 1960s Star Trek cut outs here.

The Movie: 7
The movie opens with a brief prologue set in the ancient past – really ancient – where those opposed to the Ori and what they stand for debate the use of the Ark as a weapon of last resort. The Ark would reverse Ori brainwashing so it would likely end the hold they have over humanoids. They decide not to go there, and the Ark is buried until the present when SG-1 seems about to discover it. Alas not, though in the process, the team secures a reunion with a now penitent Tomin, Vala's erstwhile "husband." Tomin (Tim Guinee) provides new information that sets the team on a path that promises the Ark.

But two forces are at work that, independently, auger bad news for their efforts: the first is that Ori Priors and their armies are poised (once again) to strike the Earth in a decisive battle, so time, as usual, is critical. The second is that the current stand-ins for our CIA have plans of their own to deal with the Ori since they have no faith in SG-1 to recover the Ark. (I guess they haven't been watching the TV series!) They insist that Marrick (Currie Graham), the ultimate slimeball, accompany the mission – with secret orders to sabotage SG-1's efforts and substitute their own battle plan that has the potential of a serious backfire. We're talking serious! here.

The whole cast of regulars are here (minus, of course, Richard Dean Anderson), plus a couple of seasonal supporting players, most importantly Morena Baccarin as Adria and Sarah Strange as Morgan Lefay.

 


 

Image: 4/7
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

I am sorry to report that Fox's Blu-ray of The Ark of Truth suffers from unreasonable amounts of noise, most apparent in dark scenes, of which there many. The image is less than highly resolved to begin with: it's grainy and soft, with only fair black levels - thus the noise to some extent due to what might have been deemed necessary brightening. Yuk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 6/8
I thought the dialogue was more correctly balanced here than in Continuum. The uncompressed audio mix never quite seemed up to sci-fi fantasy standards, even though it is more than adequate for TV fare.

 

Operations: 5
When I want to find a scene in chapter search I don't want to spend time trying to figure out which scene is being selected. In this case, the thumbnails are only barely enlarged while chapter titles , as if we've known them all our lives, are posted at the top of search bar. On the other hand, I liked that when we return to the menu from any given bonus feature the next one in line is selected, ready to go.

 

 

 

Extras: 5
The three bonus features (plus commentary where not nearly enough is heard from the Judge) are the same as on the DVD – nothing new for the Blu-ray, except, if you can believe this: a trailer for
Continuum in SD. The Ark of Truth: Stargate at Comic Con is a bloggy video of events of the 2007 San Diego Comic Com featuring Browder, Tapping, Judge and Cooper in a panel before cheering fans who were able to ask the usual probing questions and generate some strange singing. A good time had by all.

Uncovering The Ark of Truth is a half hour making-of featurette that is all the more relaxed than many for its being peopled with actors and crew that have worked together for years. It is divided into segments that cover concept and design, make-up and FX and safety concerns on the set, the music of Joel Goldsmith (son of the legendary Jerry), working with director/writer/producer Rob Cooper who has been with the series from the start (not as creator and developer, but there, importantly, nonetheless.) Stargate SG-1: The Road Taken functions as a Prelude to The Ark of Truth. It's short at nine minutes, but gathers the necessary plot points form Seasons 9 and 10. If only the bonus features were in better image quality, thus the low score.

 

 

Bottom line: 6
I liked the movie as a bigger extended episode from the series. Too bad about the video quality, though I doubt it will deter fans.
 

Leonard Norwitz
January 24, 2009

 

 

 

 

On March 3rd, 2009 - both Stargate: The Ark of Truth/Stargate: Continuum Blu-rays are being offered together in one package.

 





 

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