Dismayed by the corruption of the Church, Martin Luther (Joseph Fiennes) preaches against the selling of indulgences and other practices that combine tyranny and greed. His teachings find a receptive audience, much to the dismay of the Pope. A power struggle erupts, threatening to tear Christianity apart.
This effort is both compelling and wonky. Luther himself remains a cypher, with Fiennes portraying him as a rather disagreeable pasty-faced neurotic, little more than a mouthpiece…for his own words. We get very little sense of the man at all, and early on, when the naive young Luther first encounters the sins of the world in Rome, the result plays uncomfortably like a 16th-Century version of Elf (I half-expected him to tell the Pope that he sits on a throne of lies). Peter Ustinov and Alfred Molina seem to having more fun in their roles. The film clips along, but in a sometimes disjointed manner, as if it assumes we already know this tale and is just giving us the highlights. And though this is essentially very unsubtle propaganda, and some of its emotional gambits (especially one involving a crippled child) are cheap in the extreme, the film nonetheless builds up, almost in spite of itself, a clumsy sort of power that keeps one watching. It’s thinking is no more sophisticated than The Passion of the Christ’s, but it does show considerably more restraint.
The 5.1 track begins very promisingly, with ominous rumbles of thunder emerging first from one speaker, then the next. Thereafter, the sound is certainly very clear and undistorted, but the surround effects could be better. The music takes over the rear speakers almost completely, and the numerous crowd scenes rarely (if ever) have any surround elements.
The colours are very strong, both warm and brilliant, with excellent flesh tones and deep blacks. There is no edge enhancement or grain to deal with, the picture quality is consistent all the way through, and the image is very sharp. The aspect ratio is 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen.
There are interviews here with Fiennes, Ustinov, Claire Cox and Alfred Molina. You select each cast member individually, and the interviews are further broken down into tiny segments (most well under a minute in length). The only other extra is the theatrical trailer. The menu’s main screen is animated and scored.
Cheesy, unsubtle, this is far from great filmmaking. But it sure isn’t boring.
Special Features List
- Cast Interviews
- Theatrical Trailer