Discussing the old school DVD’s that still sound and look great in the era of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD technology.
It doesn’t get much better than Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. It’s an excellent movie filled with gutsy performances, swashbuckling adventure that doesn’t get corny or cheesy, and it’s received one of the best A/V treatments in DVD history.
Every big film like Master and Commander should receive a treatment like this. Upon its release on DVD, i… was made available in either a 2-Disc Special Edition or a bare bones version that was simply the first disc of the 2-Disc Edition. That made the obligatory double-dip irrelevant right off the bat. Filmgoers wanting only the movie were satisfied and fans wanting the movie, and a boatload of special features, were satisfied as well.
There really isn’t much not to like when it comes to this movie. The video can get a little grainy at times, but other than that it boasts a razor sharp picture that is still stunning, even in the age of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD technology. The picture is filled with soft colors for the most part, navy blues and wood templates, which can make the video a little fuzzy at times. But it’s really noting to fret over. The picture benefits from getting as much memory as it needs to shine, since all the special features are contained on the second disc of the 2-Disc Set.
The audio on this disc is what gets me going. Chock full of premium sound certifications — THX, DTS, Dolby Digital — this film gets the sound right. A few weeks I ago I discussed Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and how its soundtrack was a little weaker than one would expect from getting the audio treatment it received. No such complaints here. One only needs to cue up the beginning of Master and Commander to see what I’m talking about. The film begins with a trip through the HMS Surprise, and we see the crew asleep, swinging in their hammock-like beds. The creaks and thumps of the ship echo from overhead and below. It’s an excellent little showcase for the surround speakers.
Then the action begins.
The HMS Surprise is being followed by the Archeron, a French warship, and once it spots the Surprise, it unleashes its fury on the British ship. Cannon shots erupt right there in your viewing room, or so it seems. The lows are this scene’s best characteristic in my opinion, even though the surrounds are active and overly aggressive. When the cannonballs rip and roar through the ship, wood splinters from every angle. Then more cannon shots. More wood splintering. Pure heaven.
This movie makes me wish my viewing room was bigger. Everything seems so close together and on top of one another. That’s through no fault of the film, I think I may just need to turn down the volume on my surrounds, but I think a bigger viewing room would fix this problem.
Anyway, the film’s opening battle is the best scene on the disc and one of, if not, the best demo scene out there today. Once the scene ends, the movie does dial itself down a bit, but we still receive tons of hidden gems, as the sounds of the ship come to life and resonate throughout the entire sound field. There are some minor skirmishes to pick up the action and the soundtrack, but nothing like the film’s opening sequence. Even the epic battle at the end of the film doesn’t engulf the viewer like the opening scene.
That said, the final battle is still a beauty of a scene. We’re treated to more subwoofer bursts from cannon shots, gunfire — and the surrounds help out the hand to hand combat and the swelling musical score. By this time you may be a little numb to it all, since by this time, you’ve been treated to 120 minutes worth of soundtrack perfection, but the surrounds and lows are still there and working hard.
The bottom line is this. You need to own Master and Commander for one reason or another. It’s an excellent film and the treatment it gets on DVD is superb. In other words it’s one of the best demo discs of all time. The DTS track is stockpiled with showcase quality sound separation complete with engaging low level frequency and surround sound. The picture may not be perfect, but is still a sight to behold.
I’m not sure if I’ll be able to top Master and Commander in future editions of Old School Demo, but I will try hard. There are a lot of demo quality movies out there, but it’s safe to say that Master and Commander is one of the best for sure.