Downton Abbey: A New Era appears in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie offered a fine transfer.
Overall definition seemed positive. Only a tad of softness popped up in some wider elements, so the movie usually appeared accurate and concise.
I noticed no signs of jaggies or edge enhancement, and shimmering was absent. The film lacked print flaws and seemed clean.
Many period pieces opt for subdued palettes, and that was true here. The colors tended toward teal tones, with a fair amount of amber and red along for the ride as well. These appeared fine within the film’s stylistic choices.
Blacks seemed dark and tight, and shadows demonstrated good clarity. This added up to a satisfying presentation.
A character drama wouldn’t seem to be a candidate for a whiz-bang soundtrack, and the Dolby Atmos audio of Era fell into expected realms. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, a few scenes – mainly related to foul weather. – used the various channels well. Usually the track remained oriented toward ambience, though, so don’t expect lots of sizzle from the mix.
Audio quality satisfied. Although didn’t get much score, the music was full and rich, while effects showed nice clarity and accuracy.
Speech – obviously an important factor here – appeared concise and crisp. Nothing here soared, but it all seemed perfectly adequate for the project. Honestly, an Atmos mix felt like overkill for a project with such modest sonic ambitions.
As we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Simon Curtis. He offers a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, cast and performances, music, sets and locations, and connected domains.
A dull movie gets a pretty dull commentary, as Curtis fails to bring much depth to this chat. While he touches on some basics, he also throws out a lot of praise and leaves this as an uninspiring discussion.
Six featurettes follow, and Good to Be Back runs three minutes, 38 seconds. It offers notes from actors Michael Fox, Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Tuppence Middleton, Allen Leech, Sophie McShera, Robert James-Collier, Laura Carmichael, Lesley Nicol, Elizabeth McGovern, Kevin Doyle, and Michelle Dockery.
All involved tell us they feel happy to return to Downton. This becomes an utterly superficial reel.
Return to Downton Abbey goes for 11 minutes, 37 seconds and involves Nicol, Middleton, Leech, Dockery, Curtis, Fox, Bonneville, McGovern, McShera, Carmichael, VFX supervisor Patricia Llaguno, home economist Debi Lindsay, historical advisor Alastair Bruce, producers Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge, film historian Laraine Porter, costume designer Anna Mary Scott Robbins, hair and makeup designer Anne Nosh Oldham, production designer Donal Woods, co-producer Mark Hubbard, writer Julian Fellowes, and actor Charlie Watson.
“Return” looks at the film’s opening wedding and basics about the shoot. While superior to the useless “Back”, this still becomes only a sporadically informative show.
With A Legendary Character, we get a four-minute, 10-second reel that features Neame, Dockery, Bonneville, McGovern, Fox, Carmichael, Leech, Fellowes, Curtis, and actor Penelope Wilton.
Here we get gobs of praise for actor Maggie Smith. While I agree that Smith is a terrific actor, this nonetheless becomes a tedious featurette.
Creating the Film Within the Film spans nine minutes, 26 seconds and brings remarks from Neame, Bruce, McShera, Nicol, Doyle, Fox, Woods, Curtis, James-Collier, Dockery, Porter, action vehicles coordinator Michael Geary, specialist action props camera supervisor Lee Martin, supporting artist Doug Kirby, costume co-designer Maja Meschede and actor Alex MacQueen.
As expected, the reel examines aspects of the “movie shoot” that takes place at Downton during Era. A few interesting notes about historical accuracy result, but the end result lacks a whole lot of depth. I do like James-Collier’s amusing self-deprecation, though.
Next comes Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia, a two-minute, 53-second clip that provides notes from Fox, Bruce, supervising location manager Mark Ellis and Royal Yacht Britannia & Fingal Director of Marketing Casey Rust.
Unsurprisingly, “Yacht” covers the location discussed in its title. This becomes a brief and mildly informative piece.
Finally, Spill the Tea (Time) fills two minutes, 23 seconds with comments from Carmichael and Leech. They go through a tongue-in-cheek Q&A with some amusement value.
Clearly many people enjoy Downton Abbey, but I admit that after two movies, I fail to see the appeal. A New Era seems unlikely to bring new converts, as it offers a slow, tedious affair. The Blu-ray brings positive picture and audio along with a mix of bonus materials. Perhaps a third Downton film might change my mind, but the first two leave me cold.