The New World appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a strong presentation.
At all times, sharpness appeared good. Little to no softness emerged, as the movie remained tight and concise. No signs of shimmering or jaggies materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws failed to mar the image.
As expected, World presented a lush, natural palette. The film favored the green landscape and brought out many vivid, lovely hues. The colors always appeared full and dynamic. Blacks were equally taut and deep, while shadows seemed clean and clear. Everything about the image appealed.
In addition, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The New World proved to be immensely satisfying. Much of the time it stayed with atmospheric material, and it delivered those elements in a convincing manner. Scenes with natural settings like forests and the ocean were involving and smooth.
The movie boasted a number of more active segments, and those also succeeded. Any of the fight pieces offered a lot of information. These provided good use of all five speakers as they ensured we got involved in the battles. The soundfield helped create an immersive setting that worked well for the film.
Across the board, audio quality was terrific. Speech always appeared concise and distinctive, and I noticed no signs of edginess or other problems. Music was bright and dynamic, while effects fell into the same category. Those elements seemed clean and clear, and they also presented very nice range. Low-end response consistently sounded deep and full. I debated whether I should give World an “A-“ or a “B+”, but the overall package impressed me enough to warrant the higher grade.
How did the 2016 Criterion Blu-ray compare to the original 2009 Blu-ray? Audio seemed virtually identical, as I detected no obvious differences between the prior disc’s Dolby TrueHD mix and this one’s DTS-HD track.
Visuals also seemed very similar, though the Criterion release got the minor nod. With its new 4K transfer, the Criterion Blu-ray offered a bit better detail, especially in terms of fine elements. One won’t find a major improvement in picture quality, but the Criterion release did get the edge.
In terms of extras, the Criterion set includes three separate versions of the film. Each resides on its own disc, and we find The Theatrical Cut (2:15:42), The Extended Cut (2:52:03) and The First Cut (2:30:20).
The comments in the body of my review address the Theatrical Cut. I’d say the Extended Cut gives the story a little more breathing room, though maybe a little too much breathing room. Unlike the usual long-winded Malick epic, the theatrical World might’ve been a bit too short and tight; it left secondary characters out in the cold.
I think the extended World still suffers from the same issue. It’s longer but I don’t believe it expands the supporting roles in a particularly good manner. I get the feeling it goes with more of Malick’s trademark dreamy photography and doesn’t give us a whole lot additional story material.
As for the “First Cut”, it essentially falls between the Theatrical and the Extended editions. While it gives us a bit more of Malick’s standard “dreaminess”, it doesn’t go nearly as far as the Extended Cut, so it’s tighter than that one.
So which version do I prefer? I’d stick with the Theatrical Cut, probably. All three work fine, but I prefer the tighter experience found in the 135-minute version. It simply moves better and gives us a more concise narrative. It’s great to have all three though – especially since the prior Blu-ray only included the Extended Cut.
On the same disc as “The Extended Cut”, we find two trailers and a 10-part documentary called Making The New World. Originally located on the 2005 DVD, this piece runs a total of one-hour, 21-minute, 40-second piece.
During the documentary, we hear from production designer Jack Fisk, art director David Crank, Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities Director of Archaeology Dr. William Kelso, Native American advisor Buck Woodard, lead greensperson Jeff DeBell, producer Sarah Green, Chickhominy Tribe Chief Stephen R. Adkins, choreographer/actor Raoul Trujillo, master armorer Vern Crofoot, first assistant director Shelley Ziegler, assistant choreographer/actor Rulan Tangen, Algonquian translator Blair Rudes, makeup designer Paul Engelen, set decorator Jim Erickson, costume designer Jacqueline West, Patawomeck Tribe Chief Robert Green, executive producer Trish Hofmann, historic ships coordinator Mark Preisser, boat captain William T. “Chip” Reynolds, first assistant A-camera Harry Zimmerman, stunt coordinator/second unit director Andy Cheng, gaffer Dayton Nietert, and actors Cory Rodriguez, Jonathan Ward, Anthony Parker, Ben Mendelsohn, Marcus “Quese Imc” Littleeagle, Brian Frejo, Colin Farrell, Gary Sundown, John Savage, Brian F. O’Byrne, Rob Richardson, Russell, Williams, Michael Greyeyes, Noah Taylor, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Wes Studi, August Schellenberg, Ford Flannagan, and Christopher Plummer.
The program looks at sets and their construction, locations near Jamestown, and the involvement of Native Americans in the production and their depiction in the film. From there it heads through actor training and casting, set decoration and costumes, shooting on the water and in Virginia, cinematography, director Terrence Malick’s working style, and general impressions of the production.
“Making” offers a fine examination of the production’s attempts to maintain authenticity. Occasionally it veers in the direction of self-congratulation, but it manages to remain more reflective that that. The abundance of images from the shoot certainly makes things more interesting, as we find a lot of fine shots from the set. This show doesn’t offer a totally concise examination of all aspects of the flick, but it presents a consistently intriguing and useful take on World.
The “Theatrical Cut” disc includes two extras, both created in 2016. Actors runs 30 minutes, three seconds and includes actors Colin Farrell and Q’orianke Kilcher. They chat about how they got their parts, working with Malick, characters, performances and co-stars, and aspects of the shoot. Both actors provide solid observations about their work and the film in this consistently informative reel.
A companion piece, Production goes for 36 minutes, 30 seconds and provides notes from producer Sarah Green, production designer Jack Fisk and costume designer Jacqueline West. They discuss historical elements, research and realism, sets and locations, costumes, photography and working with Malick. Like “Actors”, “Production” gives us a slew of insights and becomes an enjoyable program.
Similar material pops up on the disc with the “First Cut”. The Editors fills 40 minutes, 42 seconds with info from editors Hank Corwin, Saar Klein and Mark Yoshikawa. They cover how they came to the project and working with Malick, editing the film and interacting with each other, sound and music, and other aspects of the production. Once again, we find a terrific examination of the different topics.
The Versions goes for 17 minutes, 10 seconds and features Yoshikawa. The sole editor to stick with the project through all its editions, Yoshikawa discusses differences among the various cuts and motivations for the alterations. We also see some split-screen shots that contrast the different versions. The featurette gives us an efficient glimpse of some variations.
Finally, the set includes a booklet. This 44-page piece provides an essay from film scholar Tom Gunning and a 2006 interview with cinematographer Emmanuel Luzbecki. One of the better booklets from Criterion in a while, it gives value to the package.
Due to my lack of enthusiasm for the works of Terrence Malick, I can’t say I expected much from The New World, but I must admit the final result satisfies. It provides a rich, often moving look at its subject and manages to avoid many of the usual pitfalls found in its genre. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio along with a strong roster of supplements highlighted by three separate versions of the film. As both movie and Blu-ray, this turns into a great release
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of THE NEW WORLD