Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image wasn’t a disaster, but it was surprisingly bland for a big budget “A”-list movie such as this.
Sharpness caused quite a few concerns. At times, it looked nicely detailed and distinctive, but more than a few exceptions to that rule occurred. Substantial parts of the movie looked vaguely loose and indistinct, and some scenes were more noticeably soft and fuzzy. Even medium shots displayed some of these issues, and the image was rather gauzy-looking on occasion.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and edge haloes also remained absent. In terms of print flaws, the movie looked clean and didn’t suffer from any noticeable defects.
Colors often looked fairly pale and faded. For the most part, they failed to appear very lush or rich. Instead, they could come across as a bit lifeless. The image’s gauziness meant the black levels tended to seem somewhat murky and dull, and shadows could appear moderately dense and opaque. Overall, much of the movie was flat and muddy. This was a bland presentation.
One odd issue related to the aspect ratio appears if you listen to the audio commentary that includes director Kevin Reynolds. He indicates that he composed the movie for 1.66:1 instead of 1.85:1. The actual 1.78:1 ratio compromises between the two. From what I can tell, Thieves has never appeared on home video in a 1.66:1 ratio.
While not a seriously impressive affair, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves worked a lot better for me than the picture did. The soundfield focused most heavily on the forward spectrum. Music demonstrated very nice stereo separation and imaging, and effects helped create a good sense of setting. At times the track seemed a little “speaker specific”, and not all of the elements blended as well as I’d like, but they usually meshed pretty nicely.
The mix gave us a good feeling of atmosphere and came to life pretty well during action sequences. The surrounds contributed a good layer of reinforcement for the music, and they also kicked in some nice definition for fight scenes as well as some atmospheric attitude. It didn’t excel particularly, but the soundfield was acceptable.
Although the soundfield was a little less involving than I’d expect, I thought the quality of the audio worked the best. The score seemed especially terrific, as the music consistently sounded robust and dynamic. Bass response was tight and rich for the score.
Speech suffered from some slightly poor looping, but the lines remained fairly natural and distinct, and I heard no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects occasionally sounded a little thick, but they mostly came across as accurate and distinctive. They also displayed solid low-end material. This was a very good mix, especially given its age.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2003 DVD? Audio was pretty similar, as this disc’s TrueHD mix matched up closely with the DVD’s DTS track; the lossless version had a little more range, though. Visuals showed some extra kick, though a lot of the issues that marred the DVD cropped up here, such as the film’s general murkiness.
I suspect those concerns stemmed from the source, though, and at least the Blu-ray provided somewhat better definition. It also lacked the source flaws that distracted on the DVD, so ugly as it could be, the Blu-ray was the superior release.
The Blu-ray repeats the DVD’s extras, and we start with the movie itself, which appears in an extended version that runs two hours, 35 minutes; to the best of my knowledge, the 143-minute theatrical cut remains unreleased on Blu-ray. The changes mostly feature additional footage with Nottingham and Mortianna, as we find a substantial subplot that didn’t make the theatrical version. The alterations can be interesting to see but they don’t improve the film.
Thieves comes with two audio commentaries. The first features director Kevin Reynolds and actor Kevin Costner, both of whom sat together for this running, screen-specific track. That element surprised me; allegedly Reynolds and Costner experienced a falling out some time ago, so I didn’t expect to find the pair together for this piece.
Unfortunately, no sparks fly during this dull commentary. Praise dominates this track, especially from Costner, who frequently lauds parts of the production and Reynolds’ work. Many extended gaps occur during the presentation as well.
Locations and sets dominate the rest of the discussion, though a few more interesting matters pop up at times. We learn a little of how the pair arrived on the movie, and Costner acknowledges his inconsistent accent and explains it. They chat briefly about rival films from the time and provide the occasional interesting anecdote from the set. For the most part, however, Reynolds and Costner fail to give us much useful material, and this commentary rarely seems compelling.
The second commentary comes from producers/writers Pen Densham and John Watson with actors Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. While not terrific, this track seems much more interesting than the one with the Kevins.
Densham and Watson strongly dominate the commentary. The actors occasionally toss in a few memories and reflections on their work, but mostly the writers/producers discuss the material. They relate how the program came to fruition and various elements of bringing a new version of the myth to the screen. They also get into script issues, production aspects like choosing locations and casting, and a mix of other topics.
We also learn what scenes are new to the extended edition. Overall, the commentary moves at a decent pace – though it sags occasionally during the second half - and it seems like a fairly useful synopsis of the production.
Hosted by Pierce Brosnan, Robin Hood: The Myth, the Man, the Movie comes from 1991 and provides a mix of movie clips, historical information and behind the scenes shots, and interviews. We hear from director Kevin Reynolds, actors Costner, Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Christian Slater, Michael McShane and Alan Rickman, writers/producers Watson and Densham, costume desinger John Bloomfield, composer Michael Kamen, stunt coordinator Paul Weston, historian Sir James Holt, author Graham Black, education officer John Charlesworth, Robin Hood “relative” David Lemm, Sheriff of Nottingham Alfred Stone, Robin Hood folklore authority Jim Lees, and film historian Rudy Behlmer.
The 31-minute and 52-second “Myth” starts with a quick overview of the historical legend; that takes up about a third of its running time. After that, we get notes about the movie, with an emphasis on costumes, music, the cast, stunts, and various anecdotes from the set.
The program includes some decent information. The historical bits are superficial but interesting, and the shots from the Thieves set are fun to see. However, the show’s heavily promotional tone seems too obvious most of the time, and that makes “Myth” somewhat tough to take. It exists simply to get folks into theaters, and it lacks much depth.
Next we find a collection of vintage interviews with cast members. We get remarks from Costner, Mastrantonio, Freeman, Rickman and Slater in a collection that lasts a total of 19 minutes, 29 seconds. Unfortunately, the comments seem awfully bland. Mostly we hear about the different characters and what the actors thought of the material. They also reflect on the other performers, but no one says much of interest.
We also find Bryan Adams live for a performance of the megahit “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” from Ireland’s Slane Castle. The piece runs four minutes, 17 seconds as Adams offers an acoustic take of the tune. It seems odd that we don’t find the original music video for the song, but this offers an interesting alternate.
Next we locate the movie’s theatrical trailer and six TV spots. The final extra is odd but cool. We get Michael Kamen’s score presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. This isn’t an isolated track you watch along with the movie. Instead, it works just like a compact disc on your Blu-ray: you can run the whole thing or skip to different parts. I don’t care about the music myself, but this nonetheless seems like a very nice bonus.
A fairly bland example of a summer movie, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves seems too awkward and forced to succeed. I know a film’s in trouble when I feel consistently distracted, and since I found it hard to focus on this flick, that indicated problems. Thieves simply feels like a self-conscious attempt to borrow highlights from other movies without any ingenuity or spark of its own. The Blu-ray provides good audio and bonus materials but picture quality seems lackluster. This is a decent release, but the movie itself remains a bit of a bore.
To rate this film, visit the original review of ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES