They Shall Not Grow Old appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc – mostly. During the opening, the image slowly expanded from 1.37:1 to 1.85:1, and then from 3:45 to 25:25, we got windowboxed 1.37:1 material. At 1:26:52, the image reverted to 1.37:1 again for post-war information.
The 1.37:1 footage didn’t undergo restoration. Director Peter Jackson chose to contrast the pre-and-post war shots with the combat scenes, so he only cleaned up the latter.
As noted in the body of the review, I disliked the work done to the film, as the colorization and grain removal left the footage with a weird, artificial appearance. That said, the disc reproduced the image as intended.
Sharpness varied and the image usually came across as somewhat soft. At times it could muster good accuracy, but a lot of the film felt mushy.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Due to noise reduction, what little grain we saw tended to seem “frozen”, which became a distraction.
Outside of the unrestored material, print flaws remained absent. However, lots of technical artifacts made this an strange “digital-looking” presentation.
Some shots of art and magazines exhibited vivid hues, but the colorized film footage veered heavily brown and green – and unnatural brown and green. The tones felt true to their phony roots.
Blacks were fairly dense, and shadows seemed decent. I gave the image a “B-“ out of respect for the fact that it represented the source, but I thought this was an awfully unappealing presentation.
Like I mentioned in my review, I felt dissatisfied with the sonic choices, but at least the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack worked better than the visuals in an objective sense. Most of the 5.1 material emerged during the combat scenes, so expect a low-key soundscape through the pre/post-war shots.
When we hit the battlefield, the mix opened up with a lot of battle information. These used the five channels for explosions, gunfire and other elements. While I thought these failed to mesh with the century-old visuals, the soundfield still managed to create a broad, involving sense of the action.
Audio quality worked well, as music seemed full and lush. Effects appeared accurate and dynamic, with resonant bass when necessary.
Because all the speech came from old recordings of veterans, those components could seem a bit dodgy at times. Nonetheless, dialogue was always easily intelligible and usually fairly natural. Objectively, the mix worked nicely.
A program that ran after theatrical screenings of the film, The Making of They Shall Not Grow Old runs 29 minutes, 40 seconds. It features comments from director Peter Jackson.
He tells us about the many technical challenges and choices that went into the production. It’s too bad Jackson doesn’t offer a full commentary, but “Making” works as a good substitute.
As a history lesson, They Shall Not Grow Old offers excellent information. Unfortunately, the misguided attempts to modernize the film footage make it much less effective than it should be. The Blu-ray comes with erratic visuals as well as well-rendered audio and a good featurette. Old comes with more than enough historical merit to earn my recommendation, but I really wish we got a version without the “upgrades”.