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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » A Knight's Tale: Special Edition
A Knight's Tale: Special Edition
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG-13 // September 25, 2001
List Price: $27.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 21, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


I enjoy when I see a studio make a risky picture. "Knight's Tale" certainly was quite a risk, but was it a worthwhile one? The idea: that 22-year-old star Heath Ledger could carry and open a 50 million dollar Summer picture combined with the fact that the film is about jousting with a 70's/80's rock soundtrack. The result wasn't a major success at the box office, but the picture itself is a mildly entertaining piece that's unfortunately still rather noticably flawed at times.

The film stars the previously mentioned Ledger as William, the servant of a knight who has recently passed on. On a lark, he decides that he could take the place of the knight in the next tournament. Suprisingly, he actually wins the thing and decides, instead of just taking the money and exiting, to go on with the show. Aided by servants (Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk) and calling himself "Ulrich Von Lichtenstein", he rides across the country, soundly beating those who come up against him.

Of course, what kind of movie would it be if there's wasn't an enemy and a romantic interest that both compete for. The enemy would be Count Adhemar(Rufus Sewell, who hasn't really done anything great since "Dark City"). Both are in competition for the hand of Lady Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon). The film even has Geoffrey Chauncer(Paul Bettany), who becomes something of a promoter for young William.


In the positive corner for the film are several elements: it's often an energetic and charming piece and, although it does overstay its welcome, it does carry itself proudly for the majority. The film boasts remarkable sets, exceptional cinematography and great production design. The performances aren't bad and Ledger proves himself capable of a decent effort. The film even manages to make the act of jousting, which one would think would get boring after a while, not entirely repetitive or dull.

Leading off the negative side is the film's length. Director Brian Helgeland (responsible for the original, darker cut of "Payback" before star Mel Gibson fired him) stretches the story beyond necessity at 132 minutes. Taking a good 15 to 20 minutes out would have helped the pace of the picture. I don't think that the idea of adding the 70's/80's rock tunes were a simple tactic for capturing the youth market (they would have had the characters jousting to N'Sync and Britney Spears then, I'd think), but it doesn't entirely work, either. It seems sort of tacked on and while some tunes fit well, others really don't add anything. I've liked Helgeland as director (although I'm not sure what of "Payback" is actually his) and writer ("L.A. Confidential"), but the writing is not particularly solid here and he seems rather unsure of where to take the film next.


Overall, "Knight's Tale" is a bit of an overlong mess at times, but some of it at least works better than it probably should have. The energy and idea is there, but there's a bit too much that gets in the way of it working as well it could.


The DVD


VIDEO: Although their record has been slightly shaky in recent weeks ("Tailor of Panama's only average appearance), Columbia/Tristar gets back in the saddle (yes, I know that was bad) with "Knight's Tale", which looks superb. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, sharpness and detail are exceptional, as the picture provides fine depth and definition. Richard Greatrex ("Shakespeare In Love")'s gorgeous cinematography translates well here, as the picture allows the viewer to further study the remarkable sets.

Only a few minor concerns appear throughout the movie. A few scenes had a very slight amount of visible grain and a couple of tiny traces of edge enhancement. I didn't see any pixelation, though and print flaws were almost completely absent. A few speckles were visible in a couple of scenes, but these were hardly noticable and no further evidence of wear was spotted. The image presented was marvelously clean and crisp, without distractions.

The film's color palette wasn't always vibrant, but colors still did look rich and bold throughout the movie, appearing well-saturated and never smeared. Black level was solid and flesh tones were accurate and natural, as well. This is a very nice effort from the studio.


SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is quite an entertaining sound experience, using the surrounds quite well to put us in the middle of the Ledger character's many battles throughout the picture. Surrounds fire up with crowd noise and the sounds of the aftermath of the jousting, as well as the music. Although some of the scenes outside the stadium do calm down and fold up towards the front, there are some additional touches of ambient sound during these scenes that do keep the viewer engaged.

Audio quality was quite strong, as the score sounded particularly rich and powerful, while ambient sounds and various sound effects came through sounding realistic and convincing. Dialogue sounded clear and easily understood and the hits that the jousters took sounded loud and strong enough to occasionally make me wince. Although not a consistent assault, "Knight's Tale"'s sound presentation was quite entertaining and effective when called upon to go into action.

MENUS:: Terrific fully-animated main menu with clips and transitions between main and sub-menus.


EXTRAS::

Commentary: This is a commentary from director Brian Helgeland and actor Paul Bettany. Both are quite entertaining and informative; they do manage to discuss some of the production issues, but often are content to riff on some of the scenes and make light of the picture they're watching, which is quite amusing. The two talk about the inclusion of the modern music (a particularly hilarious discussion of the addition of "Low Rider" takes place early on). Those who take a listen won't learn a great deal about the technical details of the making of the picture, but it's a light and fun track that's very humorous; I wish the movie took itself as unseriously as these two do.

Featurettes: There are 11 short featurettes included that run a few minutes each and go over different aspects of the production: "The Rock Music Scene in 1370", "Sexy Armor and A Rock Band On Tour", "You Never Know What You'll Find In A Czech Prop House", "School Of Hard Knocks", "Tournaments", "Marquee Event", "The World's First Sports Promoter", "Stories for the People", "The Rules Of Love", "Heath Ledger Profile", "A Director's Quest". At only a few minutes each, these are rather thin, but many might find them worth checking out once. A "play all" button would also have been appreciated here, as well.

Deleted Scene: 6 deleted scenes are presented with filmmaker introductions (look for a rather freaky post-production injury that the director shows off during the first introduction). The scenes are generally deleted due to pace or the fact that the material is repetitive.

Trailers: Two trailers with absolutely phenomenal Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks: the full trailers for "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" and "Knight's Tale".

Also: A 15 minute promotional "making of", with the usual interviews and behind-the-scenes footage; Robbie Williams/Queen music video; filmographies.


Final Thoughts: A bit too long and unfocused for its own good, "Knight's Tale" still often works well enough that those who haven't seen it will likely be satisfied with a rental. Tristar's DVD is a solid example of their reputation for fine work, with strong audio, great image quality and solid supplemental features. Fans of the movie will be thrilled with both the presentation and features and should certainly seek the disc out.

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