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Huge epic movies attract a lot of funding from studios and are often relied upon to bring in vast quantities of cash to push a studio ahead of the rest. So many people have an interest in them that they often follow the same tried and tested formula - only set in different locations. Some do very well whilst others fail drastically and totally screw up a studio’s future plans. One such epic was Edward Zwick’s Legend’s of a Fall staring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins.

Legends of the Fall : Superbit
Movie
Tristan (Brad Pitt) is the overbearing middle brother of three and central character of Legends; his father (Anthony Hopkins) was a colonel for the US government and has seen many bad things – mainly as the result of his own government. As such he decided to uplift the family roots and move to a rural spot in Montana. Life was hard, especially in winter – the colonel’s wife Isabel (Christina Pickles) couldn’t cope with the conditions so regularly headed off to civilisation in winter. Eventually Isabel opted not to return and he was left to bring up the kids on his own. Tristan in particular was affected by his mother’s refusal to return by purposefully isolating himself.

One day the younger brother Samuel (Henry Thomas) arrives home with future bride-to-be Susannah (Julia Ormond) and this initially brings the family barring Isabel back under the same roof. Everyone is happy and getting along with each other, Susannah gives the place a new lease of life.

Before the wedding gets anywhere near happening Samuel and the older brother Alfred (Aidan Quinn) decide they should serve for the country by enlisting to fight in the war over in Europe. Their father doesn’t approve of this after himself leading a life in the military only to discover how corrupt and immoral the whole system was; he realises that they are going to go with or without his blessings so lets them go. Tristan decides to follow suit since he and Alfred have always looked after their beloved younger brother whenever he got into any sort of trouble. Tristan promises his father that he will do his best to protect Samuel whilst away from home. The remainder of this epic (and there is a lot of it!) centres around what happens after they return back from the war and what they get up to. There are quite a few deaths, a wedding and arguments aplenty.

Legends of the Fall : Superbit
This movie is absolutely massive in terms of what happens in it, there are so many plots and subplots that it almost feels like watching a television series that has somehow been magically condensed into a little over two hours. I think this is its biggest downfall; there is so much going on that it feels almost too much. It doesn’t have a focus other than Tristan’s goings-on, and this is the second big flaw; Tristan isn’t that stable of a character and acts like he suffers from a multiple personality disorder throughout the film, you just never know what he’s going to be like twenty minutes from now and cannot fully identify with him. One minute he’s peaceful, later he’s vengeful, then he is totally distant and cold, happily breaking the law and putting his family at risk. There’s also the bear persona from a childhood experience that is his excuse for his undesirable actions. It would have been better focusing on one of the other characters like Alfred or Susannah – maybe even the colonel. Legends of the Fall just doesn’t have a strong central glue to hold all the ideas together and for that reason it unfortunately somewhat fails.

That aside, everything else seems fine. Cinematography is breathtaking, John Toll did a great job; choosing Calgary in Canada for much of the location shots, they really gave the movie that epic feel it so obviously wanted to exude. The soundtrack may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is ideal for the dramatic style of movie. Acting wise, both Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins are splendid, particularly the latter as his character progresses and becomes older and darker in nature. As already stated, Julia Ormond’s character could so easily have been the centre of attention which says a lot about the performance.

Video
Legends of the Fall has always been afforded a magnificent DVD transfer, even the very early versions have stood time very well. This 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer suffers from no obvious compression artefacts and there was no sign of edge enhancement. About the only problem was the odd occurrence of what appeared to have been very minor print damage – and I mean very minor. Colour balance is fine with solid blacks.

Legends of the Fall : Superbit
Audio
Available in both Dolby 5.1 and DTS, these tracks are very aggressive at times. In particular when the three brothers end up in the war and we join them on the battlefield, the tracks go quite literally nuts. Director Edward Zwick demonstrates a flair for mixing dramatic action sequences within drama orientated movies without making the scenes feel out of place, Legends is no exception. Both the Dolby 5.1 and DTS tracks sounded very similar though the DTS track did seem somewhat quieter. The soundtrack is clear and precise, and dialogue is always audible.

Extras
This is a Superbit, so no extras other than the DTS soundtrack. Menus are your standard Superbit affair and there are plenty of subtitle options available. If you are after either of the commentaries available in previous DVD incarnations of Legends of the Fall then you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Overall
Legends is a wonderful movie that has been given an excellent transfer to DVD with a dynamic yet delicate soundtrack. Featuring top notch cinematography and an expert cast it is a shame that the story wasn’t at the same level.

Legends of the Fall : Superbit
For all those Brad Pitt followers, this could be a worthwhile purchase. It demonstrates another side to Brad’s acting career before he progressed onto the more gritty and intelligent thrillers such as Seven and Fight Club. The way in which his character changes so much in this movie demonstrates his range of abilities. As for the other principal actor, Anthony Hopkins pulls off an expect character driven performance.

Overall I would recommend this movie, by its very nature it has been designed to appeal to a mass market of varying interests. I’m sure elements will appeal to different people, whether or not you will enjoy the film in its entirety is another matter.


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