Much Ado About Nothing (UK - BD RB)
Marcus gets technical with the all star take on a William Shakespeare tale...
Kenneth Branagh directs the classic Shakespeare romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing telling the tale of two princes, Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) and Benedict (Kenneth Branagh), battling to win the hearts of those they love. The object of Benedict's desire, Beatrice (Emma Thompson), acts as his sharp tongued sparring partner, while Claudio's path to true love is obstructed by the evil meddling of the embittered Don Juan (Keanu Reeves). Love, of course, triumphs eventually.
As the film begins, this is a decidedly bad Blu-ray image. The super soft, almost hazy looking image is full of grain, there’s specs of dirt and damage and it all makes for an HD transfer that struggles to impress. Luckily this doesn't last too long but it still remains iffy. The image jumps about quality wise. One angle in a scene will be bathed in natural bright sunlight bringing edges to life and glowing in all the right places. Then the angle switches to another character and the natural light of the sun is gone and the image is back to looking drab and barely beyond DVD standards. The best (or is that worst) example of this is the wider landscape shots. The grain and flatness of the image is ugly and really undermines the better elements of the presentation.
Thankfully, at the peak of the Blu-ray's good looks the image can actually look fantastic. There’s warm, naturally tanned skin tones, healthy glows and rather natural looking imagery all round. The image seems beautifully fitting to HD, especially in the Tuscany locations but you'll soon notice the limitations again. Darker areas can often look a tad grubby and the softness that just happens from time to time with no real reason becomes annoying. I guess most of these interchanging issues are down to the film's actual making, so the Blu-ray is simply enhancing what will always be there. This doesn't take away the odd feeling when the image jumps from looking sharp, clean and modern back to very obviously nineties filmmaking but on average the disc looks pretty good more than it looks awful.
The stereo track feels confined, struggling to reach out beyond its limitations and even when with the volume is ramped up the larger elements of the strong score never feels quite alive enough. This is Shakespeare so really all that really matters is the dialogue and the disc delivers on that front. It’s clear, crisp and always well placed. The score or jaunty music sits comfortably behind the dialogue and again delivers but make no mistake this is a stereo track and doesn't do too much to convince you it can reach out beyond it.
There’s no extras to speak of beyond the disc opening with a trailer for the latest spin on Romeo and Juliet.
Much Ado About Nothing is fun and wholly accessible despite the often hard to penetrate Shakespearian dialogue. I enjoy a fair few performances in here. Michael Keaton is almost on full Beetleguise mode at times and its a joy, Emma Thompson is eating her role up with confidence, though elements of her voice grind and Branagh is obviously very much in love with the character he’s playing (and directing). As a side note, I enjoy Keanu in his 90s try anything in his career mode here. He’s always Ted to me and bad Ted as a Shakespeare villain puts a grin on my face almost as much as British Surfer Ted in Coppola’s Dracula.
Anyway, the disc is a up and down mess in quality but when it looks good it looks great and the audio is solid is not a little simple. To make this even less appealing for its fairly high retail price, there’s no extras either, so this is a tough recommendation until there’s a price drop.
Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 3rd February 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Richard Clifford, Denzel Washington, Gerard Horan, Brian Blessed, Michael Keaton, Emma Thompson, Kate Beckinsale
Genre: Comedy, Drama and Romance
Length: 110 minutes
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