There is a ton of blood spilled in Centuiron, some of it a physical effect, other splotches a by-product of lower-end CG work. Why is it important to mention the bloodshed before any plot details? It’s about all this movie really offers, and is certainly the highlight it wants to showcase.
The variety of ways people are dispatched are quite inventive. It’s doubtful many people were aware that riding a horse while dragging someone along with you and ramming their head into a tree would cause it to pop like a zit. Writer/director Neil Marshall probably didn’t know that either, but hey, it looks cool.
Being slaughtered are the Ninth infantry, a legendary section of the Roman Empire fighting against a brutally violent sect called the Picts nestled into Ireland. They’re the rebels of their day, sick of the Roman Empire, brutalizing anyone who wears Roman colors.
That’s great for the Picts, not so much for the audience. Characters here look alike and sound alike, so whatever sympathy is supposed to be generated for the dying Romans is squelched. As the numbers dwindle and the Ninth Legion is reduced to only a handful, it starts coming into focus, but then the credits roll and the players remain underdeveloped.
The sights have more life and energy than the characters, Neil Marshall utilizing numerous pans and sweeping angles of the countryside. Shot mostly in England, the natural beauty of these visuals is repetitious on film, the trek of these trailing soldiers escaping certain death coming off as monotonous. There is little tension, the plodding pacing broken up by strings of action sequences, each edited more frantically than the last. Just keeping up with the brawling is difficult enough, let along trying to piece together who is brutalizing who. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
All of those naturally impressive countryside showcase pieces are harshly displayed here, the contrast blowing out nearly everything at times. Snow becomes one highlighted patch in spots, any discernible texture nullified. The same goes for some close-ups, faces awash with bright whites, adding to the harsh look. The minimalistic layer of grain is resolved, to the point where it’s hardly noticeable in many scenes. There is no sense of unneeded processing on display here.
Generally, it’s certainly appropriate to the tone, mood, and style. The occasional sequence will show some flicker on precision objects, such as grass huts or stray debris lying on the ground. Things such as chain mail are cleanly defined, and the dazzling opening credits are comprised of mountain tops, rock faces and as such quite well resolved. Facial detail, despite some extremes on both ends, varies wildly. At times, all of the dirt, grime, sweat, and natural features are in plain view. Others, high-fidelity textures are bland or unseen.
The color palette has been washed out, given either earthly tones or steely blues. Flesh tones are pale, and the only color that carries any vividness is red, seen when someone has their face smashed in (or sliced off). There are few signs of any greenery despite the forest locales. Nothing seems amiss in terms of this AVC encode, all of this an aesthetic choice.
Of the largest concern are the black levels, dipping and fading as they please, even turning off-color. Likely the nature of the digital intermediate itself, they will at times take on the hues of their surroundings, dropping out into bright browns or deep blues. Sometimes this will be eliminated within a single edit, other times sticking around for an entire scene. When they’re flat, the image lacks intensity, any amount of detail unable to salvage it. The depth is in constant flux, a jarring effect. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]
Magnolia produces an active if not overly aggressive DTS-HD 7.1 mix for this Blu-ray release. The score from composer Ilan Eshkeri is fairly flat and generic, at its peak over the opening credits, and almost muted the rest of the way through. It barely escapes from the confines of the fronts, settling into the stereo channels with minimal surround bleed.
The highlight of this entire mix is a fireball assault by the Picts, rolling down the hills and rumbling with increasing intensity as they draw closer to their target. They likewise sweep through the stereo channels and briefly into the surrounds, the two extra channels adding minimally to this mix. With all of the sword clanging and horses trudging about, the best use of rears comes from the splattering of blood, elevated into the surrounds making the effect a bit artificial.
Whipping winds and the like are occasionally evident throughout the soundfield, although to be redundant, not aggressively so. Dialogue is firm and clean, the modern audio recording methods making that a no-brainer. For a film with this many attacks and fight scenes, the mix does not handle the load as well as it should of. Fidelity is fine though, the bass tight and those sword clashes crisp. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]
A commentary packs writer/director Neil Marshall, director of photography Sam Curdy, production designer Simon Bowles, and make-up designer Paul Hyett onto a single track to chat about the filming process. Blood, Fire & Fury is your standard making-of, a 26-minute piece split into multiple sections. Six deleted scenes offer an optional commentary, while six minutes of rather bland outtakes follow.
Six interview segments run 25-minutes total, some of the content repeated from the main making-of. Behind-the-scenes footage is included, raw from the set with no interference. An HDNet first look is a promo for the network premiere, with trailers, photo gallery, and currently inactive BD-Live remaining. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Extras]
Note: Technical issues prevented revealing timestamps with these screen shots. Sorry for any inconvenience.