Da Vinci's Demons-Season 1 (2013)

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Released 9-Apr-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Series Audio Commentary-x 4 Cast and Crew (Episodes 1, 2, 5 & 8)
Deleted Scenes-x 14 (13:23)
Interviews-Crew-David S. Goyer (15:52)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-(7:38)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 441:44
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David S. Goyer
Jamie Payne
Paul Wilmshurst
Michael J Bassett
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Tom Riley
Laura Haddock
Blake Ritson
Elliot Cowan
David Schofield
Allan Corduner
Gregg Chillin
Eros Vlahos
Tom Bateman
Hera Hilmar
Case ?
RPI ? Music Bear McCreary


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Written partly by David S. Goyer, screenwriter of films such as Batman Begins (2005), Jumper (2008) and Man of Steel (2013), Da Vinci’s Demons is not a realistic look at the life of Leonardo da Vinci. Rather, it introduces us to a youthful da Vinci in the guise of a romantic hero and adds political intrigue and fantasy in the form of an ancient brotherhood and a search for the magical Book of Leaves.

     At the beginning of Da Vinci’s Demons the twenty five year old Leonardo da Vinci (Tom Riley), b****** son of Piero da Vinci (David Schofield) the Notary to Florentine noble Lorenzo Medici (Elliot Cowan), is in Florence at the workshop / studio of Andrea del Verrocchio (Allan Corduner) with his apprentice Nico (Eros Vlahos), friend and grave robber Zoroaster (Gregg Chillin) and muse Vanessa (Hera Hilmar). There he comes to the attention of Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano (Tom Bateman). A war is brewing between Florence and Rome, where Pope Sixtus IV (James Faulkner) rules aided by his murderous nephew Girolamo Riario (Blake Ritson), and Leonardo gains a commission from Lorenzo to construct some of his more warlike inventions as Florence does not have a standing army. Leonardo is also commissioned to paint the portrait of Lorenzo’s beautiful mistress Lucrezia Donati (Laura Haddock), who becomes Leonardo’s lover.

     Lucrezia, however, is also a spy for Rome and, as well, the Florentine Pazzi family, including Francesco Pazzi (Elliot Levey), are secretly in league with Sixtus which gives the Pope the upper hand in his dealings with Lorenzo. The Vatican has its own secret archives in which is hidden knowledge and sacred artefacts, such as the lance that pierced Jesus’ side. Just to complicate things further Leonardo is visited by a mysterious Turk (Alexander Siddig), a member of the ancient brotherhood the Sons of Mithras, who sets Leonardo and his friends upon a quest to find the mystical Book of Leaves, containing the font of all knowledge.

     Da Vinci’s Demons is fast paced and exuberant. Leonardo is the Byronic hero; arrogant, witty, ambidextrous swordsman, lateral thinker, vegetarian, opium smoker, inventor and lover, with a demon hidden in his childhood. As played by Tom Riley he is all twitches and manic action, never still for a moment which tends to get a bit repetitive as the series goes on. I am also in agreement with those critics who feel that the added mysticism and Book of Leaves plotline is too much. I have no problem with fantasy elements in history but with da Vinci’s known inventions and paintings, plus the colourful characters and the political times in Renaissance Italy at the time, there is a myriad of stories to tell in a series like this without adding what feels like a storyline too far. Indeed, when the series stays with the taverns and workshops of Florence, the swashbuckling and the larger than life characters such as Pope Sixtus, Lorenzo, Lucrezia, Lorenzo’s interesting wife Clarice Orsini (Lara Pulver) or the completely over the top Duke of Urbino (Vincent Riotta) the series is great fun. Indeed, when it concentrates upon realistic events and historical people it is very powerful and sometimes bleak, such as the excellent episode 7.

     Da Vinci’s Demons as a series is brutal and bloody, slowing fights with edged weapons that sever necks, murders and quite graphic torture. On the other hand, some of the dialogue is very funny and the sets of Da Vinci’s Demons are finely detailed and vary from the low life slums and taverns, full of dirt, filth, animals and rodents, to the opulent palaces of the nobility in Florence and Rome. The costumes of the noble families are detailed and extravagant, with deep reds and blues dominating. Interesting use is also made of slow motion images juxtaposed and morphing into existent sketches or drawing by da Vinci. The series is also not short on full frontal male and female nudity and sex scenes.

     Da Vinci’s Demons is luscious, opulent, inventive, bloody, romantic and exuberant: it may not be history but it is a lot of fun. As is usual the last episode in this first season ends with an explosive cliff-hanger. This three disc set contains the eight episodes of season 1 which commenced airing on Starz Cable Channel in April 2013. Season 2 is being shown in the US at the moment and Season 3 has been commissioned.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Da Vinci’s Demons is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the original broadcast ratio, and is16x9 enhanced.

     Filmed using digital cameras, detail throughout the series is very sharp and crisp, with close-ups showing every hair and speck of dirt. CGI backgrounds of the cityscapes including the spires and domes of Florence and Rome are less sharp, but do look colourful. Indeed, colours have that digital glossy richness and the costumes are spectacular. Blacks are deep and rich and shadow detail is generally very good, although in some episodes, such as the interiors of episode 4 or part of episode 6, noise deduction is evident which reduces shadow detail. Some interior sequences under lights evince a digital yellowish tinge, which does affect the skin tones in those scenes. Brightness and contrast is consistent.

     There are no marks or scratches but aliasing occurs on horizontal lines (for example in the cityscape, episode 1 33:48, or the painting, episode 4 50:32), ghosting is prevalent, and the authoring struggles when flame is shown against stonework when macro blocking becomes a problem (see episode 6 28:44, episode 8 35:35 and episode 9 37:54 for examples).

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are in a clear white font and were accurate in the portions I sampled.

     The layer changes created slight pauses. In disc 1 episode 2 at 23:07 and disc 2 episode 6 at 27:36 the change occurred at a scene change; disc 3 episode 8 12:27 was in the middle of a scene.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps plus there are four audio commentaries, Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps.

     Dialogue is generally easy to hear and understand although at times the subtitles came in handy. The surrounds and rears are constantly used for music, ambience, weather effects, crowd noise, the clash of blades and other fighting sounds while in some sequences, such as when da Vinci is suffering hallucinations, the surround speakers are very loud. The sub-woofer added bass to the music, the fireworks, explosions, cannon fire and hallucinations but was not overdone.

     The score by Bear McCreary is very good, and sometimes has a Celtic feel. It is epic in tone which fits the series well.

     I did not notice any lip synchronization problems.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Disc 1

Audio Commentary – Episode 1

     David S. Goyer, Tom Riley, Laura Haddock and Blake Ritson chat together, with Goyer providing most of the information and the others asking questions and adding anecdotes. This commentary is good and informative, with very little mutual admiration or silliness. They talk about the title sequence, the locations and sets, the music, the CGI and visual effects, and which parts of the script were based on real events or Da Vinci’s journals, and which characters are real. Goyer also says that the series is partly inspired by the Hero’s Journey writings by Joseph Campbell, the book that also inspired Star Wars, and points out some Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan moments!

Audio Commentary – Episode 2

     David S. Goyer, Tom Riley, Laura Haddock and Blake Ritson again feature in this commentary. Goyer still provides most of the information but this commentary is disappointing compared to the first; it is far more chatty and they talk and laugh together rather than provide much information, although there is a bit about locations and CGI and Goyer points out foreshadowing to later episodes, including season 2.

Disc 2

Audio Commentary – Episode 5

     This commentary with David S. Goyer, Tom Riley and David Schofield is not as good as the commentary on episode 1 but better than that for episode 2. They talk about which events and people are historical, the characterisation of Piero, the themes of the episode especially hypocrisy, and provide some anecdotes about the shooting the episode, although there is rather too much of “lovely scene” or “love what you are doing”.

Disc 3

Audio Commentary – Episode 8

     This time it is David S. Goyer, Tom Riley and Tom Bateman who provide the commentary, but in reality Goyer does the vast majority of talking and Bateman may as well not have been there. At times this commentary is quite silly with inane comments, but they do discuss which events are historical, locations, green screen scenes and the score.

Deleted Scenes (13:23)

     Fourteen deleted scenes of varying length, some very short and in various stages of production – a couple are in front of green and blue screens. Each is introduced by a text screen indicating which episode they were cut from. Some are quite interesting.

Interview with David S. Goyer (15:52)

     David S. Goyer talks about his intentions, the historical background and the character of da Vinci, interspersed with clips from the series. Worth a look.

Behind the Scenes (7:38)

     This featurette is divided into two sections; Location and Sets, and CGI. The first is by far the longest, looking at the weather, the locations and castles in Wales and the set construction and it includes behind the scenes footage plus comments from the art director, location manager, David S. Goyer and cast member Allan Corduner (del Verrocchio). The second section is very short and shows some before and after green and blue screen sequences.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Our release of Da Vinci’s Demons from Roadshow is a Region 2 / 4 version, identical to the Region 2 UK release. The Region 1 US release includes the audio commentaries and deleted scenes and has a number of small featurettes about the score, costumes and set construction instead of our Behind the Scenes, and does not include the interesting David S. Goyer interview. I think a win for our Region 2 / 4 release.

Summary

     With romance, torture, bloody murders, gore, full frontal male and female nudity, sex, fantasy elements and a Leonardo da Vinci who is a Byronic hero, Da Vinci’s Demons is not one for those who like their history or romances straight. However, while it may not be history, it is exuberant, colourful and good fun.

     The video has more issues than I expected from a recent production, the audio is good. This three disc set contains all eight episodes of season 1, four audio commentaries and some interesting extras, so is quite a solid package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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