Knight's Tale, A: Collector's Edition (2001)

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Released 19-Mar-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Audio Commentary-Brian Helgeland & Paul Bettany
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-11
Deleted Scenes-6 +/- filmmakers' introductions
Featurette-Making Of-HBO Making-Of Special
Music Video-We Are The Champions-Robbie Williams & Queen
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Final Fantasy
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 126:46
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (51:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Brian Helgeland
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Heath Ledger
Mark Addy
Alan Tudyk
Rufus Sewell
Paul Bettany
Shannyn Sossamon
Laura Fraser
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Carter Burwell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Hindi
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, did you know that Nike used to make armour?
Action In or After Credits Yes, a bad fart joke plays after the credits.

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

Plot Synopsis

Heere bigynneth the knyghtes tale.

    What do you get if you take Heath Ledger, a pseudo 14th century European setting, classic '70s (1970s that is) rock songs, big horses, bigger sticks, and a beautiful lady? Why, you get A Knight's Tale of course. This is the type of movie that is generally known in Hollywood as a "summer movie". These movies are never intended to present much in the way of social commentary, but simply to entertain the crowds - and entertainment is something that A Knight's Tale has in spades.

    Set in feudal Europe towards the end of the 14th century, A Knight's Tale is the story of one William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), squire to recently deceased knight Sir Ector (a very short cameo from Nick Brimble). On an impulse driven by hunger, William decides to pretend to be Sir Ector in the joust in an attempt to win some money. His success in that endeavour leads William to believe that he can start a new career as a knight, and take his two fellow squires, Wat (Alan Tudyk) and Roland (Mark Addy), along with him to untold riches. There is, however and of course, one catch. Only those of noble birth are able to compete in tournaments, and William, being the son of a thatcher, is not likely to be able to fake his way through the written requirements. Enter Chaucer (Paul Bettany).

    Yes, this is the Chaucer of Canterbury Tales fame (in fact, the first story in the Canterbury Tales is The Knight's Tale - although it bears no resemblance to the movie). Being an author, Chaucer is quite adept at producing documents, including such items as the patents of nobility needed for tournament entry. With Chaucer as herald, William, Wat, and Roland progress through the jousting world, propelling William toward the World Championship of jousting (trust me - it sounds somewhat less silly in the context of the movie).

    No summer movie is complete without a good romance however, and we have that here courtesy of the high-born Lady Jocelyn (Hawaiian newcomer Shannyn Sossamon). One look and William is hooked.

    This movie provides everything its audience is looking for. There is plenty of action for the men, romance for the women, and a liberal slathering of one-liners and site gags keeps the film from ever entering the "serious" category. On top of all this, the cast features many an attractive face, from our Heath (a female colleague of mine insists that he is "drool-worthy") to the understated beauty of Scottish actress Laura Fraser - the only ugly people herein are low level bad guys and other assorted extras.

    A stroke of genius when creating this movie was to use contemporary songs throughout, not simply relying on the orchestral score that is almost standard for this genre. It becomes evident very early on that this is no ordinary costume drama as the spectators at the jousting tournament clap in time to, and even sing along with, Queen's We Will Rock You. The reasoning behind this use of music is that, to the people of 1370, their music would sound as Queen et al sound to us today. This idea gives the viewer an instant connection with characters created in a time that is over six hundred years past. One need only look at the works of Chaucer himself to see how much even the English language has changed from the times when this film is set to the present day, so the link that is created with the music is a bridge between times and cultures that allows modern audiences to more readily relate to the characters.

    Probably the weakest aspect of this film is the romance thread between William and Jocelyn. This is not really a problem with the performances of the actors involved, simply the fact that the two have little to no chemistry. Throughout the story, I was convinced that William would see Jocelyn for the spoiled brat that she was and go for Kate the Ferris (Laura Fraser), with whom he really did seem to be building a relationship (although this could have been affected by my thoughts that Laura Fraser was somewhat more visually appealing than Shannyn Sossamon). Despite this weakness, the remaining relationships work incredibly well, and the sense of loyalty and friendship between each of the companions is perfectly realised. This is the real strength of what is essentially a 14th century buddy movie.

And God save al this faire compaignye! Amen

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a very high quality transfer sporting only a few - minor - problems.

    Presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    This transfer is extremely sharp, displaying more than enough detail to make out even the finest aspects of the image. There are only a very few instance of grain, during what looks to be a digitally zoomed shot at 42:24 and during a scene with very high levels of effect fog at 89:30-89:40. Shadow detail is also of very high calibre, allowing even the gloomiest of darkened areas to hold picture information, although this plays little part in the movie with almost the entire movie taking place during the day, or at least in brightly lit areas. There was no low-level noise.

    Colour is spot on throughout the transfer, displaying the gaudy nature of period dress, and the drab harshness of reality with equal quality.

    There are no compression artefacts present at all in this transfer. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for film to video artefacts, with aliasing not being uncommon. When it is present, it is always minor, but the number of instances where it occurs is sufficient that it deserves mention. Film artefacts are also not completely absent. The most obvious occurrence is during the opening Columbia logo, but small film artefacts appear from time to time throughout the transfer. As with the aliasing, the instances themselves are minor enough to not warrant any attention on their own, but the frequency with which they appear necessitates this mention.

    The subtitles are uniformly accurate, only missing a very few words, and certainly take nothing away from the film.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change occurring at 51:37 during Chapter 15. The change is extremely well placed on a fade to black, during a moment when no sound is present. I would not have noticed it had I not happened to look at the time counter exactly as the layer change occurred. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this layer change is probably the best layer change I have encountered, and all other disc authors should take note as to how it is done.

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

Audio

    While the audio present on this disc is certainly not the most impressive surround soundtrack encoded onto DVD, it is a very solid effort that gets the job done in style. In fact the considerably more subtle nature of this soundtrack may be more impressive than many more overly "surround" tracks. The very subtle nature of the track will however (and perhaps unfortunately) prevent it from being used as surround sound demo material.

    There are two audio tracks present on this disc, being a Dolby Digital 5.1 English dialogue track encoded at the higher bitrate of 448 Kbps, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio commentary, encoded at 192 Kbps. I listened to both tracks in their entirety.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times. There was never a problem with clarity, regardless of other background noise, be it music or effects. Even helmet visors caused no problems.

    Following suit, audio sync was spot on throughout the transfer.

    There are two components to the music for A Knight's Tale, being the score, composed by Carter Burwell, and a collection of '70s rock tunes. The score itself is not that spectacular, being quite suitable for its intended purpose, although going along with the more modern nature of the remainder of the music, the styles and instruments used for the score are somewhat different to most period pieces (think the Plunkett & Macleane of rock music). The rock tunes were used in an effort to bond the audience with the characters, so while they really draw a lot of attention to themselves, that was intended and as such they work extremely well. In fact, this selection of music goes a long way toward really making the movie what it is. Had A Knight's Tale stuck with standard genre fare, it would have been all the less remarkable for it.

    The surround channels are quite aggressively used for ambient sound and the music, but the surprise comes in that they do not really spring to life for the action sequences, simply maintaining their level of use on par with the earlier sequences. That is not to say that the surround channels are neglected - they certainly get a workout, but it has a lot less of the "notice me - I'm a surround speaker" style of effect.

    Similar to the surrounds, the subwoofer gets an good, but subtle workout. Adding bass to both the music, and the impact of the lances, as well as many other lower frequency noises, the sub is frequently in action, however always without calling attention to itself.

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

Extras

    This disc comes with an extremely generous collection of extras that are both interesting and informative. The way in which they are organised leaves a little to be desired, but overall it is a good effort from Columbia TriStar.

Menu

    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, film themed, animated, and features a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. While quite nice initially, the animations do get somewhat tedious after repeated use.

Behind the Scenes Featurettes (33:38)

    This is divided into eleven individual featurettes as follows:

    My biggest gripe with these featurettes is the lack of a "play all" button. Run together, they would make quite an interesting behind the scenes documentary, but in their current form they just reach the point of engagement and then stop, requiring more fiddling with the remote. I have no such problem with the content as that is quite interesting in itself. While the short running times keep them from going into any depth, they certainly present more than the usual "he was great", "I loved it", "I've never had so much fun!" behind the scenes featurettes. All featurettes are presented in 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound and a very good quality of video.

Deleted Scenes: With (27:07) and Without (21:41) Filmmakers' Introduction/Commentary

    The scenes are as follows:     All are presented in letterboxed 2.35:1, are not 16x9 enhanced, and feature Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. The video quality leaves a little to be desired, and is certainly not as good as that in the main feature.

Featurette - HBO Making Of Special (15:03)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, and with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, this is the standard making-of feature (produced for US cable channel HBO). The information contained within is certainly interesting, although there is little in the way of depth to any of the points raised. The video quality is of a very high standard.

Music Video: Robbie Williams & Queen - We Will Rock You (4:10)

    Presented in letterboxed 1.85:1 (and hence not 16x9 enhanced), this is the video for Robbie Williams' cover of the Queen classic (and features some of the members of Queen).

Audio Commentary - Brian Helgeland (Director) and Paul Bettany (Actor - Chaucer)

    This is quite an interesting commentary. While it is heavily biased in favour of the director, Paul Bettany also has worthwhile information to impart whenever he gets a word in. It is clear the two are friends (the Chaucer part was written especially for Bettany by Helgeland), and this commentary has a relaxed feel about it.

Trailer - A Knight's Tale (2:03)

    Presented in 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced, this trailer features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio encoded at the higher bitrate of 448 Kbps.

Trailer - Final Fantasy (2:04)

    Presented in 1.85:1, and as with the previous trailer, 16x9 enhanced, this features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio encoded at the higher bitrate of 448 Kbps.

Filmographies

    This section features simple one or two page filmographies for the lead male actors, and the director. Neither of the female leads are represented here.

R4 vs R1

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

    Apart from the PAL/NTSC variation, and the presence of a French dub (and accompanying subtitles), there are no differences whatsoever between the R1 and R4 discs of A Knight's Tale. The extras on both discs are identical, as is the transfer - right down to the location of the layer change. A very good sign indeed from Columbia.

Summary

    A Knight's Tale is a thoroughly entertaining romp presented on a first class DVD.

    The video quality is excellent. The few problems that exist really only stand out due to the brilliant nature of the remainder of the transfer.

    The audio is likewise very good, presenting one of the most subtle surround tracks I have heard for an action-oriented movie.

    The extras are of a good quality, and there are plenty of them. Even better - we haven't been gypped in comparison to our R1 friends.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Thursday, February 21, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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