E1 Entertainment // 2008 // 265 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 18th, 2012
More Arn for your buck.
In 2010, I reviewed Arn: The Knight Templar, a fairly decent period film based on the adventures of Arn Magnusson; Swedish stud, Crusades legend, and star of a well-known trilogy by Swedish author Jan Guillou. That was a just an Arn appetizer, because it was a 128 minute re-cut version of this production; a sprawling, six-part, 265-minute mini-series. Uff da.
Battle-monk Arn Magnusson (Joakim Natterqvist) finds himself entwined with a lovely young woman named Cecilia (Soifa Helin), a relationship which brings with it some politically thorny inconveniences. The fallout finds Cecilia shipped off too a nunnery for couple of decades worth of corporal punishment and prayer, and Arn dispatched to the Holy Land to practice his swordcraft on infidels. Meanwhile, a power struggle has engulfed his homeland. When Arn finally does return from his Jerusalem adventure, an entirely new set of challenges and enemies await.
I was ambivalent about Arn: The Knight Templar, finding it moderately engaging, but the pacing never quite seemed right. Now I understand why. In its true form as a mini-series, the story engrossing. Everything is bigger, character arcs are far more robust, and important plot details are expanded upon to give Arn The Knight Templar: The Complete Series a weightier, more emotionally satisfying story.
I say this as a comparison to the edited film for those who have seen it: If you felt let down by some elements, give this version a spin. I suspect you'll enjoy the story much more. For everyone else who have no idea what I'm talking about, consider this a sparkling recommendation for the Blu-ray. There's a lot to digest during these six episodes (which clock around 45 minutes each) and the narrative is quite satisfying. Cecilia and Arn are the main focus and their wildly divergent paths are compelling, grounded by the love they feel for each other. Cecilia's torments are more internal, as she vies with a corrupt Mother Superior and attempts to maintain a sense of sanity during her tenure of the convent. Even while Arn is off stabbing and slicing Saracens, it was Cecilia's story arc that proved to be the most upsetting.
Meanwhile, over in the Holy Land, Arn is a badass. The miniseries isn't packed silly with battle scenes, but when they hit, they're mounted well and exciting to watch. Thankfully, we're not subjected to extended bouts of white guilt -- always a threat with stories of the Crusades. The filmmakers are far more interested in developing Arn as character with the craziness of the Crusades used as a backdrop. But my favorite stuff involves Arn back at the homestead. Lots of political chicanery eventually leads to a large scale battle that delivers an impressive amount of carnage and practical effects (tons of extras on horses running around, arrows sticking in their chests, and no CGI as far as I could see).
E1 Entertainment's Blu-ray presentation is winner, offering up this hullabaloo in a gorgeous, pristine 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen transfer. The Swedish landscape looks dynamite with the increased detail, as does Joakim Natterqvist's exponentially more weathered and scarred visage. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track delivers a clean, powerful soundscape that transmits the lunacy of battle with verve. One side note: The languages are listed as English/Swedish/Arabic/French/Latin, but it's an all-Swedish language track incorporates other languages from time to time. Extras: two 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Bigger Arn is better Arn.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Swedish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 265 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated