Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton
Downton hosts the Queen and King of England.
$31,033,665 on 3079 Screens.
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Runtime: 121 min.
Release Date: 12/17/2019
• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Engler
• “Series Recap” Featurette
• “Cast Conversations” Featurette
• “The Royal Visit” Featurette
• “True to the Twenties” Featurette
• “Welcome to Downton Abbey” Featurette
• “The Brilliance of Julian Fellowes” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• DVD Copy
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Downton Abbey [Blu-Ray] (2019)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 8, 2019)
After six seasons, Downton Abbey ended its TV run in 2015. Rather than let the property fade, it made the leap to the big screen with 2019’s theatrical film.
The TV series followed the lives of the Crawleys, British aristocrats who control Downton Abbey, a massive estate. It dealt with their ups and downs as well as those of the staff needed to maintain the huge property.
While the series opened in 1912 and finished circa 1925, the film takes us to 1927. The Abbey’s inhabitants go into a tizzy because they receive notice that the Queen (Geraldine James) and King (Simon Jones) will come to visit.
A complication arises because of a conflict between Lord Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) and Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), the Queen’s lady-in-waiting. They’re cousins, and they maintain a dispute about an inheritance.
In addition, the Downton staff conflicts with emissaries from the crown. Will the various parties come together amicably for a successful visit?
And if so, will anyone care? Clearly, as the Abbey faithful ate up the film to the tune of $185 million worldwide.
Compared to big blockbusters, that total seems lackluster, but for a drama about aristocrats and their aristocratic needs, it seems remarkably high. With a budget of only $17 million, Abbey turned a fine profit.
How much of that came from viewers new to the franchise remains unknown, as well as what these neophytes thought of the film. I count in this category, as I never viewed a minute of Abbey prior to this movie.
Happily, the Blu-ray includes a featurette called “Series Recap”, and it gives a summary of the characters and events. It’s not enough to provide more than a cursory overview, but at least it grounds the newbie to a degree.
I must admit that the “Recap” leaves the impression that the series brought little more than fairly standard soap opera shenanigans gussied up in PBS clothing. Of course I expect a summary to hit the most dramatic notes, but the overview makes it look like characters met tragic deaths on a constant basis.
Given my lack of experience with the property, I can’t judge whether or not the movie works for established fans. I can say that I find nothing here to appeal to new viewers, though.
Normally I’d chalk up some – and maybe a lot – of that to my unfamiliarity with the series. Unlike, say, Sex and the City, Abbey comes with a massive roster of characters, so it becomes a bigger leap to grab onto all of them.
That becomes a major liability with Abbey the movie, as it tries to feed far too many mouths for a mere 121-minute effort. Even if the choice might disappoint long-time fans, the film would work better if it focused heavily on a handful of roles so they could develop in a natural manner.
Instead, we rush through all the situations and barely get to know any of those involved. As noted, this won’t affect established fans as much, but it still feels like thin gruel.
Not that Abbey actually attempts much of a plot. Saturday Night Live spoofed the film with a trailer that implied the movie is about a) cleaning and b) not much else.
Yeah, that seems pretty fair. Sure, the movie hints at various tensions, such as the issue between Robert and Maud, and we find other areas of potential friction as well.
These go nowhere. Mostly we watch people clean, drink tea, and get mildly upset about obscure issues that only matter to aristocrats and their servants.
Okay, that may be unfair, as obviously a large audience invested in the series’ characters and situations. Maybe these worked better when allowed to percolate slowly across nearly 50 episodes on TV.
None of this makes sense as a feature film, though – at least not for new viewers. Two hours of manners and piffle, Abbey becomes a massive bore.
The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-
Downton Abbey appears in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie offered a positive visual impression.
Overall definition seemed positive. Only a little softness materialized, so the movie usually appeared accurate and concise.
I noticed no signs of jaggies or edge enhancement, and shimmering was absent. The film lacked print flaws and seemed clean.
In terms of colors, Abbey went for an amber/orange impression, with some teal tossed in as well. These appeared fine within the film’s stylistic choices.
Blacks seemed dark and tight, and shadows demonstrated good clarity. This added up to a satisfying presentation.
A character drama wouldn’t seem to be a candidate for a whiz-bang soundtrack, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Abbey fell into expected realms. Usually the track remained oriented toward ambience, so don’t expect lots of sizzle from the mix.
A few exteriors added some punch. We got trains and rainstorms that contributed a bit of activity, but most of the track remained subdued.
Audio quality satisfied. The music was full and rich, while effects showed nice clarity and accuracy.
Speech – obviously an important factor here – appeared concise and crisp. Nothing here soared, but it all seemed perfectly adequate for the project.
We find a mix of extras here, and we open with an audio commentary from director Michael Engler. He offers a running, screen-specific look at the series and its adaptation, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, and connected domains.
Like the movie itself, this commentary becomes a fairly drowsy ride. While Engler gives us a decent array of notes, he rarely provides real insights, and he goes AWOL too often. Though not a terrible track, Engler’s commentary feels mediocre at best.
As mentioned in the body of my review, the disc offers a Series Recap. In this 10-minute, nine-second featurette, actors Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan give us a summary of the series’ characters and dramatic developments. It’s not enough to fully summarize 47 episodes, but it helps the newbie get his or her sea legs.
Under Cast Conversations, we get two segments: “Upstairs” (7:26) and “Downstairs” (9:26). Across these, we hear from Carter, Logan and actors Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Allen Leech, Hugh Bonneville, Joanne Froggatt, Michael Small, Sophie McShera and Imelda Staunton.
Mostly the actors discuss how great the series was and how happy they are to make the movie. A few minor character-related notes emerge, but overall, these segments lack substance.
The Royal Visit fills three minutes, 15 seconds with comments from Dockery, Froggatt, Carter, Leech, Bonneville, Engler, Carmichael,
writer/producer Julian Fellowes, historical advisor Alastair Bruce, production designer Donal Woods, producers Liz Trubridge and Gareth Neame, and actor Kevin Doyle.
This clip looks at story and production elements related to the royal visit. It offers another puffy piece.
True to the Twenties, we get a two-minutes, 15-second segment that features Dockery, Engler, Bruce, Woods, McGovern, Bonneville, Carmichael, costume designer Anna Mary Scott Robbins and actor Penelope Wilton.
As expected, “True” looks at the film’s attempts to remain period accurate. Most of it feels self-congratulatory.
Welcome to Downton Abbey occupies two minutes, 47 seconds with info from Dockery, McGovern, Bruce, Neame, Trubridge, Woods, Engler, Froggatt, and makeup/hair designer Anne Nosh Oldham. We learn a little about the main set in this fluffy overview.
Next comes The Brilliance of Julian Fellowes, a two-minute, 14-second segment with Fellowes, Leech, Dockery, Neame, Bruce, Fox, Trubridge, and Engler. This one offers hard-hitting revelations that let us know yes, Fellowes is brilliant. Yawn.
Eight Deleted Scenes take up a total of five minutes, 33 seconds. The longest spans about two minutes, so the other seven provide brief trims. These offer minor character expansions but nothing memorable.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of Abbey. It includes all the same extras other than the “Recap”.
Perhaps Downton Abbey enthralls as a TV series, but as a movie, it resembles drying paint. Slow, tedious and nearly pointless, the film fails to muster a pulse. The Blu-ray brings very good picture as well as adequate audio and mediocre bonus materials. Abbey diehards will enjoy the film, I guess, but I can’t figure out why.
Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5 Stars|| Number of Votes: 2|