Mary Queen of Scots 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
I remember seeing images of Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart and Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth I well before the award season kicked into gear and I thought for sure that MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS was going to be a contender. Unfortunately for first time director Josies Rourke it came and went with barely notice. But I believe that, like many, my high expectation was unfair. MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS may not be one of the best films from the year and definitely has its problems, but it is an entertaining period piece with some strong merits in costuming and art production, with terrific performances from its two leading ladies.
Mary is Queen of France at age sixteen and widowed at eighteen. Instead of remarrying, Mary returns to her native country Scotland where she has birthright rival claim to the throne of Queen Elizabeth I, who rules England. MARY QUEEN SCOTS mostly follows Mary as she attempts to seek an alliance with her cousin Elizabeth. Both appear to be strong capable leaders who have to be exceptionally careful as the men around them and in their council are continually looking for reason undermine them and keep them apart and at war. Mary particularly fights an uphill battle as her brother, her new husband, and even her closet guard all are weak-willed and willing to betray her trust and grace. Lies about Mary’s sexual conduct is continually under attack. While the power is place upon the Monarchy, the males never allow their female leaders any real chance to properly rule how they would choose.
Director Josies Rourke chooses a gorgeous pallet to play with contrasting colors and sweeping cinematography that captures the beautiful landscape throughout England and Scotland. The costumes are equaling breathtaking as both of the leading ladies get to wear vibrant colors that pop among their subjects. The editing is also interesting. While many might complain about the cliff notes effect of hurrying through the film, it also kept the story moving without getting bogged down by dwelling or elongating unnecessary moments. However, this does sacrifice some of the character development in many of the side characters. I sometime failed to understand the sudden motivation of characters to so easily sway or change their loyalty that could be fixed with a deeper development or fleshed out storylines that were perhaps rushed. But I’m not sure that would have been beneficial in the type of story that was being created and could easily turn the already two hour film into being too long.
While Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth are kept apart for almost the entirety of the film, they do have one meeting. While most of my compliments deal with the quick pace and high energy tone, it feels as though the filmmakers stretched their meeting for more than what it was worth. Perhaps it was over planned as the production of walking through sheets and keeping their eyes from gazing upon one another to the almost over dramatic show down of emotional conversation, felt all too forced rather than moving. I’m sure everyone involved felt it was great climax to the film. Unfortunately, I think strong minds may have let the moment get the best of them.
If you know anything about history, then you know that there is a lot of backstabbing and conspiring when it comes to the monarchy. MARY QUEEN OF SCOT is a steady flow of sexuality, deceit, and outright evil pitted against these women. It can be frustrating and exhausting, but that doesn’t make actions like these toward women anymore untrue. MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS may have been taken place in the 1500’s, but still presents a voice that can be paralleled even today for the unfair treatment and constant harassment against the female gender. It’s good to see a female directing a “big production” picture in Hollywood. I hope to see more from Ms. Rourke.
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS may not be the best film to cover the monarchy, but it is a capable, entertaining film with some wonderful performances from both Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie. And .In the end MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS did manage to garner a couple of Oscar nominations for Best Costume and Best Makeup & Hairstyle.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: After more than 250 4K’s reviewed, I’ve come to really appreciate the pops of color in an otherwise drab setting. It turns out that MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS uses that technique in spades and every time, it looks incredible on this 4K disc. The contrasts shown whenever a splash of color comes on the screen (most notably with actress’s wardrobe) look amazing. Aside from that, this is a very strong presentation, featuring nice improvements in details when compared to the Blu-ray.
Audio: The Dolby Atmos track is equally impressive as the video presentation, featuring robust use of the surround channels.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no 4K exclusive special features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which has the following special features:
Commentary with Josie Rourke and Composer Max Richter: These two give a good commentary track, even if it tends to lean too heavy on the music since Max Richter is the composer on the film. It’s not often you have a composer join the director, but this commentary works surprisingly well.
Featurettes (9:37): Three short featurettes that are more history focused than you would expect. I would have loved a longer exploration of the differences between the movie and the real events.