Monday, August 22, 2011

Michael Flatley Returns as Lord of the Dance Blu-ray Review

Since its premiere, LORD OF THE DANCE has been captivating audiences and critics around the globe and has grossed over one billion dollars worldwide.  Now, as the Lord of the Dance tour returns to over 45 U.S. cities in 2011, fans will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, when the internationally lauded LORD OF THE DANCE – the highest-grossing tour in the history of entertainment — and its creator, producer, director, and star, Michael Flatley, brings his vision to home audiences, giving the viewer an unparalleled sense of the scale of the show as never seen before!

Film (4 out of 5 stars) 

Over the years I’ve heard about Michael Flatley and his show The Lord of the Dance but I’ve never actually seen it.  Not too long ago, one of our reviewers named Greg raved about the Lord of the Dance 3D film so when given the chance to review this Blu-ray I decided to go for it.  Michael Flatley originally found fame in the production of Riverdance before he left it over creative differences.  Determined to create his own dance show that would play stadiums and arenas, which had never been done before.  Flatley went back to Ireland to audition a troupe of talented dancers for a new production that would later be called Lord of the Dance.
The show went on to become a worldwide hit and was so successful, that there were two troupes of dancers performing the show with one in the U.S. and the other one in Europe.  That show spawned an expanded version of the show called Feet of Flames, that combined the two troupes into one to make it an even bigger production than before.  Eventually, Flatley stopped touring and enjoyed life until he saw the show again years later which made him want to return to the stage.  This Blu-ray is the record of his return to the show after a twelve year absence for their show in Dublin – where it all started for him.
I’m not going to pretend to understand the plot of the show as it’s very vague.  Perhaps the live shows have a playbill or something that lets them know what’s going on but I think I got the gist of it which later turned out to be mostly correct.  On the most basic level, the show is about the fight between good and evil. Flatley’s character has an over-sized belt buckle that says “Lord of the Dance” and it must have some magical properties to it since the forces of evil want it for themselves.  There’s also a female jester or harlequin that I’m guessing is some kind of innocent spirit of goodness but who inadvertently causes trouble.   There’s also some kind of dark lord figure with some extreme sports-looking followers.  Best of all, there’s a score of lovely ladies who come and dance in unison as well as two beautiful fiddlers who also appear occasionally.
Not that any of the plot really mattered to me or probably to most of the people that go to the show.  We are there to see the dancing and the plot is just a contrivance for the dance routines to hang on.  Once you remove the simple plot out of the equation, then you can really appreciate the show as an artistic endeavor.  It’s an impressive sight to see around fifty people dancing in unison and when the show focuses on the dancing, this is a lot of fun to watch. Unfortunately, between the dancers needing rest and a chance to change their costumes, there’s a lot of “story” to have to sit though until the next dance routine starts up.  While I hate having to wait for the dancing sequences to start again, when they do start, it’s something to see and well worth sitting through the static parts of the show.

Video (4 out of 5 stars) 

This 1080p (2.35:1) transfer is a mixed bag since it has a lot going for it and a few strikes against it.  Let’s start with the positives: detail is very nice most of the time, and colors are vivid and well represented.  As for the negatives, there are many shots that look soft and the lighting scheme used for the live show didn’t help matters either as it’s so busy that it can be distracting.  Filmed with RED digital cameras, this looks good overall but I suspect that in their effort to film this in 3D, they struggled with finding a balance for the lighting setup that would work for both the 2D and the 3D versions.  Sadly, even though this show was filmed in 3D, that version was not included on this disc which also why the show has been renamed from Lord of the Dance 3D to Michael Flatley Returns as Lord of the Dance.

Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This Blu-ray offers two excellent choices for your audio pleasure: a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix and a LPCM 2.0 track that both sound incredible.  Obviously, if you have a choice you should go with the 7.1 mix, but the LPCM 2.0 track is also very good.  They both offer a dynamic mix that has remarkable fidelity and range.  The music by Ronan Hardiman sounds fantastic and is well balanced across all of the channels.  The dancer’s footwork is also captured well which is a good thing since at one point the only sound is Flatley’s feet providing the beat.  They did a very good job with both of these sound mixes.

Special Features (3 out of 5 stars) 

I was kind of disappointed that there weren’t more extras on here, but the ones that are here are pretty good and in high definition.
  • Behind the Scenes Feature – At almost twenty minutes long, this featurette is a look at how the show came about and the hurdles and challenges that Flatley had to endure to bring the show to life.  There’s interviews with Flatley of course, along with the some of the other cast and crew including a humorous confession from the Dark Lord dancer from the show who relates a tale of when he actually gave Flatley a black eye by accident during a show.
  • Deleted Scenes – A look at four deleted scenes:  Marble Halls, Simasa, Carrick Fergus, and an extended Encore.  I’m guessing these were removed due to time constraints rather than because of quality since all of them were pretty good.

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars) 

While there is no doubt that Michael Flatley has an over-sized ego, there’s also no doubt about his gift for dancing. While I didn’t like the story that framed the dancing, I was really impressed with the various dance routines that are even more impressive when done in synchronization with a bunch of other dancers.  There’s a reason the Lord of the Dance shows have made over a Billion dollars worldwide, so if you haven’t seen this show yet, or just want to see it up close and personal, then you should pick this Blu-ray up!
Order your copy today!

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