The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (2nd June 2019).
The Film

"The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey" (1988)

During the dark ages of the 14th century where Europe was overcome with the plague of The Black Death. In a small English village, a young boy named Griffin (played by Hamish Gough) has the ability to forsee the future, which included helping the village with its crops and other dangers. This time he has a vision of how the town could be saved from the plague - to place a holy cross on the top of the tallest church before dawn. A group of men led by Griffin's older brother Connor (played by Bruce Lyons) take Griffin along on a journey through a mystical cave which leads them to a place they had never dreamed or could possibly imaging - a late twentieth century city.

Filmmaker Vincent Ward said that years ago while trekking in Germany, he tried to cross an autobahn on foot, which was a scary experience of having an onslaught of speeding cars on a large multi-lane highway. If a person who had never seen an automobile suddenly encounters a highway, what would they think? From there the idea sparked of a film about men from the distant past suddenly warping through time to the modern era. While the plot with medieval men suddenly appearing in the future could be a well off comedy with them looking at modern technology and getting in various forms of trouble, "The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey" takes things on a more serious note. The men take a time traveling journey, yet they are unaware of it being time travel and only see cars, electric lights, multi-story buildings and television as the work of mystical arts of world outside of their village. There is no explanation on why they time traveled or how it happened, but instead focus on the group's struggles as they wander through the city at night, only relying on the sometimes random visions of young Griffin as the guide. They are not there to waste time in the modern city but doing whatever it takes to finish their quest.

"The Navigator" is a visually wonderful film as it starts in harsh black and white in the 14th century scenes evoking "Andrei Rublev" or "The Seventh Seal", then shifting to color for the modern scenes. As it takes place mostly at night, the lighting through torches the men carry, the streetlamps, the headlights, and the flames in the factory look wonderfully lit against the darkness surrounding. The cinematography by Geoffrey Simpson is absolutely stunning, as is the great score by Davood A. Tabrizi which mixes Celtic instruments, pounding drums, and mystical chants throughout. But the shoot itself was not an easy one. The lengthy amount of night scenes, the segment of a horse on a rowboat, the rural mountain locations of the 14th century, and others were not easy, and the funding from the New Zealand Film Commission being suddenly cut short led to delays. Fortunately the Australian Film Commission was able to help with the funding and it became a New Zealand/Australia co-production.

The film opened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1988 where it was nominated for the Palme d'Or and received rave reviews. As it opened in New Zealand and Australia later in the year along with other territories throughout 1988 and 1989, the film won a slew of awards. It received six AFI Awards and eleven New Zealand Film and TV Awards along with some at other festivals around the world. While it was not a massive hit at the box office it did have a second life on television and home video, with even some television broadcasts having to note that some sequences at the start are in black and white. In the DVD era the film was released in various territories but none had significant extras. That was rectified by Arrow Video, who released the film on Blu-ray in 2018 with new and vintage bonus materials, with a beautiful transfer from the New Zealand Film Commission's restoration, supervised and approved by Vincent Ward. Umbrella Entertainment has now released the film in Australia with its own extras and sporting the restored version.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The New Zealand Film Commission's digital restoration was supervised and approved by director Vincent Ward. The restored version is a visual stunner, with crisp blacks for the night scenes, the harsh black and white for the 14th century scenes, and the intricate lighting and tints for the 20th century scenes looking astonishing. Cuts, specs, and other damage have been removed almost entirely, leaving a very clean image that still sports a healthy amount of natural film grain without artificial sharpening. It's an absolute stunner visually and the transfer beautifully shows it off wonderfully.

The film's runtime is 91:25.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
The original stereo track is presented lossless, with a great amount of separation for the music and effects. Dialogue is very clear in a mostly centered form. The restoration has also given a clean sounding track, with no troubles with hiss, pops, or other anomalies. Like the visuals, the aural track is also wonderful.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a yellow font. It's clear and easy to read with the choice seemingly for the words to be easier to follow for the black and white segments. There are a few errors though, such as spacing like "Youcan’tisolate…" rather than "You can’t isolate…", though it happens very rarely.

Extras

"Path of the Navigator: Vincent's Odyssey" interview with Vincent Ward (38:53)
In this new and exclusive interview, Ward reflects on the film, from its initial ideas to the coproduction issue, the special effects on a small budget, the stuntwork and safety issues, and much more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Image Gallery (12:30)
Poster artwork, home video artwork, album art, promotional materials, stills, newspaper clippings are presented in a slideshow form without music or narration.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Theatrical Trailer (2:24)
The trailer is in extremely good condition, looking as good as the remastered main feature.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


As stated before, the DVD editions of the past had very little if any extras. The Arrow Video US and UK Blu-rays exclusively have an Appreciation by film critic Nick Roddick and "Kaleidoscope: Vincent Ward", a 1989 New Zealand TV documentary profile. It also shares the theatrical trailer.

Packaging

The package states region B only, but it is actually region ALL.
The inlay is reversible, with the opposite side having identical artwork except for the Australian PG rating logo removed.

Overall

"The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey" is a visually and aurally wonderful adventure film that brings wonder and fun with quite a few surprises along the way. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray sports an excellent transfer in audio and video, with a great exclusive director's interview as a bonus, making this release highly recommended.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.