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Marco Polo: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray Review)

Marco PoloThis epic adventure follows a young Marco Polo, who finds himself in the court of the great Kublai Khan and must navigate a world of greed, betrayal and sexual intrigue as the Mongol leader wages a bloody campaign to become Emperor of the World. Re-creating the legendary explorer’s 13th century exploits in the Far East, this historical drama chronicles the intrigues, duplicity and greed running rampant in the court of the Mongolian ruler Khan.

Marco Polo

The Series 

I remember when they showed the trailers for this Netflix original series aGames of Thrones intermission but was never able to catch it via Netflix, because I just got buried with other things to watch – Marco Polo got put in the back burner queue…until now.

Marco Polo (Lorenzo Richelmy) travels through the Mongol Empire with his father – they’re merchants from Venice and want to be in good standing with Emperor Kublai Kahn (Benedict Wong), the grandson of Genghis Kahn. They start out with some ill intentions of being on a trade mission but it’s quickly deciphered that they are on a mission from one of the pontiffs. Apparently Kahn’s methods of conquering don’t sit well with other powers that be. In addition to these problems Kahn is essentially at war with the Song Dynasty and their ruthless chancellor.

There are a lot of pots that folks continuously put their hands in in this show. Oh, but back to Marco. His father basically ditches him due to Kahn allowing Polo’s family access to the Silk Road to trade. Polo becomes a prisoner of sorts but is also allowed to learn the ways of the emperor in terms of tactics and war. Polo is also trained by Kahn’s legendary fighter known as One Hundred Eyes (Tom Wu) (the irony being that One Hundred Eyes is blind). This sets up an almost Morpheus and Neo type of relationship where Marco is molded into a warrior, because he’s not necessarily a prisoner, but he will need to pull his weight around and fight for Kahn if he has to.

That’s the basis of the show. Marco is a suave fish out of water that will get molded into a warrior before all is said and done. I will start out with what I didn’t like about the show before moving to what I did. For a show that is called MARCO POLO the character is rather uninteresting for about half the show. It’s strange, because I was actually more interested in the politics and warfare of Kublai Kahn, magnificently played by Benedict Wong. Kahn commands the screen. Hell, part of me wishes that they had called the show Kahn instead. It’s not until halfway through the show that Polo finds his own footing and good thing too, because as he becomes a better fighter he also becomes a better diplomat and advisor to Kahn. That’s when the show hit its stride and by the end I really wanted to see where it would lead.

I noticed on the IMDB page that there is no scheduled second season but there is something called Marco Polo: One Hundred Eyes, so that may be a spin off film for another character or just maybe a condensed version of a second season. Who knows. For now, and if your Netflix queue or Blu-ray queue can bear it, Marco Polo: The Complete First Season is worth a view, but taper those expectations.

 

Marco Polo

Video 

Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1

Clarity/Detail: Marco Polo was surprisingly shot in a 2.00:1 ratio, which lends itself to showing the viewer the vast Mongol empire that I’m sure the creators wanted to illustrate. It’s a nice touch. Contrast levels are boosted in some parts but sharpness levels are consistent.

Depth: Even though Kahn holds vast amounts of land – we only get to see a few worthy shots in terms of typical beauty. The majority of the “depth” is left out in the field and showcase mighty vistas and great armies.

Black Levels: Black levels hold strong and I only detected an instance or two of light crush – nothing of deal of a breaker here.

Color Reproduction: The color wheel spins from drab and mute to colorful and decorative from scene to scene. There is a nice balance to be had there.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are natural overall.

Noise/Artifacts: Noise, artifacts, etc., were not a problem.

 

Marco Polo 

Video 

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: The lossless soundtrack on the Marco Polo Blu-ray takes no prisoners, however, since the show plays on a political angle in addition to lots of action, that comes through quite nicely in the home theater spectrum of things.

Low Frequency Extension: The low-end bass levels are outstanding. Kahn’s armies quake as they go into battle and that’s a welcomed here.

Surround Sound Presentation: The surround sound channels handle the various artifacts coming through back stage. Arrows, spears, etc., all go from back to front and front to back in surprisingly realistic fashion/

Dialogue Reproduction: The show has plenty of dialogue and it comes in crystal clear even if a lot of it is heavily accented. No complaints here.

 

Marco Polo

Extras 

The Marco Polo Blu-ray set comes packed with more than enough extras to satisfy those who may want more out of the subject matters. It’s no substitute for the history books but it is interesting and somewhat plentiful. The Marco Polo Documentary is my favorite of the bunch and in it we have interviews with show creator John Fusco, cast, crew, and actual historians. Everything else is broken up into typical featurettes and certain featurettes don’t have sound or narration – like the visual fx ones – those just have the side-by-side comparison shots of what was real and what was on set.

  • The Marco Polo Documentary (HD)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD)
  • Gag Reel (HD)
  • The Martial Arts of Marco Polo (HD)
  • Fight Scene Rehearsals (HD)
  • The Visual Effects of Marco Polo (HD)
  • The Making of the Opening Titles (HD)
  • Concept Art-to-Scene Comparison (HD)
  • Concept Art Gallery (HD)
  • Costume Gallery (HD)

 

Marco Polo

Summary 

Marco Polo, thankfully, ends on a higher note then when it began, and made me look forward to a second season. The Blu-ray set has above average video and reference audio and some informative special features. The set is currently available to stream in high definition on Netflix but if you want the real deal with all the extras and full lossless audio then the Blu-ray set is for you. Recommended.

Marco Polo: The Complete First Season is available on Blu-ray & DVD!

ORDER NOW!

Marco Polo

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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