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Marley (Blu-ray Review)

Marley is a documentary focused on Bob Marley’s life.  The film is not about taking any sort of stance, it simply exists as a fascinating record of an influential figure, whose music has literally had an effect on the world.  Following a limited theatrical release, accompanying its availability on VOD, the film is now available on Blu-ray with a slew of extras, all further helping to delve into the life and influence of Robert Nesta Marley.  Featuring a straight-forward account of Marley’s life, complete with interviews from members of his family, friends, and others with some sort of connection to him, not to mention a fantastic soundtrack that is composed of live and rare performance footage, Marley is pretty much the ultimate take on understanding plenty about the reggae legend.  Continue to learn more about the film and how this Blu-ray stands up.

Film: 

As mentioned, Marley chronicles the life of Bob Marley, from his birth in 1945 to his unfortunate, early death at the age of 36 in 1981.  The film begins by introducing his background.  Marley was of mixed race ancestry, born to a Jamaican mother and an English father, moving from rural Jamaica to Kingston when he was 12.  Marley produced his first record in 1962 with his friends who would later become part of his group, the Wailers.  Bob Marley would later go on to create the kind of reggae music that became generally recognized as modern Caribbean music.

From there, the film goes over the career that Bob Marley and the Wailers had, including their various ups and downs, before centering more closely on Marley’s simple decisions to communicate his messages of peace, freedom, and equality through his music.  He was concerned with Jamaica for sure and would do enough to effect the state of the countries politics, short of actually running for office.  There is also plenty to learn in regards to Marley’s relationships and the family he developed during his time.  We also see how his Rastafarian beliefs would lead to his regards towards spirituality, which would lead to somewhat exaggerated accounts of his use of ganja, but also towards reasons behind his shortened lifetime.

In what I think is a high compliment, one of the best things I could say, is that after watching this lengthy documentary (it comes in at just under 2 ½ hours), I really feel like there would be no need for a mainstream studio biopic about Bob Marley.  This film covers his life accordingly and provides a huge amount of detail about the man, even as it has been fully authorized by his family, which could have easily led to withholding certain pieces of information.  Instead, there is plenty to be gleaned and it is all quite interesting, thanks to the strength of the direction from director Kevin MacDonald, who, in the past, has been involved with live action features (The Last King of Scotland) as well as documentaries (Touching the Void).  Here he is able to utilize the approval of all the family members properly by unfolding an all-encompassing story, complete with interviews, archival footage of Marley speaking about himself and his views, and plenty of concert footage.

Having the rights to use all of Marley’s music in the film is certainly a plus.  The film features a wealth of concert footage, which is brought up appropriately, as we see where Marley was and what his intents were at the time in regards to the meanings behind these various singles.  This footage also factors into the various times of his life concerning the state of his own personal relationships, as well as his relationship with Jamaica, and those responding to what is in the words of his songs.

Kevin MacDonald’s direction and use of newly shot sequences that provide aerial perspectives over Bob Marley’s homeland, as well as various areas he had been to further aid in making this film very watchable, as it is a great looking film, considering how all this footage has been edited together and made into a singular presentation about one man.  Acting essentially as a documentarian, MacDonald is only heard from briefly by asking various interviewees to expand on certain points and utilizes minimal amounts of on screen text to provide context.  It may be a lengthy film, but it goes out of its way to be as well presented as possible.

One of the highlights of the film and, for various reasons, the most touching portion comes at the end, as we follow Marley into the last several months of his life.  Seeing how his appearance changed, as cancer took hold and caused him to lose weight and appear quite frail, even as he continued touring, before eventually seeking help at a clinic in Germany.  Having followed the story of this man with few agenda’s and wanting to live a free spirited life, while promoting peace, I can’t say I wasn’t caught up in how Marley’s final days were portrayed. The accompanying closing credits were just as affecting, as they proved that his legend would continue to live on.

It is appropriate that the best-selling reggae album of all time is Legend.  The album that arrived three years after the death of Marley, which is a compilation of all of Bob Marley and The Wailer’s biggest hits, is appropriately named, given that, regardless of whether or not everyone likes reggae music, the legacy of the man is still holding strong, with his messages that involved standing up for peace, freedom, and equality still plays into the social consciousness of those who embrace it.  Marley is a great documentary that should do a good job to help explain to anyone simply familiar with the music of Bob Marley as to why he was/is not only a popular musician, but an important figure.

Video: 

Marley arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC-encoded transfer, but there is something quite interesting about the film in general.  Given that the film obviously needs to incorporate a lot of archival footage, I was very surprised to see that the footage not only looked good, but was mostly presented in HD.  Kevin MacDonald and his crew must have gone out and transferred a lot of the old footage into HD, which is pretty awesome.  As a result, along with the well shot and colorful interview and location/aerial footage, the various clips from the past, such as concerts, old footage of Jamaica, and various interviews with Bob Marley and others.  Overall, given that the film could have looked vastly different, were it not handled as effectively, this is a pretty great video transfer onto Blu.

Audio: 

I mean, the disc practically earns 4 stars alone, right away, due to the presence of the fantastic soundtrack alone.  The Blu-ray is fitted with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that not only does justice to all of the music used in the film, but, in some cases, may be the be presentation some of these songs have ever had.  Besides the soundtrack, the rest of the film sounds quite good as well, with a lot of focus going to the interview footage.  As it is all professionally shot, it naturally sounds properly mixed and clear, even when some of the thicker accents are fitted with subtitles.  Again, similar to the video presentation, it is important to note the use of archival footage and the fact that it never had much of a chance of sounding pristine; however, nothing is ever to garbled or unlistenable.  This is overall a pretty great audio presentation.

Extras: 

Even after a 145-minute movie about the man, there are still plenty of interesting extras to be found on the disc.  It is a nice collection of bonuses that do a fine job in supplementing the film overall.

Features Include:

Commentary with Director Kevin MacDonald and David “Ziggy” Marley – An interesting series of comments by MacDonald addressing the challenges of putting together this documentary and getting the blessing from the family to do so.  Having Ziggy on the track is basically a bonus.

Around the World – I was pretty caught up with the end credits of the film, which features people from around the world celebrating Marley.  This is my favorite extra on the set, as it further explores the cultural impact in a little more detail and in some countries one would not necessarily expect.

Extended Interview with Bunny Wailer – Given how interesting this man was in the film, it was nice to see a little bit more of what he had to say.

Children’s Memories:  Additional Interviews with David “Ziggy” Marley, Stephen Marley and Cedella Marley – Even more interview footage.

Listening to “I’m Loose” – Interviewees listening to some rare audio of Bob Marley

SiriusXM: Ziggy Marley’s Legends of Reggae – Note:  Audio-Only

Photo Gallery

Visit Jamaica Promo

Marley Soundtrack Ad

Theatrical Trailer

Summary: 

Marley is a film I found to be fascinating.  It is an all-encompassing documentary that really delivers on providing lots of detail about the third-world’s most famous Superstar, while also proving to be very watchable.  There are tons of informative interviews, archival footage, and rare concert footage, let alone great-looking shots of various locations Bob Marley was tied into in some way that keeps the film quite engrossing, even with its lengthy run time.  Add to that the fantastic Blu-ray presentation, which includes great audio (the soundtrack is definitely quality) and video transfers (upgraded archival footage!) and a nice collection of extras.  I was happy to be jammin’ to this Blu-ray disc.

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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