The Marsh King's Daughter - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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The Marsh King's Daughter


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Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :2stars:
Final Score: :3.5stars:




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Movie

Virality is sort of a weird aspect of the online life. Things come and go as fads over the years, with things falling in and out of style as quickly as they come. Yeti is replaced by Hydro Flask, then suddenly white women are trampling each other trying to get a Stanley mug in Target before you can say “bob’s your uncle”. Back in 2017 the entire internet also blew up with thousands upon thousands (if not millions) of people reading the sudden smash hit book “The Marsh King’s Daugther” by Karen Dionne. Women everywhere (it was mostly a geared towards them for the audience) were crowing about it, and your local bookstore couldn’t keep the paperbacks in stock to save their lives. Fast forward 7 years and another flash in the pan gets a chance to act in the film variant. Around that same 2017 time period Daisy Ridley was the new it girl. Disney’s The Force Awakens had catapulted the young girl into super stardom, with everyone trying to get her into a film (with some fairly miserable results). Sadly post Star Wars, Daisy has faded into near obscuring as her side projects outside of the sci-fi venture has all dive bombed pretty badly. So I think it a tad fitting that a viral actress, is starring in the film adaptation of a viral book, but with some decidedly decent results despite my cynical nature poo-pooing the production after watching the trailer.

Helena (Brooklyn Prince in childhood and Daisy Ridley in adulthood) is living a fairly minimalist life out in the marshes of Michigan with her father Jacob (Ben Mendelsohn) and her timid mother Beth (Caren Pistorius). Jacob teaches the young girl all of the ways of the wild. How to live off the land, and protect your family at all costs. However, things aren’t exactly as it seems being that Helena is a bit of an unreliable narrator. Jacob has actually kidnapped Beth and forced them to live off the grid, and after a startling turn of events Beth is able to escape with Helena and get Jacob behind bars.

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Fast forwarding some 20 years, Helena (now played by Ridley) is all grown up and living a “boring” suburban life married to her husband Stephen (Garrett Hedlund) with a beautiful daughter named Marigold (Joey Carson). The wood raised woman has finally grown up and realized all of the brainwashing that her criminal father actually did, and the scars run deep through her psyche. When Jacob busts out of jail with another prisoner, Helena realizes that her nightmare isn’t over, as Jacob will stop at NOTHING to reunite with his “family”, even if it means doing the same thing to Helena that he did to Beth all those years ago.

I had literally ZERO expectations going into The Marsh King’s Daughter this last week. Director Neil Burger is a bit of a storied direction, putting out cheap schlock like Divergent, to overly sappy emotional dramas like Upside Down, to really neat magic thrillers with The Illusionist. But his recent entries (such as Voyagers) haven’t really done that well, and when you couple in the fact that Daisy Ridley has basically been box office poison outside of Star Wars, I was simply not expecting much. Turns out, the film is pretty good. I have never read Karen Dionne’s novel, but the film itself is a solid thriller, blending elements of Brie Larson’s The Room with your typical “man vs. wild” adventure story. Daisy Ridley plays the same weirdly emotionless (yet cries a lot) character that she always does, and Garrett Hedlund stiffly acts the few scenes he’s in, but Ben Mendelsohn simply steals the movie as Jacob whenever he’s on screen. Ben simply can’t turn in a bad performance, and his intensity and creepiness as the psychopath that is Jacob is mesmerizing.




Rating:

Rated R for Violence




Video: :4stars:
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Lionsgate’s 2.39:1 framed Blu-ray looks really good on Blu-ray, with some strange aesthetic choices that bring down the score barely a half notch. The entire film is bathed in a have green/yellow haze that permeates every corner of the film. The Panavision filmed look is crisp and clean for the most part, but there is that slightly gauzy look that stems from the heavy filters used to get that green camera look. Some of the shots in the forest look a bit gauzy as a result and may not show perfect detail. However, when we come into grown up Helena’s life things get a lot better. The green tinge is still there, but it’s a more clean and visually appealing look, with solid colors and some great outdoor shots. Greens and blues and browns REALLY pop in the film, and the black levels don’t have any problems showcasing great detail levels in low light shots as well. All in all, this is a very competent encode, bordering on great.









Audio: :4.5stars:
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The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is probably the highlight of the entire film, as it is an extremely encompassing and nuanced 5.1 mix. The film starts out in the forest, with the cracks and creaks of the woodland animals lighting up the mains and surrounds, punctuated by sharp gun shots, or the slapping of water while Jacob tries to drown Beth. The thumps and “bumps” from Adam Bzowski’s score keep things interesting, but the film’s audio slows down a bit during the second act. However, the 3rd act with Helena returning to the woods once more brings out the full bodied and robust sound design that was present for the first 30 minutes of the movie. Bass is tight and punchy, and it’s a well balanced mix. I have zero complaints.












Extras: :2stars:
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• Audio Commentary with Director Neil Burger
• The Art of Survival: Making THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER
• Theatrical Trailer












Final Score: :3.5stars:

The film itself has a few twists and turns, but is really just your general psychological thriller at heart with the a typical uplifting ending. Was it the greatest movie of 2023? No. But it is a very capable thriller with some solid performances and I did not feel like I walked away from my home theater thinking I wasted my time. Simply put, it’s a good movie that actually has some good rewatch value. Personally I found this one of the surprise hits of the year mostly because I was expecting absolutely nothing from the movie, and ended up coming away pleasantly surprised. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great for the most part, but extras are limited. Definitely worth a watch if you’re into thrillers.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Daisy Ridley, Ben Mendelsohn, Garrett Hedlund, Caren Pistorius, Gil Birmingham
Directed by: Neil Burger
Written by: Mark L. Smith
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, French DD 5.1, English DVS
Subtitles: French, English SDH, Spanish
Studio: Lionsgate
Rated: R
Runtime: 108 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 2nd, 2024
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Recommendation: Good Watch

 

Sonnie

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