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Featured DVD / Blu-ray Review: Marley

August 6th, 2012

Marley - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

It is very rare for a documentary to top $1 million, especially if it is not about cute animals. So far this year, Magnolia has shepherded two such films to the million dollar club, and I've gotten to review both of them. Marley is the second, will it be as engaging as the first I reviewed.

The Movie

The film is a very comprehensive biography of Bob Marley starting from his birth and his childhood. He grew up in poverty and saw music as his only way out. He certainly did find a massive audience for his music, but he started out small recording his first single at age 16 before helping to found The Wailers. From there we hear a basic chronological account of his life. There are plenty of interviews from his fellow musicians, some of whom he worked with, some of whom were rivals. They talk about his drive, the state of the music industry in Jamaica in the 1960s and how the money was so poor he had to take another job to survive, even though The Wailers were becoming big hits locally. We hear about his personal life with interviews with his widow, his kids, his girlfriend. We see his rise to fame, the dissolution of The Wailers, his first band, and his rise as a solo artist. We also see his involvement with the Rastafari movement and how the religion, and later his politics, motivated his music. It is very comprehensive, but very simple as well, which makes it difficult to discuss in great detail without simply repeating what the film says. The director, Kevin MacDonald, doesn't need a lot of style or flash and lets his subject speak for himself. ... Or not.

Actually that brings us nicely to my second biggest complaint about the movie, which is the lack of Bob Marley in the movie. Unfortunately, this is something the filmmakers had absolutely no control over, as there is very little surviving footage of Bob Marley being interviewed. The biggest complaint I have is the lack of music, and by that I mean the lack of complete songs. There is nearly wall-to-wall music in this film, but we almost never hear more than a snippet of each song. By the halfway point in the movie, I was itching to hear a full song without interruption. However, as I've said many times in the past, if the biggest complaint you have about a documentary is, it makes you want to experience more, then it is a great documentary. I do have one more complaint, and that's with the lack of English for the Hard of Hearing subtitles on the DVD. There are some subtitles in the film that are there when the filmmakers think the Jamaican accent is too thick to decipher; however, they overestimated my abilities in this area more than a few times.

The Extras

There are plenty of extras on the DVD, starting with an audio commentary track with the director, Kevin MacDonald, and Bob Marley's son, Ziggy Marley. Around the World is a 19-minute featurette about the effects Bob Marley's music has had around the world from Jamaica to Japan and many places in-between. Next up is a 19-minute extended interview with Bunny Walker. Children's Memories is ten minutes of extended interviews with some of Bob Marley's children. Listening to "I'm Loose" is a four-minute montage of people listening to Bob Marley speaking during a concert and reacting to his banter. There is a short audio clip of Ziggy Marley's radio show, Legends of Reggae. Finally there are some trailers, images, and ads for the soundtrack and Jamaica.

I don't have the Blu-ray to compare. It costs $5 or about 40% more, which is a little on the high side, but not a dealbreaker.

The Verdict

Marley does an excellent job of detailing Bob Marley's life, his career, his philosophy. If you are a fan, it is absolutely worth checking out. If you are not a fan going in, you might be convinced by the time the film is over. The DVD and the Blu-ray are both worth picking up, but neither is a much better deal than the other.

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Filed under: Video Review, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Marley