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To say 2020 and 2021 have been challenging would be an understatement. And it’s precisely in times like these that great quality entertainment comes into its own. As does nostalgia, and so it recently occurred to us that just over two years have passed since Game of Thrones concluded its eight year run. In those two years, a lot has changed in the world, making the controversy over the show’s final season seem a little overblown. Another thing that happened is that the Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection from HBO released in early November 2020. The release was largely unnoticed due to everything going on in the world, which is a shame. Because this is arguably the best Blu-ray ever made. All thirty-three discs of it. Yes, that’s 33 discs, and the consistent quality across all of them is something else and a wonder to behold.
Whether you’ve never seen the show or want to rewatch Game of Thrones in spectacular, glorious 4K HDR, this collection is what you’ve been waiting for. It’s also what you’ve been waiting for to truly flex the muscles of your home cinema projector and dedicated 4K UHD Blu-ray player. With respect to PC or console-embedded players, they’ll do OK, but they lack the dedicated processing power to show just how nuanced the amazing job the team did on this Blu-ray collection is.
This set looks like an entire army of meisters toiled for a good year or two getting the image as close to perfection as possible. We’ve seen plenty of incredible-looking Blu-rays before, but this one takes the direwolf bread. It makes the streamed version available on HBO MAX/Go look almost like it’s running off a DVD. This achievement is all the more impressive once you realize a lot of this is actually upscaled 2160p, because the first two seasons were recorded in full HD, not UHD. It was only from the third season that 4K became more or less the standard for mastering Game of Thrones. By season six, 4K was firmly the only resolution episodes were mastered in.
However, from our observation of Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection, this discrepancy doesn’t show. The first season looks only marginally less sharp and vivid than an episode out of season seven, for example. Overall, the collection we have here looks like those demos stores use to sell TVs. It’s incredible, and reveals tons of details in every frame you’ve probably missed while originally watching the show.
But more than just resolution seals the deal here. The collection supports Dolby Vision and HDR10, and in our testing the latter looks superb. When showcased by a suitably-capable projector, you get bold and bright elements that don’t conflict with dark sections of the image. Also, the collection fixes most of the problems the original run had with inaccurate black levels that lead to loss of detail, notably several nighttime battle scenes people took issue with towards the end of the series.
Color, resolution, brightness, dark levels, complete lack of image noise, we could go on. This isn’t just any Blu-ray, it’s a masterclass release that really deserves to be celebrated. Something to note is that somehow the Complete Collection looks far better than the 4K Blu-rays that have been around for a long time of the first season. That season, as included in the collection, has almost exponentially better detail than its initial 4K release. The first time you see Ned Stark’s outfit you’ll gape in awe at the amount of detail revealed with every strand. Granted, occasionally this kind of fidelity is sort of counter-productive. Practical effects now appear so detailed, they can’t hide behind fuzzy presentation, so a severed body part is clearly a rubber prop with some pasta sauce around it. But this is a small price to pay.
All eight seasons of the show have been remastered for proper Dolby Atmos, which of course sounds amazing if you have a good sound system or high quality headphones. There’s also support for Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1, with the latter sounding excellent via integrated projector speakers. Even if you’re not an audiophile, the discs beautifully downscale to regular stereo and sound far better than the streamed version.
As if eight seasons of Game of Thrones weren’t enough, the Complete Collection includes three discs with a whopping fifteen hours of special features. Those three discs are 1080p but still look good, and upscale very well on any decent Blu-ray player. In total, the collection clocks in at almost 4200 minutes. Yes, you’ll need to clear up some time to enjoy all of it.
But it’ll be worth the effort, because there have been few examples of Blu-ray living up to its promise the way it does here. We don’t know who exactly created Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection, and we enjoy the mystery, but they did a great service to fans of the show, fans of quality entertainment, and the cause of home cinema projectors. Watching this masterpiece on a large screen is almost as awe-inspiring as Dornish red.
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