David S. Goyer has made a name for himself as one of Hollywood’s go-to guys for adapting comic book superheroes into live-action films. He had a hand in ushering in the modern era of comic book movies with Blade, helped guide the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy, wrote Man of Steel, and is tapped to pen the sequel featuring the ultimate clash between Superman and Batman. That doesn’t include unproduced screenplays based on the Flash and Dr. Strange. It’s not too much of a surprise that Goyer’s new television series, Da Vinci’s Demons, has a comic book feel. In fact, two of Marvel’s favored writers, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction, will pen episodes for season 2.
Starz had great success with the highly stylized Spartacus and dip their feet once more into historical drama with a little less sex and violence. On second thought, Da Vinci’s Demons is more like historical fantasy than historical drama. Tom Riley is the young and sexy Leonardo Da Vinci, who is a lover, a master swordsman, an inventor, a detective, a medical examiner, an artist, and a provocateur. He was, after all, the original Renaissance man. Rest assured, this Da Vinci does not sit in his parlor for hours painstakingly painting one of his timeless masterpieces.
At his core, Da Vinci is desperate to silence one of his biggest critics, his own father, who is appalled at every turn by his bastard son. Despite constructing a winged harness and a wondrous clockwork bird, Da Vinci is hardly satisfied. Da Vinci boldly makes a pitch to become the primary weapons designer for Lorenzo de Medici (Elliot Cowan), the ruler of Florence. This comes at an opportune time as the Medicis are locked in a power struggle with the Vatican and Pope Sixtus IV (James Faulkner). The Pope and his right-hand man, Count Riario (Blake Ritson), have a spy planted in the house of Medici in the form of Lorenzo’s own mistress, Lucrezia Donati (Laura Haddock), who is also carrying on an affair with Da Vinci. If that wasn’t enough, Da Vinci is approached by the mysterious Al-Rahim (Alexander Siddig) and tasked with finding the Book of Leaves, a fabled artifact also sought by Count Riario.
Anchor Bay has released all 8 episodes of the first season in a 3-disc set. The episodes included are:
“The Hanged Man” – Da Vinci sets his sights on not only on building cannons for the House of Medici, but also on Lucrezia Donati, Lorenzo’s prized mistress.
“The Serpent” – Count Riario tests Da Vinci’s mettle as the great inventor works out the kinks in his mortal cannons.
“The Prisoner” – Despite being an atheist, Da Vinci agrees to assist a convent when the nuns are stricken by a number of demonic possessions.
“The Magician” – Count Riario leads the first strike against Florence by attempting to overwhelm Da Vinci’s new guns by sheer number.
“The Tower” – Da Vinci is arrested for sodomy and put on trial with the judge and prosecutor wholly in the pocket of Pope Sixtus.
“The Devil” – Da Vinci’s hunt for the Book of Leaves takes him to Romania where he faces off against the infamous Vlad the Impaler.
“The Hierophant” – Da Vinci designs a diving suit in order to sneak into the Vatican’s archives to learn more about the Book.
“The Lovers” – Count Riario and the Pazzi family initiate their nefarious plans to kill Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano with Da Vinci caught in the middle.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Da Vinci’s Demons was shot on digital and the resulting transfers are stunning. Colors are bold and skin tones are natural with fine details, such as the designs on Da Vinci’s leather jacket, shining through. The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The sound is quite immersive with a dynamic score and crisp dialogue.
Disc 1 features two audio commentary tracks with David Goyer, Tom Riley, Laura Haddock, and Blake Ritson on “The Hanged Man” and “The Serpent.”
Disc 2 features an audio commentary track with Goyer, Riley, and David Schofield on “The Tower.”
Disc 3 features the rest of the bonus material and an audio commentary track with Goyer, Riley, and Tom Bateman on the season finale “The Lovers.”
Mastering Da Vinci (3:22) is a featurette about composer Bear McCreary and how he wrote the show’s score, which sounds the same backwards and forwards.
Constructing Da Vinci (2:47) looks at the set design and how locales were constructed in the real and digital worlds.
Dressing Da Vinci (3:10) is all about the elaborate costume design.
Worldwide Fanfare (2:42) follows the cast and crew on their press junkets as they attend the New York Comic-Con and the world premiere in Florence.
You’ll also get deleted scenes and a Second Screen Promo, an ad for the show’s mobile app.
Film Value: 6
Jack of all trades, master of none. Da Vinci’s Demons endeavors to emulate its hero by trying to be many things at once. After a pilot overstuffed with ideas, the series wants to be a police procedural, a treasure hunt, a courtroom drama, and a 15th century version of National Treasure. It’s a nice change of pace, but season 1 lacks focus and the show itself is more in line with the campy syndicated adventures of the 90’s, just with more sex and violence.