You don't have to be a serious fan to know the NFL Films look and sound.
Stunning shots of overcast skies hanging low over packed stadiums are accompanied by tympanies rumbling and choral voices soaring as a perfect spiral sails in slow motion through the lights down into the heavenward-stretched hands of an airborne receiver.
And that lyricism is juxtaposed with the most in-your-face mud, blood, grime and grit, hand-held close-ups you will ever see on a screen. Sometimes it feels as if you are in the middle of the mayhem on the field.
It's epic, mythic, cosmic and exhilarating -- and the Baltimore Ravens get the full NFL Films treatment in "Baltimore Ravens: Super Bowl XLVII Champions," which goes on sale Tuesday. A purple carpet premiere was held Monday night at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric.
If you are a serious fan, this is pure gold. Just as you thought you had put the magic and glory of last year behind you to deal with the harsh reality of the Ravens' current salary-cap pain, along comes this superbly produced DVD to let you relive it all again -- and in a much more focused and heightened format. Don't try to overthink this one. Just put it on, hit play and ride the banquet of stirring images, rich ambient sound and roller coaster action.
The documentary opens with the Ravens' 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the previous playoff season.
As the screen is filled with shots of battered and downcast Ravens players walking off the field, Josh Charles, the narrator, tells us in true NFL Films, slightly over-the-top language, "From pain would come glory as the Ravens would begin a season for the ages."
Yes, Baltimore's Josh Charles is doing the narration, and I applaud NFL Films for the departure from the approach that has served it so well over the years.
Since 1985, every championship film has been voiced by either Harry Kalas or Scott Graham, according to Marc Sausa, spokesman for the production.
Charles, of "The Good Wife," brings a different sound than the one I associate with NFL Films, but it's a good one. And if you are a Baltimore fan, hearing someone who loves the Ravens as much as you do narrating this film is an extra delight -- the cherry atop this sweet, sweet video sundae.
The structure of the film is simple and obvious: It goes game by game through that season.
It starts with the opening-day 44-13 blowout of the Cincinnati Bengals, and it ends at City Hall and downtown Baltimore as the Ravens return from the Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers for their victory parade.
The film catches emotional fire in game three when the Ravens take on the New England Patriots again. That's the game that wide receiver Torrey Smith played after finding out that his brother had been killed.
"After falling behind 13-0, Joe Flacco turned to one of his favorite targets," Charles says, "the one whose heart was heaviest." And then, it becomes a highlight reel of Torrey Smith greatness.
More magic in San Diego. How many times have you seen Ray Rice on 4th and 29 against the Chargers on Nov. 25?
Guess what? You will be holding your breath again as NFL Films makes you feel as if you are riding Rice's hip while he makes the catch and run of the season. And if the visuals don't get you, Ray Lewis screaming like a banshee on the sideline will. It's just marvelous stuff.
One of my favorite moments comes at the start of the first playoff game against Indianapolis just as Lewis is about to be introduced. The NFL cameras go where none of the networks did. And after talking us way, way backstage with Lewis, they cut to the Indianapolis sidelines to eavesdrop on two players waiting for Lewis to take the field.
One of them is squinting at the tunnel entrance and rocking from side to side: "I'm just trying to see the show -- the Ray Lewis show," he says to his teammate.
And then, once Lewis hits the field with flames and fog and screams and dancing, the two Colts can't contain themselves. They start dancing and yelling, too.
"Oh, that's hot. That's hot. That's hot," they yell and laugh like like a couple of teenagers seeing a Hollywood star.
The simply could not restrain the joy they felt in being on the same field with Lewis for that moment. I saw that nowhere on the lame network coverage of the game.
You will see and hear things you didn't see or hear anywhere during the year. The cameras cut from a frustrated Eli Manning walking off the field looking angry to Terrell Suggs on the Ravens sideline taunting, "Someone's a little upset. Hey, don't be upset."
And if you're wondering who will fill the pre-game speechifying role with Lewis gone, you won't after seeing Suggs deliver several short but powerful talks in this film.
"You say you want to be champions," he says to his teammates before a playoff game. "Go prove it. Let's whup these boys' asses."
On the down side, be warned: There are a lot of great moments in this film from Anquan Boldin, who was traded Monday to the 49ers.
In fact, you watch this film and you wonder how in the world the Ravens are ever going to repeat without his strong, sure hands reaching up time after time to tear passes out of the sky and defenders' arms.
Don't wonder today. Worry about that after the draft. Or, when training camp opens. Or, opening day next fall.
Today, get your DVD, turn it on and let this last, great season carry you away to a joyous place of epic plays, larger-than-life performers and legendary moments from the hometown team.
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