Ice Age: Continental Drift (2D) (US - BD RA)
Gabe sits back and awaits the inevitable extinction of these beloved characters...
History's greatest heroes return for the most outrageously funny and entertaining Ice Age adventure in two million years. When Scrat's acorn antics cause a cataclysmic crack-up, Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo) and Diego (Denis Leary) go where no herd has gone before - on a high-seas quest aboard a floating iceberg. But a menagerie of misfit pirates are determined to shiver their timbers and capsize their journey home. Join a boat-load of lovable new characters (voiced by Jennifer Lopez, Aziz Ansari and Peter Dinklage) for original songs, spectacular animation and heartwarming family fun. (from Fox’s official synopsis)
Assuming we aren’t counting Puss in Boots, Fox/Blue Sky’s Ice Age series has now tied Shrek as the longest running, feature-length, theatrically released animated series, CG or otherwise. Those of us who aren’t impressed with the franchise may find this fact baffling, but despite a consistent state of utter mediocrity, these films keep making money. In fact, the worldwide grosses of the series have increased with each release, right up until this latest entry, Continental Drift, which made slightly less than the previous entry, Dawn of the Dinosaurs. For whatever reason Ice Age connects with people throughout the world and this particular money-making machine shows no sign of going away or, if this film is any indication, improving upon the formula.
Continental Drift continues exploring human themes in an animalistic environment with a heavy moralistic hand. This particular feature is overwhelmed by clichés about family and parenthood. In fact, one could almost accuse this movie of snagging large contingents of its plot from Homer’s The Odyssey (including some of the trials) and Finding Nemo (including the overriding theme of allowing one’s child to grow up). The writers also take early efforts to return things to the status quo by separating the three main series characters from everyone else, which makes for a rather boring retread of the non-borrowed elements. They even add a new saber-toothed cat character to replay Diego’s first film arc. The only thing missing is a human baby. If there’s one nice thing I can say about this series’ cumulative qualities, it’s that the action set-pieces keep getting bigger, though not necessarily better. Stuffing pirates and massive land shifts into the Ice Age universe certainly offers the filmmakers many chances for epic scope and action. And it is also certainly epic, especially the cut-aways to Manny’s family leading survivors away from a creeping land wall (which is a stunning enough image it’s pretty easy to ignore the nonsense logic of the situation). I imagine this entry, just like Dawn of the Dinosaurs, was actually improved by theatrical 3D formatting.
The most (only?) interesting thing about this particular franchise is the bizarre way the creators twiddle with the historical science of the actual Ice Age. Since they already dealt with the end of the last global ice age with the second film, they had to jump the shark with the third film and include dinosaurs, which had been dead for millions of years by the time wolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats were walking the earth. Now they have a fourth film on their hands, so they went the only place they could – the slow geographical movement that turned Pangaea into the continental shapes we know and love today. They have, of course, made the process a bit more exciting to watch by speeding it up considerably, which also keeps the character’s ages down to something less than millions of years old. Once again, it is the hapless saber-toothed squirrel Scrat and his Chuck Jones-inspired antics that save an Ice Age film from being an entirely mediocre experience. The scene that opens the movie, revealing that he has caused the tectonic plate shift with his acorn obsession would make a genuinely great standalone short film. I suppose it’s difficult to make hundreds of millions of dollars on a short film release.
Ice Age: Continental Drift comes to Blu-ray in separate 3D and 2D releases. As per usual, at least until I win the lottery, I’m reviewing the 2D release. This full 1080p, 2.40:1 image is typically awe-inspiring, which should be expected from any $100 million CG animated feature. These films have grown a little less stylized over the years. In the beginning, they were more graphic, with harder edges and more simplified details, but the natural textures, specifically those found on fur patterns, have been heavily upgraded at this point. You can practically count the hairs on the animals this time around. My personal favourite fine detail is the sheen the saber-toothed cats’ fur takes on after getting wet. The last release had some minor issues with compression noise over some of the busiest action sequences, but the only thing that holds back the clarity this time is a foggy quality to some of the scenes, which diffuses and blows out some of the brighter bits. I assume this was a stylistic choice, not a mastering error. The colour palette is pretty eclectic throughout the film (lots of creature types, lots of vegetation changes), but does feature basic scene-by-scene themes. The sea-based sequences are cooler and tend to be washed out, except for the main characters, which pop nicely by maintaining their warm qualities. Land-based scenes are more vibrant, especially the brilliant greens, and the hues change nicely depending on the time of day (yellowish for day, lavender for dusk/dawn, and bluish for night). There aren’t many high contrast moments, but the black levels are still quite sharply cut against the brighter hues without any bleeding or edge enhancement issues.
This basically perfect HD video is matched by a basically perfect DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack. The dialogue tracks are consistent in terms of clarity and volume, and feature a lot of directional enhancement as characters move throughout the frame. Ambient sound is a bit softer than expected, but there are plenty of standout sequences that make solid use of the format’s immersive capabilities. The sea-faring themes offer the track chances for aggressive water and wind effects, but the biggest aural moments, however, are massive land-cracking set pieces that shake with enough LFE bounce and fine surround enhancement to give a live-action disaster blockbuster a proper run for its money. Scrat’s brief adventures tend to feature a more outrageous sound design, including wider directional enhancements and punchier impact noises. In the end, these scenes aren’t as impactful or loud as the disaster scenes, but I enjoyed the hyperbole. John Powell’s score takes the usual ‘punctuation’ route, giving rhythm to the jokes and action. It also fills out the lack of ambience during-dialogue heavy sequences, though it’s pretty low on the track compared to the performances and incidental noises.
The extras begin with in-film options, including a Pirate Picasso colouring book app, Party with a Pirate! pop-up mode (which features Aziz Ansari as Squint the rabbit), and a sing-along option, but no commentary or solid picture in picture options. Ice Age: The Story So Far (9:30, HD) covers the first four films in the series in clip form, which offers a unique chance to watch the films improve in animation quality over the years. Under the Through a Pirate’s Spyglass, you will find two featurettes: Voice Ahoy! (11:20, HD), which features interviews and behind the scenes footage with the new cast members, including interviews with directors Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier, and actors Peter Dinklage, Aziz Ansari, Alain Chabat, Rebel Wilson, Nick Frost, Kunal Nayyar, Denis Leary, and Jennifer Lopez, plus Capturing the Crew (14:40, HD) covers the research and development of the new character and prop designs, including interviews with Martino, Thurmeier, character designer Peter De Seve, writers Malcolm Berg and Jason Fuchs, producers Jon Donkin and Lori Forte, art director Nash Dunnigan, animation supervisors Nick Bruno and Jim Bresnahan, animation leads Scott Farrell, Stewart Shaw, Ken Huling, Tab Burton, Matthew Doble, Richard Fournier, Michael Richard, Jackie Tarascio, Eric Lin, Scott Carroll, and Chip Lotierzo. Granny and the Stink of the Sloths (9:10, HD) cover the film’s new sloth and hyrax characters, including interviews with the usual suspects, along with story consultant Mike Reiss, and actors John Leguizamo and Wanda Sykes. Whale of a Tale (24:00, HD) is a grab bag of brief featurettes that covers the technical, scientific and thematic aspects of the continental drifts, non-speaking creature designs, and the story’s mythological themes (i.e. the stuff the story rips off from Homer’s They Odyssey). Scrat Got Your Tongue? (7:00, HD) explores the franchise’s heroic central character Chris Wedge’s work as his voice throughout the films.
The disc also features two deleted scenes presented in storyboard form (1:50, HD), The Scratist (2:10, HD), a faux-trailer that spoofs The Artist, Gutt’s Sing-Along Shanty Shimmy Shake, ‘We Are’ extended music video, ‘Chasing the Sun’ music video, The Sid Shuffle, two trailers, and previews of upcoming Fox releases.
There is an inevitable conclusion to the Ice Age franchise – every major character’s species goes extinct. The creators have dealt with historical science in increasingly unscientific ways, including the rapid spread of the world’s land masses, so I suppose they can continue to ignore the facts for future entries, but wouldn’t it be interesting to build a children’s film around an extinction event? Oh wait, there are already 13 Land Before Time films and a Disney movie called Dinosaur, not to mention the soul-crushing series finale of ABC’s Dinosaurs sitcom. Ice Age 5 is already in the works, so perhaps they’ll just aim to run the series into the ground with increasingly technologically impressive and thematically empty films in the future. This 2D Blu-ray looks and sounds practically perfect. The extras aren’t particularly impressive, but are informative enough, I suppose.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 11th December 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English, DVS 2.0 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Party with a Pirate! Mode, Ice Age: The Story So Far, Voices Ahoy!, Capturing the Crew, Granny and the Stink of the Sloths, Whale of a Tale, Scrat Got Your Tongue?, Music Videos, Sing-Alongs, Pirate Picasso App, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier
Cast: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Wanda Sykes, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, Aziz Ansari, Peter Dinklage
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation and Comedy
Length: 88 minutes
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