Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie Collection (UK - BD RB)
Marcus reviewed the DVD release and now Chris covers the Turtles in hi-def...
Our request for a Blu-ray review sample was held up due to a shortage of check discs, so we've already posted a standard-definition DVD review of this collection. With that in mind, this review will forgo any in-depth analysis of the movies and concentrate on the technical aspects of the set. However, those of you unfamiliar with the series can find brief synopses for the three films below (the text is taken from the press release).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
For years Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael have lived deep in the sewers of New York, learning the art of Ninja from their master, Splinter. But when a massive crime wave sweeps the city, the man-sized, pizza eating Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles join forces with reporter April O'Neil and vigilante Casey Jones to combat the corrupt gang of criminals and their mysterious leader... the evil Shredder.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze
The turtles are up to their shells in trouble when a canister of toxic ooze falls into the hands of the evil master Shredder. Aided by their new pal Keno, the pizza delivery boy, the turtles take on the Shredder and his mutant allies, Rahzar and Tokka, to capture and destroy the dangerous ooze and make the world safe for Turtles, humans and pizza.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
When April O'Neil buys what she thinks is a harmless Japanese antique its magical powers are revealed when she is thrust back in time 400 years to 17th century Japan and into the hands of an evil Emperor. Our turtley awesome heroes only have days to travel back in time, defeat ancient warriors, rescue April and somehow make it back home while the pizza's still hot.
All three films arrive with transfers that are - and this is putting it kindly - unimpressive. I'm not sure who supplied the masters for this release (Fortune Star?), but I'm going to assume that they are old HDTV jobs as they are encoded at 1080/50i using AVC in either 1.78:1 or 1.85:1. This means they are technically inferior to most film-sourced BDs before we even get to the rest of the problems. Mediumrare has also compressed the hell out of them - they average just 16GB - and the bitrate of the resultant encodes is so low they are littered with compression artefacts. This only serves to exacerbate the other issues, which include DNR, sharpening and scanner noise. You might think that the static images on this page look okay, but trust me when I say that the issues are more obvious in motion, particularly in the darker regions of the screen.
On the positive side colours are actually pretty decent for the most part. Although the films are rather cartoonish in tone their palettes are reasonably naturalistic, but this actually works in their favour. Unfortunately all three suffer from some pretty weak black levels that are often filled with noise. Detail looks to be marginally better than DVD quality, but falls short of the standard I expect from and HD release (even a catalogue title like this). Close-ups look better than wide shots, but but once again the encoding issues hinder the transfers' ability to accurately render the finest details as effectively as they should. Surprisingly the transfers are fairly clean as far as dirt and scratches go, with no particularly heinous artefacts to be seen, but that could simply be because they're masked by the other issues.
While the source material is a limiting factor I firmly believe that better results could have been achieved with healthier encodes - 15-18GB is not a particularly large file size, even for a relatively short film. I realise that these aren't the most prestigious movies, but they do have a loyal following and those fans deserve the best available quality for their money. Unfortunately that's not what's on offer here and all three films leave a lot to be desired (particularly the first two).
Ranking them in order, the third film is easily the best, as despite being filtered grain is far more consistent and colours more vibrant and stable. The original film isn't quite so good, with some fairly murky scenes filled with heavy grain (especially Splinter's flashback sequences), but some of the close-up detail is good. The second film is easily the worst of the bunch, looking dirty and ill-defined throughout (and it's grain field looks very artificial).
While the US release features Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtracks the UK set only has lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 tracks, the latter of which are low bitrate 448Kbps efforts. Of course the 1080/50i nature of the discs means that the pitch of all three films is wrong, which is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to film-sourced HD features. It's most obvious with the music, particularly in the first movie on account of my familiarity with the soundtrack (the Partners in Kryme track just sounds wrong).
That aside the tracks are about what you'd expect from relatively low-budget early nineties movies. Fidelity is somewhat lacking, something that probably isn't helped by the lower than usual bitrate of the lossy tracks (it's normally 640Kbps on Blu-ray). There isn't a whole lot of directionality, not even up front where most of the action takes place, although the effects do occasionally bleed to the rears. However, the main responsibility of the surrounds is to give the music greater presence, which they do. Surprisingly the music is also the source of much of the bass, which can be quite potent if a little muddy. Dialogue is strong and intelligible on the whole, although subject to the same limitations as the rest of the elements. To be fair, the audio isn't actually all that bad given its humble origins, but lossless tracks would almost certainly have helped with the clarity. Hell, even 640Kbps lossy tracks would have been a step up...
As with the video, if I had to rank the films in order I'd probably place the third film at the top of the list. It's more active than the other mixes, with slightly superior fidelity to boot. The first film once again bring up the rear, largely owing to its superior musical selection and some hefty LFE, while the second film once again finds itself at the bottom of the pile thanks to weaker bass and the inclusion of cheesier tunes ('Ninja Rap' and 'Tarzan Boy' being the main offenders).
Mediumrare's release actually offers slightly more than the US set in terms of bonus content, although as you can see the pickings are still pretty slim:
- The Making of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- Promotional Trailers
- Stills Galleries
The first disc has the best extra in the form of the 'making of' featurette, although said featurette actually deals with the first of the sequels as well. Although it's incredibly cheesy by today's standards (or even nineties standards come to that) it's fun and offers a warm, fuzzy view of the world as it existed at the height of Turtlemania. The promotional trailers and stills galleries are found on all three discs, but quality isn't the best and I can't imagine anyone viewing them more than once.
I was a little old for the Turtles toys by the time 'Turtlemania' really took hold in the UK, but I did enjoy watching the animated series (even though it was cut and renamed Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles over here thanks to draconian censorship laws). Like many people my age I saw the original film theatrically, even going as far as to buy the soundtrack album (T-U-R-T-L-E Power!), but I never really had much interest in the sequels. Looking back it's not hard to see why, as they're not on par with the original, which remains a pretty entertaining take on the sewer-dwelling reptiles. Still, the set makes for pleasing trip down memory lane to a time when SNK's Neo Geo was considered the pinnacle of gaming technology and people still cared about Vanilla Ice.
As for the high-definition presentations, well there's no getting around the fact that they could and should be better. I'm not really sure what happened, as the US discs are also BD25s and they have superior video and more audio streams (including one lossless track). Okay, so the bonus material is marginally better on account of the making of featurette, but I wouldn't trade audio-visual quality for extras for all the pizza in New York. Unfortunately I don't think we're likely to see remastered versions of the films any time soon, even taking into account the likely resurgence in popularity brought about by the imminent release of the reboot, so it basically comes down to a choice between this and Warner's US collection.
The biggest problem facing this release is that you can pick up the superior US set for less. Now as much as I like to support the local market and in particular smaller distributors who bring niche titles like this to the fans, I will not make excuses for sub-standard titles. In this case our half-shelled heroes have been short-changed by some less than stellar sources and authoring that leaves much to be desired. The sad truth is that it's more cowabungle than cowabunga, so to cheer you up I'll leave you with some Partners in Kryme...
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 28th October 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: Making of, Trailers, Stills Galeries
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Corey Feldman, Josh Pais, Robbie Rist, Brian Tochi, Kevin Clash, Judith Hoag, James Saito, Elias Koteas, Paige Turco, Ernie Reyes Jr.
Genre: Action and Comedy
Length: 262 minutes
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