Ice Age - BRD
(Chris Wedge & Carlos Saldanha, 2002)
Theatrical: Fox Searchlight Pictures & Blue Sky
DVD: 20th Century Fox Pictures Home Entertainment
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Aspect ratio: approx. 1.85:1
Feature film: 1080p / AVC @ 16 MBPS
English 5.1 DTS Master Lossless
French DD 5.1 Surround
Spanish DD 5.1 Surround
English, English SDH, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and none
• Audio Commentary by Directors Wedge & Saldanha
• Gone Nutty: Scrat's Missing Adventure Animated Short
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by the Directors
• Theatrical Teasers & Trailers in HD
Standard Blu-ray case: 1 disc
25 GB single layer
Ice Age ~ Comment
The thaw has started. Not the geologic one, but the one where studios begin to fill in the back story. You could not have failed to notice that, when confronted with a series of films to release in high definition, a given studio will start with the most recent – which is why we got Casino Royale before Dr. No and Goldfinger, Cars and Ratatouille before Toy Story and The Incredibles, and Ice Age: The Meltdown before Ice Age. But catching up is better than remaining at the gate, and in the case of Ice Age this is a thaw worth waiting for. (see my review of Ice Age The Meltdown HERE)
But don't be in a hurry to dump your 2-disc SD Special Edition, as we shall see.
Ice Age ~ The Score Card
The Movie : 9
Meet Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), and Diego, the Saber Toothed Tiger (Denis Leary). Sid wakes up one day at the start of the last Ice Age to discover that the rest of his family has gone south for the season, as has most every other species. Having no idea where he is or how to get where he wanted to go if only he knew where that was, he attaches himself to Manny, heading the opposite direction. (Apparently, Manny can’t wait to end up as a fresh frozen specimen for later historians to discover.) They come upon a human baby whose mother has barely managed to rescue from an attack of tigers bent on eking revenge. (Oh! the aching responsibility of being at the top of one’s food chain!) Their leader has a particular obsession with stealing the baby. Diego is dispatched to do the deed, and runs afoul of Manny and Sid, inadvertently helping them make up their minds as to what to do with the helpless creature. All of this in the first twenty minutes. The remaining hour or so of the movie is taken up with Manny and Sid determined to return the baby to what remains of its tribe, now far off to the north, while Diego makes up his mind whose side he's on.
Image : 9 (9/9)
The score of 9 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs on a ten point scale. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.
Even though I gave the same score to both Ice Age and its sequel, the image here is just a little more subdued, as per its story which is darker and less thrilling in the blockbuster sense of the term. That said, the picture quality is much like the SD, only more so in all the ways that we expect from Blu-ray. I hope you can see from screenshot comparisons that the blu-ray has more depth and variation of color in addition to its being sharper and brighter. The Blu-ray is also willing to let the image be dark when appropriate, since it can reveal more life in the shadows. Very high bit rates are employed, often in the mid-40s.
(Standard Definition TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM)
(Standard Definition TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM)
Audio & Music : 7/7
In keeping with the relatively low-tech look of the film, its 5.1 mix, though bumped up to DTS Master Lossless, which improves clarity and dynamics, is not of demonstration caliber, nor would we expect it to be.
Operations : 7
Few bonus features dictate an uncomplicated menu – and that's what we get. What I don't get is why that hunk of ice on the lower left extends only slightly below the frame, nor why the "Special Features" or "Disc Menu" should be cut off at the knees.
Extras : 3
Missing from the SD 2-Disc Special Edition are many of its Bonus Features: 3 Interactive Games, the HBO Behind the Scenes Special, 6 (count them!) Production Featurettes, a Making-of Ice Age Documentary, Scene-specific commentary by John Leguizamo as Sid, 3 Interactive Animation Studies, Blu-Sky's Oscar-winning animated short, Bunny - and more. That doesn't leave a great deal in common: only the directors' commentary, Scrat's Missing Adventure, Deleted Scenes, and the usual Theatrical Teaser and Trailers, now in HD. Sad.
Comment with Spoilers
Most of the story is familiar and predictable, as Diego slowly succumbs to the same protective instincts guiding Manny and Sid, but its realization isn’t. Ice Age is enjoyable by both adults and young children above 6 or 7 - who, even in this day and age, aren’t likely to be concerned that the rhinos are homosexual, nor should they be troubled to the point of nightmares that whatever death occurs happens either off camera or in Roadrunner cartoon style. (The death of the infant's mother is handled particularly well.)
The subtext for this tale is extinction, and the writers have a great time with it: in one scene they indulge in an hilarious bit about dodo birds. (Could there have ever been a species so stupid – I mean, besides us!) In another, they trace the evolution of various species frozen in an ice tunnel - all the while conscious of and responsible to the fact that the principals in this story are marching north directly into the oncoming ice age. More familiar are touching moments about parenthood, abandonment and loss that echo Disney’s eloquent scene between the imprisoned Mrs. Jumbo and her tearful big-eared elephant offspring. I personally found it gratifying that these young filmmakers know who their own ancestors are.
The big difference between Ice Age and the big guns from 2002 is money. While it’s clear that the new movie had a much smaller budget, it in no way suffered from this. The animation is invested in the foreground characters, leaving the background relatively inert – not as two-dimensional as, say, Hanna-Barbera. I thought: Good thing this story doesn’t take place in the jungle. It is amazing how much can be expressed though the eyes and the sides of the mouth; and, while nothing here rivals the magical animation of Monsters, Inc., the technicals, which emphasize mood rather than realism, serve the dramatic and comic aspects of the story well. Much is accomplished with very little. The voice characterizations are right on target; the music, while not inspired, is appropriate and supportive, and not nearly as insipid as Shrek’s.
Speaking of which, as funny and popular as Shrek was, it isn’t really all that good a movie; and Ice Age shows us why. Shrek has ambitious aspirations, often succeeding admirably in the detail; but as a by-product, it leaves traces of un-art around: e.g. all that bathroom humor in the beginning, which has no function other than to keep eight year old boys, hopefully, in their seats. My bias is that a beginning ought to either tell us something about what’s coming or be an overture to it. Farting does neither. Ice Age has an organic consistency to it in all its aspects (story, theme, design, animation, music.) The moral choices facing Manny and Diego throughout the story are unfettered by contemporary political correctness. Nor is there a big swell to reinvent the fairly tale in modern pseudo-feminist terms, as I felt there was in Shrek.
March 7th, 2008
Enter the Dragon