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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Planet 51 (Blu ray DVD Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]


(Jorge Blanco & Marcos Martinez, 2009)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Ilion Animation Studios (Madrid)

Blu-ray: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment



Region: A (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:31:01.456

Disc Size: 42,756,094,579 bytes

Feature Size: 27,979,886,592 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.79 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard locking Blu-ray case

Release date: March 9th, 2010



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video






DTS-HD Master Audio English 3815 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3815 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio German 2070 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2070 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps



English (SDH), German, Spanish, Turkish, none



• 3 Extended Scenes (2:45)

• The World of Planet 51 (2:50)

• Life on Planet 51 (11:50)

• Planetarium Voice Stars (3:15)

• Planet 51 Music Video (2:05)

• Animation Progression Reels (15:45)

• Target 51 Game

• DVD/Digital Copy Disc



The Film: 6
It took me a while, but I finally figured out the target audience for this bizarre family animation fantasy comedy: kids under the age 10 and their grandparents. Most humans between those ages are likely to find the set-up inane and the unapologetic stealing from this movie and that (Alien, E.T., Star Wars, American Graffiti, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Starman – to name but a few) and the 1950s pop references relentless, possibly obscure and insulting. I'm not quite sure when I gave myself up to this movie, I can only say that I did, and felt the better for it by the time the credits came up.

The little green inhabitants of Planet 51 are peculiar in two respects: they have a fixation with 1950s American pop culture and, while the females all wear dresses and skirts, the males wear nothing below their waists. Their apparent lack of gender does not go without notice. It's important to understand, accept and not question how any of this could be any more than they all speak English. The inhabitants of Glipforg also have a fascination with horror movies in which their planet is under attack by aliens who take control of their minds and turn them into zombies. They even have a secret military base whose sole function is to prepare for just such an invasion, which is all the stranger considering that the little town of Glipforg looks like a page out of Leave it to Beaver as imagined by Walt Disney's original drawings for Tomorrowland.

When American astronaut Chuck Baker (Dwayne Johnson) lands in the middle of town and encounters Lem, there is some disagreement on the question of who is the alien here. It's a sweet moment, and essentially what drives the plot here. Lem is a good kid, a teenager whose confidence lags well behind his hormones. Lem has a crush on Neera (Jessica Biel) who is easily distracted by the radical political movement du jour. Once Lem and Chuck get over their initial fear and distrust, Lem, aided by a few friends, agrees to help Chuck get back to his ship which has been taken to the secret base by the blustery, paranoid General Grawl (Gary Oldman).

I doubt there's an idea in this movie that isn't borrowed from some other movie. More than borrowed, the original idea man and co-director Marcos Martinez, together with Joe Stillman (Shrek) and director Jorge Blanco, make sure than every one of them is deliberately positioned so we can count them as they go by. But to younger kids, the many plot and gag thefts of Planet 51 have about as much consequence and meaning as an accounting of the dots in a Seurat. Once we realize these guys aren't trying to get away with anything the hardnosed critic in us can loosen its reins and enjoy the fun.


Image: 10/10  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

While we can expect elegant, pristine, perfectly “drawn” images from CG sources, Plant 51 actually fooled me on a couple of occasions in that for a moment I found myself responding as if I was watching live action. This is all the stranger considering that everyone but Chuck is far from recognizable as “real” in any sense. I suspect it was a combination of image, dialogue tracking, convincing and seamless movement and animated, wide-ranging expression. A consistently healthy bit rate in the low 30s helps to provide the density of image required. Color and contrast are stunning and dimensional with no transfer issues.
















Audio & Music: 7/8
In keeping with the target audience, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is just about right. Dialogue is clean, and while most often front heavy, there are plenty of opportunities with various chase scenes on and off the ground for the surrounds to kick in. Pans and locational cues are accurate, dynamics are pleasing, if not aggressive.


Operations: 7
I like that all of the chapter thumbnails are on display at a glance, with a time line and that they are hugely expandable. Most of the extra features, likewise, can be viewed in a single window. Easy to use, if not infantile in design, unlike the feature film.



Extras: 3
All the bonus features are in polished HD. There's a video game that is very old school dodging and zapping. A couple of the features are either redundant or thinly disguised trailers, or both (You know who you are), so I recommend "Life on Planet 51" which is your basic making-of min-doc: it's short but it covers the waterfront. There is also a fairly interesting self-guiding storyboard-to-finished-frame segment titled plainly enough "Animation Progression Reels."



Bottom line: 7
Depending on your expectations – and I hope I've provided some helpful guidance there – Planet 51 can be either fun or galactically lame. I am in the former camp, and I expect single digit kids to eat this up. Image quality is superb. Hats off to Ilion Animation Studios (Madrid).

Leonard Norwitz






About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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