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|Home: BigScreen Journal - Blu-ray Review: Speed Racer|
Warner Home Video
List Price: $35.99 (Check Price at Amazon.com)
Click here for additional movie details, including the full plot summary, cast listing, trailers and videos, photos, reviews of the movie, and links to the official movie web site and more.
| Video Format:||HD||1080p VC-1|
Movie: BD-25 (x1)
Based on the popular cartoon of the same name, the Wachowski brothers of The Matrix fame take the concepts and characters and apply them to a feature-length movie. Using CGI animation integrated with live action, they present a very unique motion picture of the Speed Racer universe.
The first thing that has to be said when talking about the appearance of this movie is that all of the colors are heavily saturated and the palette is intentionally on the intense side of things. That makes judging picture quality pretty difficult, because there isn't anything natural to compare anything to. That leaves one to look for compression artifacts and other errors in the mastering of the disc. Fortunately, none of that could be seen. The only thing I did notice in regards to picture quality was a reddishness of skin in facial shots, but that could easily be attributed to the almost garish approach to colors used in the movie.
Given that this is a racing movie, the sound designers had an opportunity to have a lot of fun with immersing viewers in the action and creating a soundfield that puts you right into the cars and the crowds watching the race. Given that this movie is almost entirely computer-generated, the sound design should be top-notch. This is where the movie really disappoints. I didn't see it in the theater, so I don't know what that experience was like, but Pixar's Cars in theaters and on Blu-ray has a better sound design (including the many race scenes in that movie) than Speed Racer on Blu-ray does.
Is this a result of the choice by Warner Bros. to only put a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track on this Blu-ray, instead of the almost-standard lossless audio soundtracks found on so many other Blu-ray releases? Perhaps, but given that Cars on DVD sounds better (in standard Dolby Digital 5.1) and that my setup forces lossless tracks to be downconverted to Dolby Digital 5.1 anyway, I doubt that. Even still, fans of this movie that have the ability to fully enjoy lossless soundtracks will be very disappointed that Warner didn't go the lossless route with this release.
I like to see the theatrical trailer included with movies, so I was disappointed to see that one was not included here. The extras that are provided include three featurettes on the Blu-ray disc, as well as a DVD game on a second disc, and a digital copy of the movie on a third disc.
Of the three featurettes, the first Speed Racer: Car-Fu is the most interesting. If you are into CG effects and/or the Wachowski brothers' style at all, this will be enjoyable. The second one, where we follow Paulie Litt (the boy who played Spritle) around the set while he hams it up for the camera and makes various members of the crew play along, is annoying. If you liked his character, then you'll find him less annoying, but I didn't. The third featurette, Speed Racer: Supercharged!, focuses on the cars and provides a bunch of extended information about them. If you enjoyed the movie and the Speed Racer universe, this provides you with more depth.
We have video clips of these featurettes on the Trailers & Videos page for the movie. Watching them will give you a good idea of their contents and what, if any, value they bring to the package.
The DVD game, Speed Racer Crucible Challenge, is an attempt to play a racing game using the clunkiness of a standard DVD player and its controls. I tried it out for the sake of this review but gave up after a few minutes. I can't imagine anyone finding this enjoyable, and it's mystifying as to how something like this got approved given the cost of including an extra disc in the package. Given that a vast majority of Blu-ray players out there are Sony PlayStation 3 game systems, it seems odd that they would include such a sorry excuse for a game in this package when better alternatives could have been explored. The $4.99 downloadable games on the PlayStation Store have better playability than a clunky, stop-and-start DVD game.
This package features something else that is gaining traction among Blu-ray releases, which is a digital copy of the movie. One of the challenges of the Blu-ray format is that its discs cannot be played on DVD players that people have throughout their homes, portable units, and vehicles. A third data DVD in this package contains a digital copy of the movie in both Windows Media and iTunes formats, presumably for downloading to your PC, iPod/iPhone, and Zune portable devices. I inserted the disc into a Windows XP laptop and a welcome screen came up and offered to install either format and then asked for the access code provided in the printed materials. I didn't install the movie to see if it worked, as I have no desire to watch movies on a tiny iPod screen, or even my PC.
Whether or not you buy this movie will depend on your feelings about the movie and about the Speed Racer universe. I was never a fan of the original cartoon, and I purposely did not see this movie in theaters, but I was willing to give it a try on Blu-ray. It seemed like a title ideally suited to the high definition format, and while the picture fulfills that expectation, the sound did not. The fact that the featurettes are in standard definition add to the feeling that not much effort was placed into the production of this title. The clunky DVD game on the second disc doesn't help that feeling any.
Unless you really like the movie and the concept, there is little here to justify a purchase. Renting the disc from Netflix will satisfy any desire to see the movie with the best picture quality possible, but the lack of effort by the studio to take further advantage of the Blu-ray format means that a rental is the better route to go here. Count the number of times I mentioned the word "disappointed" in this review, and that pretty much sums up my feelings about this Blu-ray release.
Don't just take our word for it, check out these resources for more reviews of the movie and of the disc.
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