Of all the tracks on the 3D disc I opted for the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. If you were blown away by the visuals, you will be doubly so by the audio, which is utterly breathtaking. It is an absolutely immersive track with stereo effects in every perceivable direction, the owls in flight swoop from back to front and back again – ambient effects are aplenty form rain, to wind, to fire to simple ‘tree’ noises, rustling of leaves, slow burning of the candles or the hum of magnetic flux. There is never an opportunity lost to add some effect to the track, but not without thought to the on screen action, it is never out of place or distracting, but a full part of the experience. Dialogue is very natural sounding and given plenty of directionality, lost count of the times a character, off screen, behind you is heard talking from the rear.
Bass is extremely low, some might think it runs a touch hot, but to me, it was perfect. Low enough to hold everything together and strong enough to give the full punch when needed; the sound is awesome when Metalbeak is talking, his low rumbling voice making full use of the sub. LF effects are plenty, be it from thunder, fire, thumps and kicks from the fighting birds – it's certainly one to keep the neighbours awake. Nothing is over-powered and everything has its place in the mix, including the score which, again, places you in the centre of the action. A powerful track and one that demands a high volume setting – top stuff.
- Fur of Flying – 03.04, HD, 3D & 2D
Another short Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon, made in 3D, especially for this release – the story is very simply Wile E. tries to catch the Runner using a head mounted helicopter, flies into restricted space and is shot at with two missiles, his escape continues the slapstick humour that these cartoons are famous for. It is, however, another excellent example of 3D at work with plenty of tangible depth to the frame with clear and bright colours and best of all no crosstalk, another demo piece that is short enough to wow. Dolby Digital 5.1 sound completes the immersive experience.
- Maximum Kid Mode
This is a picture in picture mode that plays throughout the run time of the movie, sometimes expanding to fill the screen when the information being imparted is deemed important. Playing, for the most part, in the bottom right of the picture there is plenty of information imparted here, be it animation process, information about owls, cast and crew interviews, drawings or even short quizzes. There is loads to digest, but the only slight niggle is that it is, as the name suggest, aimed at kids, so there are times when you do feel a little talked down to.
- True Guardians of the Earth – 15.09, HD
‘Digger’ and child actor Rico Rodriguez talk all about owls in another very kid friendly feature. Does impart some interesting facts, and the visit to the Owl sanctuary in SW England (to which I’ve been) is of particular note, but, as with the PiP, is a little bit too jolly.
- Legend of the Guardians: Rise of the Guardians – 02.12, HD
Short animated story about how the Guardians came about and the ‘inspiration’ of Soren’s fascination with them.
- Artwork Galleries
Four different galleries, entitled Soren and Friends, The Locations, Vally of St. Aegolius and The Guardians, contain a huge amount of original artwork developed for the picture, navigate through with your remote while listening to extracts from the score.
- To The Sky Music video – 3.40, HD
By Owl city, the song from the film.
Two interactive games; Armour up with Soren and Eglantine – dress up these two characters with a variety of clothing; Match the Owl Treats – a memory game involving matching different owl foods.
- 2D Copy
Standard Blu-ray with the 2D version of the film, also holds all of the extras.
- DVD and Digital Copy
Future proofing this release.
What looks like to be a whole host of extra features is actually extremely thin on the ground, with only the PiP mode imparting any worthwhile information about the film – but even that is diluted by its ‘aimed at the kids’ nature. At least it is free from the promotional puff pieces that tend to inhabit releases pretending to be serious features.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is director Zack Snyder’s first attempt at a kid orientated film and, for the most part, he succeeds – by bringing his trademark style of up-close/slo-mo battles, while telling a story of daring and heroics all wrapped up in an absolute visual delight, especially when viewed in its native 3D format. The story of Soren and his quest to find the legendary Guardians so they can put a stop to the subjugation of other owls by the evil Pure Ones, lead by the equally legendary MetalBeak (a survivor of the original war between species) has plenty of allegory towards World War Two as well as clear lines between good and bad, right and wrong, never leaving any doubt in who we are supposed to route for. The problem comes due to the sheer amount of story crammed into the run time, while it’s never confusing, it does seem occasionally rushed.
As a Region Free 3D Blu-ray, Warner has provided exceptional quality picture and sound, even though the extras package is a little weak, excluding the wonderful new Road Runner 3D cartoon which is a hoot, the future proofing of the 2D Blu-ray as well as an SD DVD and digital copy means this disc will be around for a while, and rightly so, you can feel it in your gizzard.
The disc presents a widescreen 2.40:1 1080p 3D transfer and once again, with a native 3D title, we have an absolutely stunning example of the format.
I am a big advocate of depth in the frame against the ‘point at the screen’ aspects of 3D, feeling that, that is where the real quality of the format shows; it is less obvious but has a greater impact, as that is how we see our world, things don’t ‘point at us’, but we do perceive distance every day. Snyder, however, took a slightly different approach, yes there are a few ‘point at the screen’ moments; the owls attack talons, the oil explosion and the rain are some examples, but for the most part the frame was centred on the characters and they are front and centre, especially when flying, thus you have a huge portion of the screen ‘in your face’ while the distance is way back. It is quite a novel way to frame and, I must admit, works extremely well in this context. The owl’s plumage, their beaks and facial feathers have a real presence, they are solid and have depth to themselves, i.e. when the face is in the centre of the picture, their feathers and beak protrude out. During the many flying scenes we see a solid object flying through a solid world, there is perceivable distance between the owl and the ground. The clouds themselves have a ‘solid’ nature, the mist coming at you and flowing away into the distance. There are many establishing landscape shots that are framed with fore, middle and very distance and look quite incredible. Even relatively flat shots, such as those overlooking the ocean still maintain a tangible distance and real solidity. The trees that the owls inhabit have depth to themselves; it looks like you can feel the texture of the bark, the leaves move into and out of the frame. It’s not overly flashy stuff, but it is a real joy to be immersed quite so well.
The 3D is aided extremely well by the level of detail on show, which is absolutely pin-sharp throughout. Take a look at the plumage of the owls, each individual feather is lined, the distinctive markings and battle scars are all defiant. The same too can be said of their environment, the cloud detail, the shimmer of water, the texture of the tree’s bark and leaves, all are seen with absolute clarity and precision.
Colours are well defined, bold and strong, there is no hint of bleed or wash. The blue of the skies, the lush greens of the forests, the deep reds and oranges of the fire, the magnetic blue of the flecks all are blisteringly clear.
Brightness and contrast are set to give well defined blacks (with the usual 3D caveat) adding further depth to the frame, check out the library where Soren and Gylfie are taught to fly for some inky blacks and permanent shadow detail. Night-time scenes are suitably dark and the Pure One’s rocky lair is deep and foreboding.
Digitally there were not compression problems or artefacting, there is no banding or posterization, nor is there any edge enhancement. Crosstalk is kept to a nice minimum, occurring in only one or two places, but never overly distracting and never around for long. In all a spectacular picture and vying for my next demo disc.
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