Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Blu-ray Review
'Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy' is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
Initially, I have to say that I was not overly impressed with the transfer on this release. However, I quickly realised that some of the shortfalls of the image quality were a result of artistic choices. Heavily processed and relying on the plentiful CGI effects and rendered landscapes, many of the scenes appeared soft. While there was plenty of detail on show, such as the texture of the Ultramen's leather suits or the many blinking dials and diagnostic diagrams inside Rei's ship, fine detail was more or less absent. It's this softness in the image which prevents the image from shining but I firmly believe that there is method to Sakamota's madness. The softness completely prevents the monster suits from looking cheap and fake, which in turns adds a little more “believability” to the piece. That being said, some viewers may find the presentation a little off putting. As is to be expected from such a recent release, I did not notice any edge enhancement or any other nasty compression aspects. There were a few scant instances of digital noise but these were barely noticeable.
The contrast ratio is almost reference quality and there's plenty of opportunity, due to the high propensity of space based scenes, to show off some cavernous blacks. The white balance is also top notch and at times the picture can be quite dazzling, with the director employing some really nice lighting effects. The colour palette, whilst subject to many filters (such as the initial striking greens of the Land of the Light, which are replaced by cool blues as the planet freezes over), does contain a wide spectrum of well represented colours. The beams and rays which the Ultramen shoot forth contain a rainbow of colours (which are dominated by an almost white light), providing a variation on the dominating bold reds and silvers of the Ultramen (and the more muddy tones of the monsters).
There is a very nice depth to the majority of the scenes, with detail visible far off in the background (although this is not sharply defined), especially in the Land of Light wide shots. Some of the scenes also contain some elements of that sought after 3D pop factor and the majority of the characters exude a very nice three dimensionality. That being said, the directorial choices certainly prevent this disc from looking the best that BD has to offer and inherent softness and over processing (and some very static looking backgrounds) means that this result will have to settle for a solid eight.
'Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy' comes packed with a Japanese Dolby True HD 5.1 surround track.
Right from the opening scenes, it's clear that 'Ultra Galaxy' is going to be a fairly aurally active affair. Front separation is for the majority sublime, with plenty of examples of excellent steerage from the stereo channels. The many sound effects are pin sharp, with the clash of steel on steel, the shouts of one hundred monsters and “death ray” effects, providing an almost constant onslaught of aural activity from all channels. As we leap from battle to battle, the track never lets up and this is one of the most continuously active tracks that I have heard in some time. Vocals, although they don't feature much, are always locked to the central channel and are never difficult to follow.
Ultramen (and Rei's spaceship), on numerous occasions, can be heard entering and exiting the listening planes via the surround channels. The surrounds are also used to great effect during many of the battle sequences, with terrified shouts, whooshes of capes and the sound of engagement in general rotating all around the listening position. The subwoofer gets a pretty thorough workout and there were lots of occasions where its presence could most certainly be felt. The numerous explosions and other impacts which feature (such as the collision of enormous monsters and Ultramen as they are hurled about the landscape), bring forth nice bass intonation. The displacement of air as the Ultramen zoom past the listening position is also treated to a satisfying bass whump. Unfortunately, the majority of these are firmly rooted in the mid range and there were not many instances where really deep bass was prevalent. That being said, the mix does make very good use of this channel.
The score is as grandiose and epic as the eponymous oriental superhero and is almost like a cross between the score of 'X-Men' and 'Superman'. It dominates the fronts and really rises in the mix during the plentiful action orientated sequences. It's orchestral intonations are well mixed with nice sharp treble and deep bass.
This is a very strong, well engineered track but I have to admit that, like the feature presentation, the audio mix did sound a little samey in places; almost as though the effects were recycled throughout the production. As such, this track does not make it into the demo material category but scores an upper tier eight.
As this disc is a Japanese release I had some difficulty navigating through the extras menus. I found the additional supplements a little thin on the ground (or perhaps this is simply because I could not locate them all!). I did follow every available link, often stumbling across short running featurettes by accident. There is a commentary track featuring (I presume) the cast and director. Unfortunately, the commentary track lacks English subtitles, rendering it completely useless to this reviewer. I also came across a pretty amusing “turn off your cell phone in the theatre” bit, featuring Belial and the Ultramen. Aside from that, there's not much else worth talking about, aside from a cheesy music video.
Concept Art (1080p) - This feature includes the original artwork for Ulltraman Seven, Belial, the monsters and various other drawings, such as the various locations and weapons which feature throughout. This is quite an extensive collection and there's also some animated segments (where the disc scrolls through the pictures automatically).
Trailer - Included here, for your viewing pleasure, is one trailer and nine television spots for the feature presentation, all of which are presented in high definition. There are also a couple of teaser trailers (also in HD) which are scattered throughout the disc - it's worth noting that these also feature an uncompressed surround track.
'Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy' was released in 2009 and was directed by Koichi Sakamoto. Based on the long running iconic Japanese superhero series featuring Ultraman, this is the latest instalment of the incredibly popular franchise. With the super-evil Ultraman Belial finally free from his space prison, and with the ultra powerful Giga Battle Nizer in his possession, he raises one hundred ferocious monsters from the dead to do his bidding. Travelling the Land of Light (Ultraman's home planet), he steals the Plasma Spark, plunging the entire planet into an ice age and freezing the inhabitants. With the universe under the threat of attack, it's up to the few remaining Ultramen to thwart their evil brother's advances towards world domination. I have to admit that although I did enjoy certain aspects of this highly stylised and supremely active movie, the overall package was simply too shallow and samey for my liking. I'm sure that fans of Ultraman and this genre of movie (which includes the iconic 'Godzilla' series) will relish in this lavish production but this reviewer will not be returning for a second viewing.
The transfer is highly stylised, which introduces some inherent softness into the image. However, this is a very solid and detailed presentation, although fine detail is more certainly absent. The audio mix is as active as the movie itself and makes full use of all the available channels to great effect. The additional supplements are a little thin on the ground and the lack of English subtitles makes some of them inaccessible. Overall, I would have to say that I would only recommend this disc to fans of this genre of movie but the audio and video presentations do go some way towards alleviating the repetitive and shallow nature of the feature presentation.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £34.71
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