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Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Blu-ray Review

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by Steve Withers May 1, 2015 at 8:00 AM

  • Movies review


    Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £15.00

    Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Review

    In case you've never seen a Night at the Museum movie, the premise is simple - each night the exhibits at New York's Museum of Natural History come alive.

    The first film in the series was quite charming, full of inventive comedy and exciting set pieces. It also had an excellent cast that was headed by Ben Stiller but included Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan, Owen Wilson, Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney. The film was wildly successful, taking $574 million at the worldwide box office, and anything that gets kids interested in history and visiting museums has to be applauded. The inevitable sequel was called Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and, as the name suggests, moved the action from New York to Washington. This time around the premise was essentially the same but included more science and technology history into the plot. It did well, although not as well as the first, but there was still some fun to be had from the characters and even some new ones added such as Amy Adam's Amelia Earhart.
    Despite stretching an already thin premise, the second film did make enough money to spawn Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb in what the filmmakers are now referring to as a trilogy. Unfortunately this time around the premise feels very tired and the jokes and set pieces just too obvious. In a plot device that explains why the exhibits come to life, the action moves to the British Museum and adds Ben Kingsley and Rebel Wilson to the cast. It would have made more sense to use London's Natural History Museum, especially with the Science Museum next door, but the script always goes for the obvious rather than anything original. The British Museum actually has very few of the exhibits seen in the film and anyone familiar with it will soon realise it bears little semblance to reality. There's even a disclaimer to that fact at the end and it's a shame that the film jettisons some of the historical facts for outright fantasy.

    Blu-ray Picture Quality

    Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Blu-ray Picture Quality
    The Blu-ray release of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb presents the film at resolution of 1080p/24 in its correct theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and using the AVC codec. The film was actually shot at a resolution of 5K/6K using Red Epic Dragon cameras and used a 4K digital intermediate. The disc transfer takes full advantage of this higher resolution digital master to deliver a wonderfully detailed high definition image. We might not have 4K Blu-ray yet but it's worth remembering that a good 1080p transfer can still look stunning.

    The disc offers a pristine transfer, with bright primary colours and plenty of detail.

    The image is brimming with detail, from the pores on peoples faces to the weaves and wrinkles in their clothing and there is a distinct lack of grain. Foreground and background detail is excellent and the only downside to the quality of the transfer is that some of the effects look rather fake. The colour scheme is bright and primary, giving the image plenty of pop and emphasising the comic nature of the film's plot. Despite the saturated image, flesh tones always remain natural and this is generally an excellent colour performance. The blacks are excellent, without any crush and with plenty of shadow detail where needed. The transfer is free of any digital artefacts, banding or edge enhancement and overall this is a near-reference performance.

    Blu-ray Sound Quality

    Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Blu-ray Sound Quality
    The Blu-ray of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb uses a 7.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and, like the picture, it is a near-reference performance. The film actually had a Dolby Atmos in cinemas and whilst we don't get that here, we do get a very lively 7.1 mix that takes full advantage of the surround speakers. The result is a highly immersive experience that is both exciting and enjoyable with plenty of clever sound design to support the on-screen antics.

    The lively soundtrack has plenty of surround action to back-up the comic set pieces.

    There are numerous comic set pieces and the mix ably supports these sequences with a dynamic soundtrack and plenty of surround presence. From the opening sequences in Egypt (which incredibly were actually shot in Canada) the surrounds provide a nice sense of atmosphere. There are also plenty of effects that are steered around room as mayhem breaks out at the British Museum. The low frequency effects are used very well, providing some bass impact, especially when it comes to the dinosaur skeletons and the giant multi-headed serpent. However dialogue always remains clear and centred, no matter how complex the sound mix becomes, and overall this is a great soundtrack.

    Blu-ray Extras

    The Blu-ray release of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb comes as a single disc set in a standard plastic keep case and includes a Ultraviolet Digital HD download. There are a set of extras that offer an amusing insight into the film's production.

    Deleted/Extended Scenes (14:13) - These are presented in high definition and are mostly scene extensions and some ad-libbing.
    Improve, Absurdity, and Cracking Up - The Comedy of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (08:05) - A featurette about the amount of improvisation on set with contributions from Ben Stiller, Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan, Owen Wilson and Robin Williams in his last on-screen performance.
    The Theory of Relativity (12:09) - A highpoint of the film, this featurette explains how the imaginative M. C. Escher scene was filmed.
    Becoming Laaa (07:24) - How they created the character of Laaa, a Neanderthal exhibit who looks like Ben Stiller’s character.
    A Day in the Afterlife (16:26) - A humorous featurette about how the character of Ahkmanrah is enjoying being in the movie, along with an interview with Craig the Mummy.
    Fight at the Museum (06:22) - How they shot the fight scene involving the giant multi-headed serpent.
    Creating the Visual Effects (03:10) - A brief feature showing how some of the special effects were achieved with before and after comparisons.
    Audio Commentary by Shawn Levy - The director and producer of all three Night at the Museum movies talks about the writing and filming of the third and final chapter of the film series. He's an animated speaker and has plenty of interesting and funny anecdotes about the production.
    Galley - Pre-Vis and Photos.
    Trailers - Theatrical Trailer 1 (02:15) and Theatrical Trailer 2 (02:34).

    Blu-ray Verdict

    Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Blu-ray Verdict
    Whilst there are moments of inspiration, with a scene set inside a drawing by M. C. Escher being quite fun, the franchise has lost one of its most endearing aspects - a sense of history. Although Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is intended to be a send-off for the franchise, you get the feeling this is less out of artistic intent and more due to falling box office. Ultimately it feels like one 'night' too many, with a tired plot and a bored cast who are largely going through the motions.

    The Blu-ray's picture, sound and extras all help a film franchise that is rapidly losing creative steam.

    Whilst Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb may be something of a disappointment, that certainly isn't true of the Blu-ray, which delivers in almost every respect. The picture is excellent with a clean digital transfer, bright primary colours and loads of detail. The image is free of any distracting artefacts and perfectly replicates the filmmakers intentions. The same is true of the soundtrack, which is lively and enjoyable, supporting the comedic set pieces with plenty of surround action. There's also a decent set of extras which give you some funny insights into the making of the film itself. So hardly an essential purchase, unless you're a big fan of the franchise, but certainly worth a rental.

    You can buy Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb on Blu-ray here

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £15.00

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