Piranha 3D Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p transfer that is Region locked to B. Although always envisaged as a 3D film, Piranha was actually shot in 2D and converted and thus suffers accordingly, which is a shame because the genuine 3D material, the CG elements, work very well. Distance separation between layers is the main problem, compounded by the lack of solidity of the elements within those layers, you are left with a distinctly lacking 3D image with the occasional wow moment.
The opening shots of the desert ridges, the establishing lake and subsequent boat are very well framed, there is perceivable distance into the frame, in fact most of the establishing shots do look reasonably good, the overhead shots of the crowds at Spring Break, any of the landscape shots, the overhead shot of the girls on the trampoline have a noticeable depth of frame. When the film concentrates more intimately the distance between layers drops markedly. Now this is forgivable if the layers themselves have a solid 3D depth to them, and put simply they don’t, so this flattens the frame to something that a decent 2D CG animated film can replicate. Where the 3D excels though is with the CG elements, the piranhas themselves have a decent solidity and when they swarm there is a definite sense of depth, the lake bed, with the assorted rubbish, or plant life do have a real sense of scale and have the obligatory ‘point at the screen’ moments; the steel cable gag looks very nice as the cable whips in front of your face, but the beer and puke thrown at the screen don’t fair quite so well. Perhaps the most anticipated scene with Kelly Brook and Riley Steele swimming naked underwater is frankly flat as a pancake in 3D; they barely float out of the screen and their bodies have no solidity at all. Faces and bodies in general have no depth, objects, such as cars and boats have little or no length, excepting once when the Barracuda did show a noticeable front middle back, but this was so rare with anything that when it did occur was an “ooh 3D” moment, bringing you out of the picture.
Detail wise, however, things were much better, with plenty to see, the salt on the bodies during the tequila scene, the scales on the fish, the sheer number of bodies, both sun drenched or mutilated all stand out with definite clarity. Colours are bold and strong with no wash or bleed, primaries stand out well, red being of particularly note, flesh tones have a healthy look too.
Contrast and brightness are set to give a good indication of black, though the film rarely uses them, being set in the bright sunshine, when it moves underwater, and the CG elements, do tend to grey (actually green) the blacks, but this is intentional and not a transfer defect.
Digitally there are no compression problems, no banding, or posterization nor was there any edge enhancement noticed. There were a few instances of cross talk, but nothing that lasted for very long or became too distracting. In all a good, but unexceptional 3D picture.
For those not yet equipped with full 3D technology this set includes a red/blue anaglyph Blu-ray which can be watched on all equipment. The 3D is much the same as described above; little distance to the layers and little solidity to the layers themselves. The big difference is that this print has virtually no colour due to the inherent technology needed to produce the picture, so all primaries are lost in a sea of red and blue, flesh is weak and blacks are almost non-existent. As a print it is clean and vibrant and detail is sharp and well defined.
If you don’t fancy the anaglyph print, you can always settle for the 2D print, which is everything the 3D print is, just not in 3D, i.e. clear, detailed, colourful with good black.
Just the two tracks to choose from English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0, I concentrated on the surround track. What promises to be an all engrossing track is sadly let down by a front heavy mix and a lack of bass, excepting in the score. Dynamically it is spread very wide across the front and there are some decent enough stereo effects, such as the Spring Break crowds, or the creaking of the sinking boat, however, the surround speakers don’t capitalise on this as well as the best out there, which means total immersion is sadly lost – particularly when the scenes take place under the water. Dialogue is very natural sounding and there is some directionality given when needed. Bass is well layered but no where near as deep as one has come to expect with reference discs, in fact, the only significant depth, other than the explosion at the end, comes from the score, particularly the songs playing in the Spring Break scenes. Although I make it sound it, it is not that bad, and a hike in the volume level will bring out some added oomph and cleaner effects, but with a little finesse it could have been so much more.
- Audio Commentary
Director Alexandre Aja and producers Grégory Levasseur and Alix Taylor give us a very informal chat that is very anecdotal and barely technical, which makes for quite a refreshing change. They cover a lot of material and it is very much a chat over the film, rather than a scene specific talk, I very much enjoyed the critical nature with which they discussed some of the choices made by the distribution company and studio (during the credits) and their wanting to discuss those that didn’t perform rather then the back slapping that can sometimes fill these chats. It’s very different, and at times difficult to understand the accents, however, it is worth a listen, if just for their idea for a drinking game – every time you see a boob.
- Behind the scenes – HD, 1.28.13
Several featurettes that can be played all together or watched individually. Welcome to Piranha (02.47) is a basic introduction to the film; Aja, Cast and Story (16.21) introduces the director, the major cast and the development of the story, from its original guise to the re-write and back again, concentrating on the 80’s nostalgia ‘boobs and blood’ in horror; Lake Victoria (15.32) looks at the location used for filming and the various problems encountered while trying to film on water, such as anchoring the two boats together in the final set piece; Spring break (21.11) details the lengths that are taken to convincingly recreate a Spring Break, using such tactics as inter-cutting with footage taken at an actual Spring Break to hiring in-excess of five hundred sun tanned and toned extras to portray the antics that happen; Special fx and Stunts (22.16) looks at many of the special rigs set up to portray the set pieces, such as the tilting topless stage, the three Barracuda boats, one of which was only half a boat able to sink and float at will, and the huge ‘stunt lake’ built for the most of the underwater filming; Blood and Gore (15.21) takes a look at the huge amount of blood and prosthetics used for the film, and how amputees were employed to convincingly show extremities chewed off, as well as the special makeup used that had to be able to stand up to heat and water; The Music (09.14) looks at the score from Michael Wandmacher, including some of the recording sessions in Prague; Piranha and Visual fx (17.16) takes a look at the development of the fish and the effects used to convincingly show them on screen, as well as the many subtle digital effects effects used, such as digital rocks, and digital removal of unwanted material, stunt wires etc.; Why 3D (06.33) looks at the digital 3D conversion process and explains why the makers felt that the film needed this extra dimension; Last Bite (03.02) rounds up this monumental feature.
This is a hugely comprehensive making of feature that goes into just about all aspects of the film making process, right from scripting to finished product, inevitably there is some overlap with the audio commentary but for the most part this will tell you all you need to know about the making of this film.
- Deleted Scenes – HD, 07.57
Six filmed scenes entitled Pet Emporium, Cheerleaders, Sand Island Ghost train, Kiss, Cliff Diver and Andrew’s Death, that play as one feature, but are chaptered – nothing much here really, first one has some more with Christopher Lloyd, the second Dina Meyer, whom I nearly missed in the final film, and the last does answer a plot hole that I spotted on the first viewing.
- Deleted Scenes: Storyboard – HD, 11.14
Two scenes not filmed shown as storyboard drawing with narration; Billy’s Burger Shack and Mini Van.
- 2D Version
The film but in 2D.
- Anaglyph Version
The film but in anaglyph form.
Plenty of extras to get your, ahem, teeth into. The 3D disc is a combo which includes the 2D version and the audio commentary, the second Blu-ray is just the anaglyph copy, but includes the rest of the extra features.
Piranha 3D is director Alexandre Aja’s attempt at a seventies exploitation flick, and by ramping up the body count, throwing gallons of blood at the screen, filling the frame with naked bodies and shooting it with tongue firmly planted in cheek, the film nearly succeeds; unfortunately it doesn’t have the necessary tension or horror to really make it stand out in the horror genre, although, I’ll admit, it is pure fun in the race to its eighty eight minute run time. It will have a limited market, I’m sure, but those in that market will have a whale of a time, even if it's for all the references to Jaws.
As a Blu-ray, EiV have provided a full up package, with both full 3D and 2D films and an anaglyph version for those not yet fully equipped, this is a truly future proof buy, the picture and sound are not the best out there, but the extras package is very comprehensive and giving you plenty to, ummm…. chew on ….
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