Planet Of The Apes Blu-ray Review
PictureThe 2.35:1 1080p (encoded in MPEG-2 at 18 MBPS) image arrives on BD with strong colours and a reassuring weight to its copious blacks, taking the still pretty decent original print and polishing it up a little bit. I say a little bit because, as good as I remember the SD release looking (indeed, the screengrabs here are taken from it) and as high as my expectations for a BD version were, the end result is actually quite underwhelming. Although the image is colourful and lively, the picture has two distinct problems. The first is that those strong blacks I mentioned are perhaps too dominant for the surrounding picture, leading to a visual presentation that is, for the most part, too dark. And considering that much of the film is dealt out of the shadows of Ape City or takes place at night, this can be quite detrimental. The detail within these darker portions just does not have that hi-definition enhancement, so much of the benefits of 1080p resolution is wasted. Don't get me wrong, the movie was always dark and moody, but somehow it appears even murkier than before. The sequence when our “heroes” steal the gorillas' horses and ride through their camp is now worryingly indistinct and even the flames that light up the image don't manage to make the correct impression through the darkness. The jungle scenes, which fare better, make good use of the black levels to promote the otherworldly atmosphere and the copious greens of the foliage fill the screen quite nicely and accurately. But the overall impression that I got from the transfer was that it was just too dark.
The second area for concern is at the other end of the lighting spectrum. When we have scenes set in broad daylight - the ruins of Calima, primaril,y and the big battle set in and around there - the contrast seems to burn out and leave the image looking dry and washed-out. The picture then becomes slightly hazy and mushy, with edges softening and depth of field lost. It is also during these scenes that the layer of grain on the film is revealed which, when mingled with the copious dust and grit flying about as a result of the action, renders the image occasionally unpleasant to watch.
On a brighter note, literally, colours are vivid and bold with the primaries, especially the rich reds of Ape Army insignia, tents, flags and helmets, coming across very well. The SD always looked good when exhibiting the amassed tents of the army encampment though, as previously mentioned, the red tapestry of the ornate canvas bivouacs seem slightly squashed here on BD due to the over-eager blacks.
Detail in close-ups is very good. From the weaponry and the fantastic armour of the apes, to the digital readouts on the spacecraft electronics, and from the intricate designs of the fixtures and furnishings within Ape City to the finite intimacy of the expressive facial masks and costumes, the disc does a grand job. But once objects and characters move a little further back the quality of their definition goes down considerably. Although there was no edge enhancement that proved distracting, there was evidence of noise in the picture and some very slight motion drag as well. In fact, I am fairly disappointed, image-wise, with this Blu-ray version of the film as it just consistently lacks that three-dimensionality that a hi-definition transfer should have. Viewed on 52 inch 1080p screen, Planet Of The Apes just didn't make the grade as a showcase for what Blu-ray can do.
SoundSadly I, like everyone else, am still unable to hear the full glories of DTS HD Master Lossless Audio, but the Core DTS that this track supplies is wonderful enough to satisfy for the time being. The original release had a pretty hefty DTS track, as well, and this one still packs quite a punch.
The bass level is fantastically deep and resonant, offering wonderful support to the crash-landing, the thundering of ape feet across the desert floor and the explosions towards the end. The spread across the front is wide and detailed and provides plenty of sweeps left and right and keeps dialogue perfectly centred and clear. The rear speakers are in use often and quite emphatically, delivering lots of ambience for the goings-on in Ape City and expert capturing of screeches and impacts over your shoulder and the babble of monkey chatter. Steerage around the set-up is nigh on seamless and there are plenty of moments when whip-around glory can be enjoyed - the afore-mentioned crash-landing, the big battle at the end and the ride through the ape encampment being standouts. The time-warp vortex provides some nice sound effects too and the hunt sequence fills the room with frantic activity. A couple of great ape-screeches seem to leap right over your head as well, which adds a much more immediate sensation of impeccable directionality.
The mid-range is warm and enveloping, really adding to the immersion of such scenes as those around the dinner table or through the streets of Ape City. High ends seem to be the pride of place for the wonderful screeching of the apes and, as such, does not disappoint, with the lounge coming to realistically represent your local zoo at times. Danny Elfman's score is quite marvellously presented too and, although very strongly integrated into the film at large, does not swamp the dialogue or effects.
Overall, this is a great track that does a fine job of drawing you into the film though, personally, I would have preferred a PCM Uncompressed track, as I have repeatedly found this audio option to provide the best sound design and overall dynamics available, but the DTS mix offered here is a terrific and all-enveloping experience. I have no doubt at all that the full effect of Master Lossless will be even better again, so I can only give Planet Of The Apes a great big thumbs up with regards to its audio presentation.
ExtrasApes received a luxurious double-discer for its SD release, but this Blu-ray edition ditches everything except for the chat track from Tim Burton and the film's theatrical trailer (in full 1080p). Now, I normally sing the praises of commentaries, often believing them to be the best special feature in the package, but I have to draw the line when it comes to Burton doing the talking. His stuttering, half-mumbled monologues are boring and dreary at the best of times and seem to evaporate any enjoyment you may have gleaned from watching a film right alongside its director. Now, there was a chance with this commentary for Planet Of The Apes for Burton to address the many problems he had during production and, especially, the differences of opinion that he and Fox had about it. But, instead, we get nothing more than lethargic and often uncompleted reminiscences and anecdotes that barely venture below the surface of one of the most eagerly anticipated - and, ultimately, pointless - remakes in recent years. Then again, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised at his apparent lack of enthusiasm or his decision to just pay lip service to the script and the performances of a project that fell so far short of his original vision, given that he nothing more than a director-for-hire in the first place. But it still doesn't make for an interesting commentary, I'm afraid.
Disappointing, folks. If you are a fan then I'm sure you will already have the features-festooned previous release, so my advice would be to hang onto it even should you choose to upgrade to the Blu-ray disc.
VerdictYes, the film is ill-conceived and all a bit of a mess, but at least it looks good, with a lot of effort pitched into the visual aesthetic of the ape culture - such as the armour, the buildings and the artwork. Burton's direction is fast and by-the-numbers and there is really only one performance worth watching yet, in the right frame of mind, there is still some fun to be had. Best viewed as one of the more colourful and entertaining sequels rather than as a fully-fledged re-interpretation of a classic and highly influential genre milestone.
Fox's BD release ditches practically all the extras that were on the previous 2-discer and although the audio mix is superb, I have some issues with the image transfer. Therefore I can't totally recommend upgrading from the previous release, I'm afraid.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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