Spritle in the big leagues - 480p - VC1 - 15:43
Here we are guided around some of the set by Paulie Litti who plays the younger brother of Speed; Spritle. This is very squarely aimed at children as it shows the young actor pretending to sneak around and trying to get into places he shouldn't be. All the while interesting facts shoot onto the screen in a comic book style with such offerings as “Speed Racer took 65 days to shoot”. You get an immensely brief glimpse at a couple of props but this was never intended to be an in depth look at the filming process but rather one children might care to watch.
Speed Racer: Supercharged - 480p - VC1 - 15:43
A look at the drivers which is presented in a documentary style as if the Mach 5 along with the other cars were real and motor racing existed in exactly the way it is depicted in Speed Racer. Though it starts off by recycling a plethora of clips from the film it does gives us a decent amount of footage of 3D graphical representations of all the cars as well as some of their components. It would have been nice to see things in a little more detail which could simply have been accomplished by not spinning the computer models 10 times for each shot but on the plus side we get to see some of the vehicles and characters who weren't featured heavily in the film.
Speed Racer: Car-Fu - 480p - VC1 - 27:38
This is a very pleasant surprise. I was prepared to write off all the special features as fodder for the younger audience but this fills a gap for the mature Speed Racer fan nicely. It is supposed to be about the car based combat but it deviates pleasingly into the general area of the cars as a whole. We get to see some great shots of how scenes looked in earlier CGI phases. The graphic designer, art director, storyboard artist to name but a few are all on hand to talk us through the process of bringing these automobiles to life. There are a host of fascinating glimpses at prop cars being built, wire frame tracks and the green screen techniques used. Perhaps most interesting though was the discussion about compositing and the way the Wachowskis utilised having various plains in focus at a time and manipulated them so as to create an image more akin to animation.
Speed Racer: Ramping up! - 480p - VC1 - 9:58
This is simply the standard array of talking heads made up of cast and crew members all discussing the films whilst we are given clips to peruse. Essentially promotional material but some may find interest in it.
VerdictI'm not sure how to rate this disc as it will no doubt have the ability to split opinions and I'm fully preparing myself for a backlash. Put simply I enjoyed the film. It does exactly what I believe it set out to do which was to give us a fancy CGI fuelled version of Speed Racer that adhered to most of the anime series cornerstones. Even if the film is not to your liking the picture itself will be used many a time in shops to convince customers of the benefits of HD. I'd dearly have liked lossless audio but in all honesty the score doesn't necessarily warrant it in my opinion. The extras are generally family fare and will be great for kids. The complete lack of a Wachowski in sight was a little poor though but I did find the odd morsel of info in the chaff and the Car-Fu segment more than made up for them thanks to its quality and length. Overall then a disc for those who enjoyed the film but don't be surprised if a collectors edition comes out further down the line. So long as it has more input from the directors in the extras, a diecast model Mach 5 and lossless audio then I'm sold.
Speed Racer is brought to Blu-ray in full 1080p encoded in VC1 with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Now although you may be thinking that the film may or may not be to your liking I can assure you the same dilemma cannot be applied to the quality of the picture. Put quite simply this is an unreserved triumph. Whilst there are many hallmarks of a CGI film that one would expect - crisp colours, deep blacks etc what really stands out here is how well it marries with the live action. Overly bright artificial colours are placed next to actors and yet flesh tones are perfectly balanced against them. The contrast level is great and shadow detail though perhaps not all that apparent due to the green screen nature of much of the film is certainly good when real objects fill the frame. The bright neon colours of the race tracks are brought to life with such vivacity that they simply lift themselves from the screen and seem to fill the room yet there is nary a hint of colour bleed to be seen. Add to this blacks which are the dictionary definition of depth yet show little to no signs of crushing and whites which remarkably stay crisp and clear without blooming. The sheen with which everything is presented gives the impression of a film that has been lovingly pored over frame by frame. It's almost impossible to nitpick with a film such as this as the actors have been given sufficient make up so as to make them appear more filled in so even if DNR were applied liberally it would make little difference. If you judge picture quality purely by the discs ability to reproduce the cinematic experience then this is nigh on perfect.
After giving such a glowing appraisal of the picture quality I feel I have to come back down to earth with a crash when it comes to the sounds on offer. I know this is primarily a kids/family film and as such audio codecs aren't necessarily at the forefront of peoples minds but frankly I'm still disappointed. To lavish so much care and attention on the visuals and give us a vanilla 5.1 track is a little stingy if you ask me. However, i suppose to play Devil's advocate the soundtrack isn't necessarily a fountain of minute details. This is after all a racing film and as such it relies on these segments simply to shake the listener. It is within these sections that the rears wake up and the sub comes into play. There isn't a great degree of subtlety on show but the soundstage has a nice wide feel to it and the centre is always fairly clear though I found it a touch on the quiet, almost muffled side on occasions. I certainly would have preferred the centre channel to have priority as a crisper more succinct voice would have leant itself more to the anime stylings of the dubbed cartoon that it is emulating.
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