The disc presents a widescreen 1.78:1 1080p 2D and 3D picture and is Region locked to A and B. As most probably know by now this is an open matte print from the theatrical run of widescreen 2.35:1 meaning there are no elements missing at the edges, rather there is more information at the top and bottom of the frame. Pros and cons of this have been debated for the 2D release so I won’t go into it here, other than to say that this shape screen lends itself to 3D when viewing on a TV, as it fills all available space thus helping with the immersion needed to keep the brain fooled into seeing the 3D image.
Although I never saw the theatrical release of the ‘Dawn Treader, I do know it was widely criticised for its 2D to 3D post-conversion being rather poor; well that may be the case, but whatever deficiencies it may have had in cinemas, they have been well and truly addressed for this Blu-ray, in what is a terrific looking image. Whilst it still suffers from the inherent problems associated with conversions, it still manages to provide plenty of immersion and effects and, at times, gives some tremendous depth to the frame. The biggest criticism of conversions is the lack of solidity, or volume, given to the individual layers of a frame which leads to a series of flat planes attempting to show depth. Well, ‘Dawn Treader is the first really successful attempt (excluding Disney’s cell animated conversions) I’ve seen to solve this problem; objects have some sense of solidity, people have a roundness to them, objects have a sense of front/middle/back, faces are no longer flat, bodies show dimension and when positioned into a depth of field in the frame actually manage to hold some 3D space; and not just in selected frames, for the whole run time there are tangible distances between objects within the frame, and the objects themselves appear solid. Look at the scene when Lucy opens and reads from the spell book; how solid her hand is as she traces the outline of the cover, how it ‘sticks out’ from the wooden plinth. Later in the same scene when the snow falls, she is stood in the centre of the room as snow falls all around her. Look too and the map that Coriakin unveils (forget the ‘in your face’ unrolling which is not a very effective shot) at how the islands stand up from the floor, how the clouds have volume and distance around the room and how the whole thing sits comfortably within the set. Aerial shots of the various islands show dramatic relief as the coves are in front of the mountainous areas, look down the valley of the dragon’s gold, see how the mist floats into and out of the frame as the ship sails through. Witness the scene with Aslan’s reflection in Eustace’s (as the dragon) eye; how there is depth and relief to the lid and the eyeball itself. And how the portal that Lucy, Edmund and Eustace need to get home stretches into the frame. Effects that would look stunning had the film been shot natively look amazingly good in this convert and whilst it does still suffer from that inherent ‘false’ look, i.e. there are still plenty of instances where the 3D looks kind of forced (walking through Coriakin’s corridors, or looking along the deck of the ‘Treader) and unnatural, there is still plenty to praise. Of course I’m not converted to converts, naturally filmed 3D is still streaks ahead, but this film, at least, proves that converts are moving towards something that resembles a decent 3D image.
The rest of the picture is equally praiseworthy. Detail is sharp and very well defined, wood grain, skin and clothing weaves have a definite edge to them, look too at the rocks of the various islands, or the run down stone buildings, the food laid out on Aslan’s table or the individual sand grains as Aslan paws it; each are exquisitely sharp and detailed and hold an edge well into the frame, from the closest sand grain to the furthest mountain.
Colours are bold and strong without wash or bleed. The primaries come across with vibrancy and urgency, greens are lush, blues are deep and reds are fiery, all without any hint of posterization or banding. Skin tones are well seen and very natural looking.
Brightness and contrast are set to give deep blacks (with the usual 3D caveat) further deepening the frame and showing some nice shadow detail when required; look at Caspian’s and Edmund’s gaol cell, or the night time attack of the ‘Treader in the fog.
Digitally I saw no compression problems, nor was there any edge enhancement. Being shot digitally there is no grain either. Using passive technology to view the 3D proved to show no crosstalk, though some occasional aliasing and loss of detail (some flags in the far distance) on a very rare occasion were noticed. I must note, though, that using the LG BX580 player showed up the same ‘flashing’ problem I experienced with Drive Angry in that some frames would ‘flash’ and the 3D became extremely uncomfortable to watch – but transferring to a PS3 solved this issue without incident. Those using the same player should be aware.
I concentrate on the English dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. To further bolster the visuals we have an extremely lively surround track that likes to fully immerse you following the on screen action to a tee. Right from the off you know you are in for a treat when a fighter plane thunders overhead making those on screen, and you in the safety of your living room, duck. Effects are myriad and range from waves, rain, wind, echoes, dragon roars, arrows and the clash of steel against steel; all with pinpoint accuracy around the sound stage. Ambience is further enhanced by the surrounds whose effects mirror those of the frontal array steering the sound around the room to fully place you in the centre of the action. Dialogue is always clear and precise, sounding very natural and given a little directionality when needed. Bass is well used to keep everything grounded and there are plenty of LF effects to keep the sub happy and the neighbours awake, plumbing, as it does, to the very depths of the foundations. The score comes across utilising all the speakers to further enhance the surround experience. And finally Alsan’s roar is enough to blow out your windows!
All the extras are housed on the 2D Blu-ray that is also in this set and is, in fact, the exact same disc that has previously been available. The extras menu is interactive in that is a series of islands that house the separate titles and whilst it was probably a good idea the execution is clunky and annoying, particularly when a great deal of these features are less than a minute long making the load time rival their length ....
- King Caspian's Guide to the Dawn Treader (04.13, HD) – A narrated, by Caspian himself, guide around the titular ship, looking at such delights as Main Deck, State Room, Poop Deck, Map Room and Oar Room.
- The Secret Islands: Untold Adventures of the Dawn Treader (07.20. HD) – An ‘animated’ epilogue narrated, again, by Caspian furthering the adventures of the ‘Treader.
- In Character with Liam Neeson (05.06, SD) - Fox Movie Channel Presents, so you know what that means, nothing but a blatant advert for the film with more filler than content; this section sees Neeson talk about the character, how he got involved and what it means to him.
- In Character with Georgie Henley and Will Poulter (05.20, SD) – More of the same this time with Eustace and Lucy, respectively, voicing their opinions on their characters liberally interspersed with movie material.
- Direct Effect: Michael Apted (06.27) – More of the same this time with director Apted as he explains the challenges of coming to the series third in line, the plot and differences to the book, thankfully this one has slightly less film filler material.
- Making a Scene (09.11) – Last and worst in this short series which has cast and crew discuss the plot of the film while it plays out with film filler, total advert and nothing of worth within.
- Explore Magician's Island (0.42, HD) – Narrated montage of areas of the island.
- Dufflepud Discovery (01.01, HD) – Brief summary of the odd little island inhabitants.
- Audio Commentary – With director Michael Apted and producer Mark Johnson whose chat track can take a little getting used to by the very nature of their respective deliveries; however there is information aplenty about the production of the film, including the cast, and those that are back again, effects, the changing of the aspect ratio, differences to the book, location and set shooting. Standard stuff really that has no real hook to keep you riveted, but if you persevere there is some reward in the end.
- Explore Narrowhaven (0.42, HD) – Narrated montage of areas of the island.
- Minotaur Discovery (0.51, HD) – Brief overview of the ship’s crew member.
- Deleted Scenes (04.27, HD) – Four scenes entitled The Kids in Narnian Clothes, Eustace is ill, Mutiny and Caspian ‘Doubt’, none of which really add anything to the finished film.
- The Epic Continues (02.15, HD) – Cast and crew discuss this, the latest entry in the franchise.
The Dark Island
- Explore the Dark Island (0.57, HD) – Narrated montage of areas of the island.
- White Witch Discovery (0.36, HD) – Thirty six seconds, really? Load time is longer.
- Serpent Discovery (0.42, HD) – Looking at the final CG creature.
- Portal to Narnia: A Painting Comes to Life (07.22, HD) – Of slightly more value is this brief making of that centres on the scene where the three heroes transport themselves to Nania; cast and crew further discuss this latest entry and its mythology and story.
- Good vs. Evil: Battle on the Sea (10.55, HD) – Cast and crew discuss the climactic battle, how it was achieved and the effects used as well as the sets being built.
- Explore Ramandu's Island (0.59, HD) – Narrated montage of areas of the island.
- Reepicheep Discovery (01.10, HD) – Looking at Reepicheep.
- Aslan Discovery (01.02) – Looking at Aslan
- Liliandil Discovery (0.52, HD) – Looking at Liliandil – these three features have such a short run time and are based on telling you information you already know, they really are not worth bothering to load.
- Search for the Seven Swords Match Game – Memory based game focusing on the Seven Swords.
- VFX Progression (13.00, HD) – Highlights the work done on various effects from the ship’s wake to the Eustace the dragon and shows the various stages needed to finalise the completed effect. Plays with optional commentary from Michael Apted and Mark Johnson.
- Explore Goldwater Island (0.50, HD) – Narrated montage of areas of the island.
- Dragon Discovery (0.56, HD) – Looking at the dragon.
- Theatrical Trailer (02:12, HD)
- 2D Blu-ray – The film in its 2D form, though interestingly the 3D disc also plays the film in 2D, disc also houses all the extra material.
- DVD and Digital Copy – Separate discs containing the film
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader manages to bring the Narnian franchise back on course after the wayward turn in Prince Caspian. Lucy and Edmund are joined in Narnia with their spoiled cousin Eustace and together with King Caspian sail the seas to vanquish an evil by uniting the seven lost Lord’s swords before the world succumbs to darkness. In taking selected elements from the book and constructing a strong narrative drive between them, the makers have created a pretty decent action adventure that contains enough fantasy to keep the audience happy, even if it is at the expense of some of the book’s more intricate rudiments. It is neither as big, nor as bold as its predecessors, due to budgetary constraints, but then being set predominantly on a ship this kind of works in its favour. And with The Magician’s Nephew and The Silver Chair in the pipeline, it seems the Dawn Treader has accomplished what a Prince could not – to revitalise a franchise.
As a (semi) Region free 3D Blu-ray Fox have released a reasonably good package; the 3D picture is remarkably good considering its post-conversion process and this is backed up by a fully immersive surround track and an extras package, that whilst a little frustrating in places does contain a few gems worth seeking out. Containing as it does a 3D Blu-ray (which also plays the 2D version), a 2D Blu-ray, containing all the extras, a DVD and a Digital Copy, this is a totally future proof buy.
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