The Smurfs 3D Blu-ray Review
The Smurfs comes in region free three disc set, that includes the 2D and 3D versions on separate Blu-rays. The 1080p/24 2D Blu-ray is encoded using the AVC codec and the transfer is framed at 1.78:1. The film was shot at 1080p/24 using Genesis high definition cameras and the post production was done using a 2K digital intermediate. The Blu-ray is a direct digital transfer from the original 2K masters and as a consequence the results are spectacular. This is near reference transfer that delivers a wonderfully colourful, bright and detailed image. The level of detail on this high definition Blu-ray is truly exceptional, so much so in fact that it sometimes reveals limitations in the animation of the Smurfs themselves. Thanks to the digital source the picture is clean, with limited grain and almost no digital noise, resulting in an image that is free of any aliasing, banding or compression artefacts. There is also no ringing, no DNR and no edge enhancement, leaving just a lovely film-like presentation that doesn't betray its digital origins. The bright colours literally pop off the screen and perfectly match the Smurfs comic book history and the blacks are superb with no crush and plenty of shadow detail.
When we move on to the 1080p/24 3D presentation, things aren’t quite as good because unfortunately The Smurfs was not shot in native 3D. Instead the 3D was added in post-production and as always when it comes to the live action scenes the results are totally unconvincing. The opening scene is entirely computer generated and as such the 3D looks quite good but as soon as Gargamel turns up, the live action Hank Azaria looks flat and dimensionless, like a character in a pop-up book. There are also tell-tale signs of conversion artefacts when the 3D is confronted with complex scenes such as the trees in Central Park. Due to their computer generated origins, the Smurfs themselves convert into 3D quite well but as soon as we see a human being, the illusion is shattered. The 3D feels tacked on, rather than an integral part of the film and as such it never seems to serve the story. Once you add in the problems associated with the conversion, you end up with a 3D experience that never feels organic or immersive. On the plus side, the bright look of the film lends itself to the darkened nature of 3D viewing and the transfer is free of any crosstalk but ultimately the 2D version remains the preferred viewing experience.
The Smurfs includes the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack on both the 2D and 3D versions of the film and what a fantastic sonic experience it is. The sound design is superb, with a highly aggressive use of surrounds that creates a truly enveloping experience. The imaging within the sound field is very precise resulting in a dynamic mix that is as frenetic as the action on screen. The dynamic range is of reference quality, from the brief moments of silence to the loudest explosion and the low frequency effects support the soundtrack without ever swamping the rest of the mix. The music is well recorded and integrated into the overall soundtrack and utilises both the front and rear channels to create a greater sense of envelopment. The dialogue is nicely locked on the centre channel and whilst the voices of the Smurfs were obviously recorded in ADR, they have been mixed into the soundtrack with plenty of spatial integration so that they sound like an organic part of the entire sound design. Overall, this is a superb soundtrack that delivers an incredibly engaging and immersive experience, if only the 3D had been this good.
The Blu-ray of The Smurfs comes in a number of different formats, starting with the full three disc set that includes the 2D and 3D versions on separate Blu-rays and a DVD. There is also the two disc set that includes the 2D Blu-ray and the DVD and finally a single disc DVD release. If you buy any of these releases at Tescos you will also get an exclusive bonus DVD of The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol, although this offer is for a limited time only.
On the DVD there are the following extras: Find The Smurfs Game, Deleted & Extended Scenes, The Smurfs: Comic Book to Big Screen, Going Gargamel and Progression Reels. The Blu-ray has all the extras on the DVD (except the Find The Smurfs Game) as well as Smurf-O-Vision, two Audio Commentaries, The Smurfs Fantastic Adventure Game, Blue-pers, Happy Music Montage and Smurf Speak: Meet the Cast.
Whilst at first glance, the bonus features on the 2D Blu-ray seem quite comprehensive, on closer inspection most are pointless extras that were a complete chore to wade through. In fact, if we ever see another Smurf again, we will smurf the little smurfer up so badly that the walls will be covered in blue blood!
- Commentary with the Director - This is one of the few extras that was actually worthwhile, mainly because Raja Gosnell is an engaging speaker who manages to pepper his commentary with interesting facts and anecdotes. He discusses how he became involved in the project, how the story was developed, the casting, the shooting, the effects and all the hidden jokes and references. It is a fascinating account of how such bland, mass market studio entertainment is produced and the decision making that accompanies such a committee based process.
- Commentary with the Producer, Writers and VFX Supervisor - Again this is an interesting commentary, that once again provides valuable insight into how modern day big budget features are produced. There are interesting stories relating to the role of the producer, as well as the writing process and how multiple writers often work together. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this commentary is the contribution of the VFX Supervisor, who makes you realise just how much work goes into creating visual effects that quite often remain unnoticed by the average viewer.
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD, 07:41) - These can be watched individually or all together and are the usual collection of brief scenes and scene extensions that were cut either because they didn’t work or for pace and timing. Some of them relate to a running gag and there is a scene where Smurfette discusses being the only female Smurf but overall you can see why these scenes were cut.
- Smurf-O-Vision - This is a feature that is exclusive to owners of Apple’s iPad, iPhone and iTouch and utilises an app that can be downloaded for free. It is similar to Disney’s Second Screen feature but even more useless, unless you enjoy being annoyed by more Smurfs whilst trying to watch a film that is already full of annoying Smurfs.
- The Smurfs Fantastic Adventure Game - This is anything but fantastic and in an age of high tech gaming, even the average five year old would find this feature lame, pathetic and patronising.
- From Comic Book to Big Screen (HD, 08:15) - This feature covers the process to taking 2D comic characters and turning them into 3D computer animated characters. Such important factors as their height (three apples high apparently), the colour of their skin (blue in case you didn’t know) and the position of their eyes are covered. You quickly realise the amount of work that is required to animate the Smurfs but you can’t help feeling these talented animators are ultimately wasting their time.
- Smurf Speak: Meet the Cast (HD, 09:26) - This is the usual meet the voice cast featurette and includes interviews with the actors themselves as well as the producer and director, discussing why they cast them. Apparently the produces didn’t know who Katy Perry was prior to casting her as Smurfette and just felt she was right for the role. That’s funny, because we thought it was just a cynical attempt to cash in on Perry’s popularity with young girls.
- Going Gargamel (HD, 09:57) - This featurette concentrates on Hank Azaria and the amount of work the poor guy put in to playing Gargamel. To be fair this is actually quite good fun and Azaria hams things up nicely, bringing a welcome comic touch to the proceedings. Azaria talks about the character, the make-up and how he developed the voice.
- Happy Music Montage (HD, 01:49) - A total waste of time, just use it to punish your children if they’ve been bad.
- Blue-pers (HD, 0:25) - This is one of those stupid fake animate blooper reels but thankfully, at least it’s short.
- Progression Reels (HD, 09:14) - This featurette shows the amount of work required by Sony Pictures Imageworks, to effectively animate the Smurfs and integrate them into a live action environment. When they start talking about the translucency of the Smurfs ears and how much light passes through them, you begin to realise just how much detail goes into a big budget movie.
- Find the Smurfs Game - This is exclusive to the DVD and is even more pointless than the game on the Blu-ray.
This 3D Blu-ray release of the The Smurfs comes as a three disc set that includes the 2D and 3D versions of the film on separate Blu-rays and also a DVD copy. The film itself is an enjoyable and good natured romp with a positive underlying message that should certainly entertain children but might prove less enjoyable for adults. The animation is generally well executed and overall the film is an excellent example of the kind of mass market entertainment that Hollywood does so well. The voices of the Smurfs themselves are not always ideal but the live action cast try hard with honourable mentions for Neil Patrick Harris and the always reliable Hank Azaria.
The Blu-rays are both region free and the 1080p/24 2D version boasts a nearly reference quality image that is both gloriously colourful and highly detailed. The digital source results in a beautifully clean print that is free of any unwanted artefacts or other manipulation. The 1080p/24 3D version was converted in post-production, and as such suffers from the usual problems of a lack of genuine depth and other image and motion artefacts. Whilst the Smurfs themselves convert to 3D quite well, any live action elements often appear flat and dimensionless, thus giving the appearance of a pop-up book, rather than the natural appearance that can be achieved with native 3D. On the plus side, the bright look of the film lends itself to the darkened nature of 3D viewing and the transfer is free of any crosstalk but ultimately the 2D version remains the preferred viewing experience.
The Smurfs includes the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack on both the 2D and 3D versions of the film and what a fantastic sonic experience it is. The sound design is superb, with a highly aggressive use of surrounds that creates a truly enveloping experience. The imaging within the sound field is very precise resulting in a dynamic mix that is as frenetic as the action on screen. Overall, this is a superb soundtrack that delivers an incredibly engaging and immersive experience, if only the 3D had been this good.
Whilst at first glance the extras on this Blu-ray release of The Smurfs appear quite comprehensive, in actual fact most of them are rather pointless and some are just plain annoying. The two audio commentaries are both excellent and informative, providing a valuable insight into the amount of work and attention to detail that goes into these big budget productions. The remainder of the extras are mostly promtional pieces or pointless games and other such features that even children would find lame and patronising. The Smurfs makes for a fun package, with a cute movie and excellent picture and sound but we recommend you just buy the 2D version and save yourself some money.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £29.99
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