WALL·E 2-Disc Set Blu-ray Review
PictureWALL-E has a beautiful 2.39:1 image encoded with precision via MPEG-4. It's Pixar, isn't it? Given their track record, words here are kind of superfluous, then ... if we're honest.
Like the theatrical version, this BD preserves the unusual film-like quality of the Earthbound scenes - dusty, dry and somewhat jaundiced - and even maintains a strange sense of cinematic sheen to the space-set and aboard the Axiom acts that come to dominate. In this way, the transfer differs a lot from Pixar's previous hi-def releases and from the likes of, say, Kung Fu Panda, which is almost impossibly vibrant and bewitching. But comparing these different films is pointless - they have each been designed with their own visual slant, and their own individual aesthetics in mind. But one thing is certainly true - WALL-E looks absolutely fabulous.
Colour fidelity is excellent, once again proving that if you want your screen to positively melt with scintillating blues, eye-smothering reds and oranges, lush pinks and greens then you should look no further than Pixar. The film's hues and sheens are often vivid, rich and almost medicinal in their mind-becalming beauty. Basically, as always, they take the entire spectrum and fold it through a million combinations of hue, light, shade, texture and wrap the most endearing sensory candy around you that you've ever seen ... well, since their last movie, anyway. The detail is so vivid and well integrated that you could watch this a thousand times and still see something new each time. Like I said, the Earthbound scenes are noticeably drier and more muted, the atmosphere almost sepia-tinted at times, but this only brings out the dazzling power of the colours when they do eventually make their presence felt. The red dot that becomes a million such dots heralding the arrival of EVE, and the wild blue of her laser canon are beautifully rendered. As is the simply gorgeous shot of EVE reducing a fleet of beached tanker-ships to smouldering rubble - the image becoming a wall of lush flame amid the shadows that surround them as they topple like dominoes. The little cluster of Christmas lights that WALL-E places around the comatose EVE sparkle, yet the clever thing is that they still seems sort of obscured by the dusty air. This attention to detail is something that Pixar excel at - and they have taken it to a new level with this film.
Finite visual decoration is, as always, breathtaking. The beauty of deep space, with a spiral galaxy marvellously reflected in WALL-E's eye and the “pearl-esque” scattering of stars and nebulae enjoying profound glory against the canopy of black and the vistas of midnight blue. Back on Earth, we have the towering ochre-tinted refuge of WALL-E's world - every piece of compacted litter can be seen clearly etched within the mammoth cubed stockpiles that WALL-E builds. And then there is the neon-dripping and incandescent beauty of the Axiom, which is something that you long to linger on, but there is always so much else going in the sensationally active frame, once we get there, that your eyes and brain run the risk of spinning out of control. The fast action of the many kinetic pursuits is now leaps and bounds above the racing dexterity of fish-shoals in Nemo, or the whiplash speed of Dash tearing through the jungle in The Incredibles. The gleaming detail of the Cars roaring around the track, too, has nothing on the acute attention to the varied and pulse-accelerating imagery of the Axiom's multi-laned through-ways, chock-a-block with lardies on flying sofas or a swarming tangle of bots of all different shapes, sizes and colours careering around the inter-galactic joint. There is even a nice little hand-held shot back on Earth when WALL-E disturbs a platoon of shopping trolleys during another unsuccessful attempt to impress EVE, that sort of calls to mind a similar tracking shot in Monsters Inc. when one of the Scare-Floor operatives runs to hit the alarm on the far wall and, once more, such liveliness comes across extremely well. Surfaces aboard the Axiom become far more cleanly delineated and edges tighter and crisper - but not distractingly enhanced at all, by the way. Contrast though, is boosted a touch but, again, this is deliberate for that artificial, sterile look. Blacks don't slouch, either, looking strong and robust.
Once again, to reiterate, WALL-E has a different look than, say, Ratatouille. It is not as warm and softly entrancing. It is also different from Cars, not as sharp or as penetrating, yet it is Cars that it most resembles with its loving recreation of gleaming surfaces, reflections and non-living entities clearly existing and interacting. But where Cars was incredibly three-dimensional - perhaps because we know vehicles, roads, buildings and mountains so well that the eye is quicker to pick up the intricate presentation of such things in this medium - WALL-E, if anything, seems less concerned with such depth. It is there, of course - from top-down views of the blighted city, the Axiom hanging poised on the cusp of a nebula, or the bots speeding down the lanes of the vast ship - but Andrew Stanton's insistence on a veneer that recaptures the sci-fi films that he grew up with means that sparkling sharpness and seriously realistic depth perception is not something that he is striving for.
Well, the transfer looks perfect to me, folks - a very, very accurate recreation of the image that I saw at the flicks. No banding, no artefacts and no noise reduction to mar things. You just can't ask for more.
SoundThere has already been some confusion over this release. Early copies seem to have had mistaken details on the pack stating that the disc only contained a DD 5.1 track. Officially, the BD was supposed to have a DTS-MA 6.1 audio, though many people have claimed that their systems were not showing this. Thus, it seems that the track was a DTS HD Master ES Matrixed 6.1 track, with the sixth channel modulated into the rear surrounds. However, the two copies that I have played (mine arrived late, but I had already borrowed one from a friend to give the once-over) both stated DTS-MA 5.1 on the packaging and, more importantly, played as such on my US PS3 and Onkyo 875.
And, unsurprisingly, it sounds great. It's not the most immediately “wowing” audio that I've heard from Pixar on BD, that would be Cars with its immaculate split-channel shenanigans, but it delivers a fine sonic performance just the same. Dialogue, which is hardly an essential quality during the early sections of the film, is always crystal clear, and the chirps, bleeps, whoops and hums from the many robots is tremendously evocative. There is a broad spread across the front soundstage and the rears are engaged often and with pleasing results. Panning around the set-up is well achieved with the listening area nicely geared-up for full viewer-immersion. That leap to hyper-speed that the Axiom makes delivers a coolly emphatic whump that noticeably sucks at the air around you.
The good stuff doesn't end there, either.
WALL-E has a tremendous sound design, too. Full of intricate bleeps and bloops, the film places atmospherics - the dust storms, the lightning and rain - all around you, provides innumerable scuffles and scrapes through the rubbish mounds, supplies neat little scamperings for the tiny feet of the cockroach and, naturally, fills the environment with hustle and bustle and pin-sharp steerage aboard the Axiom spacecraft with plenty of babble, whooshing of fat-chairs and the mobile cacophony of the “Rogue Robots”. This teeming effect of the crowded thorough-fares of robots and bulbous humans create a wall of detailed sound - whirrings, voices, and impacts - and this is conveyed with wonderful directionality. The bass levels that I heard were excellent, too, though perhaps not as unexpectedly bombastic as those shotgun blasts in Ratatouille. That said, the blasting of EVE's laser canon provides some awesomely dynamic explosions - especially the bit with the toppling cargo ships in the parched-dock. Yet, even if spacecraft landings and EVE laser-blasts have the punch and vigour to bring the sub to life during such extravagant displays as WALL-E ducking and diving out of the way of her infuriated firing or the probe-carrier's incredibly rumbling arrival, such foundation-rumbling is achieved in that curiously non-neighbour-worrying Disney-fashion. Loud, undeniably felt, but somehow presented without the all-out aggression of a live-action battler.
Thomas Newman's score is warmly melodic and sweeps across the roof of the film with delightful ease. Those beautiful little piano notes sound glorious and the detail of the instrumentation is wonderfully observed, with such things as the oboe, the clarinet, the sweet violin chords and the ethereal harp shining through a wide and interesting sound-field. Again, as with the scintillating picture, the audio is first-rate and gets itself a very strong 9 out of 10.
ExtrasAlmost as full as the belly on one of the film's bloated future-humans, WALL-E's 2-discer doesn't disappoint in the special features department, either. Also available is
-disc version, but be advised that this extra platter just contains a digital copy of the movie and no further extras.
There's probably a stack of trailers in the “coming soon” and “available on Blu-ray” section that opens up this disc, but I'm afraid I sped past these without looking. Then, of course, there is the usual endless succession of warning screens but, once you've done that, you can enjoy the film with the Cine-Explore commentary from writer/director Andrew Stanton, which also contains behind-the-scenes footage, production stills, artwork etc to help illustrate what is a very interesting examination of what went into the making of WALL-E, his inspiration for the story and his style of film-making and how it translates to Pixar's work ethic. Also included in this feature is another commentary of the pop-up variety that lets us hear from the co-producer and a team of Pixar's finest in the Geek Track. A little more amusing this one and more spontaneous, it may deviate from the path that Stanton was keen to stick to, but it is still worth sticking with.
Then we get two of Pixar's almost obligatory shorts. Presto (5.14) is a great little theatrical short that chronicles the on-stage power-struggle between a magician and his his rabbit - all caused by a carrot. But, the better of the two, is Burn-E (7.19), which, in DD 5.1, shows us the that trouble that WALL-E's unexpected arrival and misadventures cause to the little repair-bot, Burn-E. The way that this is set up, you really have to have seen the full film first. Sort of like a robotic version of Ice Age's long-suffering Scrat-style of story. This time around, you can actually watch it with the original storyboards as a comparison to the finished film.
Disc 1 is also BD-Live enabled.
Disc 2 is given over to the documentaries and more fun stuff. These are divided into two groups - Robots and Humans.
Under Robots, you can find WALL-E's Treasures and Trinkets (4.54), in which our metallic mate fumbles with a hula-hoop, a magnet, a lot of coloured balls, some headphones and even falls afoul of both a football and a baseball. Cute, but still padding.
Lots Of Bots is a nice little feature that lets you either simply listen to a story read by Pixar-regular John Ratzenberger and Kathy Najimy or interact with it by constructing the characters in it as it progresses. Be warned though, this option does tend to drag on for a bit and you have to wait for a prompt before you can exit it once you have activated it.
Axiom Arcade is something that I normally abhor on discs - interactive games. In this case, however, we actually get a selection and, surprise-surprise, they are pretty decent too. Well, hardly ground-breaking - merely character-based variations on familiar old-school arcade games like Asteroids, Donkey-Kong and Pac-Man - but with addictive action and Casio keyboard music, these are a whole lotta fun and - big plus, this - very simple to use. We have four to choose from - EVE's Bot Blaster, WALL-E's Dodge and Dock, M-O's Mop-Up Madness and Burn-E's Break Through. Now that I've enjoyed the games here as well as the Gort Shoot 'em Up on the fantastic BD release of The Day The Earth Stood Still, I may have to refine my opinions about such gimmicks.
Bot Files is not as dodgy as it sounds, folks. This is simply a three-dimensional look at many of service droids that we see in the film, with verbal backgrounds given for each.
WALL-E's Tour Of The Universe (0.46) is nothing more than an ad promoting your own investigation of the heavens, via telescope.
Moving onto the Humans section, we find, first of all, a wide-ranging seven-part behind-the-scenes chronicle of the film's production. Lasting for over an hour, these featurettes are detailed and informative, covering the creation of the film's look, the unique sound design, the evolution of the humans as they made the transition from script to finished article, the fabulous score from Thomas Newman, the life of a shot in a Pixar movie, the creation and necessity for the infinite variety of service droids and, of course, another look at the concepts and development of WALL-E and EVE, and their romance.
The Pixar Story (88.30) is a fantastic, feature-length study of the illustrious studio, its talented founders, its humble beginnings and fledgling successes, its gain in ability and confidence from early shorts and ads to full-blown animated movies. Narrated by Stacey Keach, this may be slightly fawning, but it seems to leave no stone unturned and boasts great interviews, honest recollections and opinions and provides a fascinating insight into one of Hollywood's greatest and most meteoric success stories. All their productions so far are charted and it is neat the way that we sit in on animation run-throughs and get to hear various artists going through the motions, or even being reprimanded - like the poor guy who left little Nemo virtually dead beneath his father's flippers because he was so focussed on getting Dad just right, for instance. Great stuff, folks.
Next up is four Deleted Scenes that come with introductions from Andrew Stanton as to why they were removed and at what stage in the game he realised they wouldn't quite work. There are some fine ideas here, including a couple of complete role reversals. Mostly uncompleted - visually - the scenes play out extremely well and two of them look very decent indeed.
BNL Shorts (9.02 with a Play All) are fun training films for the new captain of the Axiom, looking at the job itself, the clean-up background to Earth's plight and a Meet The BNL Bots round-up. Reasonable and a nice idea - but definitely filler.
Then we get taken on some majestic fully animated 3D tours. These are mostly of the Axiom's various decks and levels - including a Star Trek style study of the ship's exterior - but we do get two back on Earth, of the ghostly refinery and of WALL-E's truck-cum-home, complete with a glimpse at all of his belongings. Actually, this stuff may be more filler, but it is still extremely well done and quite atmospheric.
Finally, to round out a release that makes time for everyone and should certainly please everyone as well, we get the great Galleries - characters, backgrounds and layouts, visual development and publicity (12.43) - and the trailers, four of them, including a French one.
So, with this release, the kids are entertained as much as the grownups, or vice versa.
VerdictAlmost up there alongside The Dark Knight as the year's best, Wall-E finds a wonderful new home on Blu-ray. Well stocked with bonus material that includes lots of fun, real insight, genuine opinions and infectious charm, the film and its development is very richly examined. Pixar have created a universe here and delivered it with style to a disc that takes full advantage of what Blu-ray can do, although it is perhaps a tad ironic that the most fun I had with it was actually playing those vintage games!
With AV quality that drips with the studio's now-hotly anticipated jaw-dropping razzle-dazzle, WALL-E is exactly the type of film that the format was made for. Yet far from being just a shallow excuse for visual nirvana, Andrew Stanton's inter-galactic, post-apocalyptic rom-com has a soul, and a conscience. But, with Pixar's patented aversion to preaching, the message is covertly smothered in drip-dry primary bliss, infectious farce and such an immersive sense of characterisation that nobody need know.
Cautionary tale and heart-warming stellar serenade all in one, WALL-E is an animation classic that boldly goes its own way, whilst still paying homage to some of the great sci-fi concepts that have made the genre so ceaselessly intriguing.
Very highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.31
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