Note thing to note is the second disc with the 2D version, included in this set, is exactly the same as the previous Region free release; its picture is basically flawless.
The 3D disc presents a theatrically correct 1.78:1 1080p transfer using the MCV codec. First thing to note that this 3D disc is completely in 3D, menus an all, which is always a nice touch. Next thing to note is that 3D was forced on this film in post production, it was never filmed in that way and that its theatrical release was rather uninspired and flat and I’m pleased to report that a lot of these issues have been addressed with the blu-ray with regard to layering, but each layer is still flat in itself. For example let’s take the reaction shot of the assembled crowd as Alice hesitates to her proposal – there is clear indication of layering between the rows of admirers, but each row is flat with little distance between them, so whilst the effect is one of distance there is little ‘roundness’ to the reality. Similarly before Alice first meets Cheshire, the forest of trees does provide a nice distance effect between the layers of each tree, but each tree is somewhat flat and does not have a true ‘reach out and touch’ bark solidity to it. It reminds me, somewhat, of the old anaglyphic red/blue 3D, i.e. nice effect but still ‘false’, if you see what I mean? The same can be said of all the characters, real or digital; there is fair distance separation between each, but there is seldom any solidity to themselves. However, all is not lost, there are, indeed, some terrific effects on show, the Bandersnatch chase is particularly well realised with foliage zipping past and clods of mud flying towards the screen; following the bird that catches Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee is very effective; the establishing shot of the Hatter’s table with the various tea pots, plates and condiments; and the overhead shot of the assembling armies on the ‘chess board’ for example. I’d have liked to have seen more effect from Cheshire himself, yes he floats, but he should float ‘out’ of the screen more, likewise Absalom’s smoke could have benefited from greater depth. As the film mostly relies on green screen, there is little in the way of distance depth, so there is no real pull into the screen, likewise the fore to middle provide little distance or depth – yes the effect is 3D but it’s does, unsurprisingly, feel false. The various animals fur fails to give solidity to these characters, despite the aim for realism, compare against Boog’s from Open Season which is a revelation.
However, the rest of the picture is sublime, colours are bight and bold – in the ‘real world’ blues and greens have a near clinical definition, in Underland where the hues are more earthy, reds and oranges have a strong warmth to them. Colours grade very well without banding or posterization. Detail, when not deliberately softened, is very well defined, look at the Hatters costume, the varying weaves or each character eyes, they look watery. Facial/skin detail can vary from very good to soft, but this is a function of the digital softening employed and not a transfer defect. Brightness and contrast are set to give very nice blacks, not the deepest I’ve seen, even with the caveat of 3D technology, but still retain shadow detail, adding some further depth on top of the 3D.
Digitally there were no compression problems or any edge enhancement, though there were a few instances of crosstalk which occurred infrequently and soon cleared up without losing the 3D effect. In all a pretty decent picture, had this been shot in 3D, this could have been a reference point, as it is, it’s just excellent.
Thankfully there are no such problems with the sound which remains as clear and vibrant as ever it was. Of the eight listed sound tracks I concentrate on the English DTS-HD MA 5.1. The disc presents a rich and involving mix that makes good use of the surrounds and bass to fully envelop the listener. Dialogue is clear, precise and natural sounding, and never drowned out by other portions of the mix. Bass is held well in check to keep everything grounded, but hefty enough that the LF effects come through with room shaking ferocity, the roar of Bandersnatch being of particular highlight, in fact, that entire chase sequence smacks of terrific engineering with the whip of leaves and the dirt spray seamlessly, and effortlessly, by, placing you in the centre of the action. The surrounds are rarely given any time off; when they are not helping out with the ambience, Elfman’s typical score comes through all the channels with enough bombast so that the neighbours can enjoy the film too. Precision steering, detailed ambience, but weighty sound mean this is a wonderful sonic experience.
- The Mad Hatter – HD, 06.02
Depp explains his ideas for creating his own interpretation of this iconic character from the look through to the personality. Uses a combination of green screen shots, early pictures and water colours as well as interviews with Depp and Burton, this is all over pretty quick, but does go into fair detail in its short run time.
- Finding Alice – HD, 06.18
Short interview with Burton as he explains what drew him to the project as well as looking at the way he envisaged the characters, with emphasis on Alice, herself, including how this older version compares with the book and how Wasikowska worked the part.
- Effecting Wonderland – HD, 06.53
Another incredible short sound bite on how the visual effects were created, the amount of green screen and motion capture needed to successfully integrate the GC with the real. Far too short to be of any real worth.
- 2D Blu-ray disc
Is, in fact, the exactly same disc that is already available.
And that’s it! A paltry amount of extra material for a flagship release! All the extra material is on the second disc, with nothing new added, since it is the same exact disc that is already available. Shameful really.
Burton’s take on Carroll’s fantastic tale of an imaginative girl’s adventures in Wonderland is not so much a re-interpretation as an updated story told after the books have finished. Alice, now nineteen, is in need of some ‘wonder’ to revitalise and reinvigorate herself and a fantastic trip to Wonderland sees her champion the cause to defeat the Red Queen, in a symbolic attempt to re-assert herself into the ‘real world’. It is an imaginative world, with new, more seasoned characters, that have aged and developed in an attempt at forcing realism to a fantastical world – in doing so Burton has lost a deal of the ‘wonder’ that makes Wonderland, so while the story and characters make sense at this time, the film may not be quite so accessible, as those expecting a retelling of Carroll’s prose to an updated audience will be sadly disappointed.
As a Blu-ray package this two disc set contains both the exact same 2D release as is already available, which has reference picture and sound, although sadly lacking in extras, and an all new 3D disc that is surprisingly three dimensional (considering its forced 3D post production and lacklustre theatrical presentation) yet still retains a superb picture and reference sound. It is a future proof buy, in that you have both HD copies in one set and thus is the set to pick up if you considering an upgrade
Final note, even though the disc, and cover, say that the 3D disc is coded Region B, it plays fine on my US playstation 3.
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