This is a pretty tough one to call, to be honest.
Technically, this AVC transfer is fantastic and makes absolutely no mistakes with its reproduction of the film on disc. The colours are well-held, they don't smear, and there is no banding taking place within the range of hues. The action is smooth and fluid. We see no aliasing and no edge enhancement. The transfer is probably top-notch … but, should you suddenly look at the image yourself, you would surely think that something had gone terribly wrong.
Because the picture, itself – I'm talking about the colour palette, the style of animation and the detail inherent in the source – is so damn poor-looking. By comparison with much more pleasing films in the genre – Pixar, obviously, but even the lesser-revered Dreamworks titles such as Madagascar - Alpha and Omega comes up very short indeed. There is simply no detail in the characters, no full-on rendering of the environment, and a distinct lack of distinction, if you will. The picture looks dry, washed-out and bland. It just doesn't possess any vibrancy, or any visual life of its own. And when this happens, a film that is meant to energetic, boisterous and atmospheric becomes dull, tedious and unforgivably drab.
I can't complain about the reproduction of the colours because I'm positive that the transfer has remained extremely faithful to the source. But, this said, the hues are dulled, the lustre completely shorn away. It is almost as though the image has had a coating of thin Vaseline applied to it. Nothing shines, nothing looks vibrant or vivid. I'd be lying if I said that this intentional colour aspect didn't annoy, because I kept getting the urge to wipe the screen in order to see the real gleam that I fully expected was lurked beneath all along. The autumnal shades of leaves and the various environments that we find ourselves in do possess lots of differing visual qualities, with the burnished golds and browns, and a truly lovely pinkish glow for the atmospheric dusks, probably getting the most respect from this compromised colour timing. But there is no denying that this presentation is robbed of sparkle.
Depth is actually pretty good, despite this only being the 2D version of the film. The camera swoops all about the animated habitat and circles around the characters with reassuring ease, and there is no motion-drag or blurring whatsoever during even the most kinetic of set-pieces, such as the daft log-surfing or the stampede. Background elements do seem far away, and dimensionality is precise and immersive, with thick objectivity and robust visual spatiality. The lighting aspects are handled quite nicely, too. Shafts of sunlight penetrating the canopy come through with a pleasing degree of mood and accuracy. Black levels really aren't given a proper test, as even the darker scenes tend to have a milky complexion that I think is inherent to the original visual scheme. Shadows veer heavily into light grey, as do the black snouts of the wolves, themselves. Contrast looks too high to me though, once again, I think this has probably got a lot to do with the source. The sudden flash of lightning, however, sparks off a great Daz-bright crack in the image, and the various textures of blue for the skies provide a comforting blanket. The big gleaming full Moon, however, does look soft and fuzzy at times.
This may be a pretty awful looking film, but the transfer isn't actually to blame. 7 out of 10 from me ... although this actually looks worse than it really is.
Lionsgate generally supply wonderful soundmixes on their releases, but Alpha and Omega, with its DTS HD MA 5.1 track, falls some way short of their usual standards. Wow, it seems as though I have nothing but scorn for this disc, doesn't it? Well, the truth is that this lossless mix doesn't make any errors at all, and everything actually sounds pretty good. It just doesn't add anything extra to the overall flavour of this resolutely bland mountain stew, with no exemplary wraparound dynamics to speak of and a general lack of cross-channel pizazz.
There is no problem with the dialogue or the reasonably pleasant score from Chris P. Bacon (seriously, folks, crispy bacon!). Voices come across with range and character and are fairly well positioned within the mix. The howling doesn't exactly hit any high notes, however. The music is fine and warm, and certainly flows around the set-up with smooth harmonics. But this is not a film that offers a great deal of aggression or bombastics, sort of playing it safe in that kid-and-neighbour-friendly fashion that is the considered province of the genre. Thus, we don't get any gut-thumping .LFE to savour, and impacts lack much in the way of vigour. The big stampede offers us plenty of thundering hoofs and a firm sense of direction and envelopment but, once again, the actual audio elements don't exactly stand out as a memorable high point. Likewise, the shotgun blast that we get at one stage, and the lightning crack and thunder-strike. All very well rendered, but part and parcel of a mix that doesn't want to upset anybody.
Surround activity is there, but still fairly run-of-the-mill. Ambience is carried and the rumble of a train, the bounce of a bumpy ride and those pounding hoofs make a pleasing, though hardly memorable contribution. You are unlikely to be amazed by this lossless experience, but then there is nothing to actually moan about either. This gets a solid enough 7 out of 10.
My review copy was just the BD, but the full release also contains a DVD version.
Besides an unrewarding Deleted Scene, a games for the kids, a rather poor Pop-Up Animal Trivia Track and a little quiz, all that this release really has to offer is a reasonably thorough 20-minute Making Of. Sadly, this is exactly the type of thing that we have seen before so many times now. Conceptual artwork and pre-viz material, lots and lots of talking heads boasting about how great the film is and how incredibly happy with it everyone is, footage of the voice-cast emoting into their microphones, and big smiles all round from animators, producers and directors. Standard promo-fare dressed in all the shades of self congratulation that you can imagine. Oh, and you'll soon get very aggravated by all the digital fogging of T-shirt logos!
There's a little 13-minute featurette that purports to look at Wolves In The Wild and, barring some smarmy, saccharine-tainted snippets from the makers of the film, and a lot of unnecessary clips, this does provide a nice, though superficial overview of how these amazing animals live and function as a family unit, courtesy of the California wolf sanctuary and a couple of clearly enamoured boffins. Bell and Gluck tell us how much research they did in their attempt to depict wolf customs and behaviour in their risible animated offshoot. They even put their whimsical wolves in the same frame as the real things during the title sequence which, if I was a wolf, would have me retching up a fur-ball in disgust.
Not a great deal of worth here, then. A naff film gets some slight appreciation in the supplemental features.
Dull. Dull. Dull. This wolfish yarn can't raise a croak, let alone a howl at the Moon. Even when I accept that I am a grown-up (well, that is, of course, debatable) and recognise the fact that Alpha And Omega isn't necessarily aimed at me, I find that Gluck and Bell's slinky outdoors yarn fails to ignite anything other than a desultory groan of boredom from me. And the proof of the pudding, as I have already said, is that I haven't encountered, or even heard of a child that was even remotely entertained by it. I'm sure there's one out there somewhere … and that some older people may even find this moderately entertaining … but Alpha And Omega has no bark, let alone bite.
I'm afraid I cannot recommend this film even as a decent Blu-ray release. The image is profoundly lacklustre, although I should make clear that this is through no fault of the transfer, itself, but just a very irksome stylistic decision by the film's makers. Audio-wise, this doesn't make an errors, but nor does it provide much in the way of excitement. The extras don't go very far either, but they are nicely unchallenging bunch that gives some background to the production and pays some very justified respects to the real canis lupus. Though this accounts for nothing when the film that they support is so unremarkable.
Really, don't bother running with this pack unless your cubs are very easily pleased.
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