The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p 2D and 3D transfer and is Region free.
Filmed digitally and in native 3D the image exhibits everything that you’d expect, with a bright colourful picture, plenty of depth to the picture and many ‘wow’ 3D moments. Careful consideration has been given to the framing of the sets and characters and this give excellent layering which enhances depth into the frame, whether it’s looking along the ship deck or down streets, there is pretty much always something to draw the eye into the screen. Add to this the ‘roundness’ exhibited by the characters and objects all of which ‘live’ in real 3D space and you have a terrific immersion into the picture. Take a look at how Pirate Captain’s beard stretches out from his face and how it has volume and texture; such attention to detail is seen with everything from the characters and the objects they interact with, be it tavern mugs, ropes or ham. Even though there is a heavy stylised slant, the objects appear real in space and this give a real sense of depth. This is helped by the scale of the sets built (as seen in the making of featurettes) which are massive and enhanced greatly by CG to give an even greater distance. Stand out 3D moments include establishing landscape shots, shots looking along tables or down streets. Of course, being a kid’s film, there are also some decent negative parallax shots with swords, smoke, food debris, foam and other objects hurled into your face, though never overtly gratuitous and totally in keeping with the style of the film. The terrific immersion reminded me of Coraline and its use of 3D, i.e. extremely well done. Best use of 3D, for me, was the end credits where the scrolling table of artefacts exhibit such solidity it feels like you can reach out and touch it.
And all other picture details match up to the high standard set by the 3D. Detail is wonderful, showing of how intricate the models actually are, right down to the smallest elements, be it dodo feathers, cork noses or fabrics – there is literally detail everywhere and all the small gags and puns written into every scene (posters, graffiti, shop names, lists etc.) are easily readable even before you get to the end credits.
Colour is bold and bright, without wash or bleed. Reds are clear and defiant, such as those seen on Pirate Captain’s jacket, or the hams, blues are deep and meaningful, as seen in the sea or, more especially, the skies and greens, while not used so extensively are lush when seen in the jungle foliage. The most predominant colour is yellow and this comes off with equal aplomb.
Brightness and contrast are set to give depth to the blacks, though the film seldom uses them to their fullest, with the night time bath case sequence make the best use, in which they are suitable inky and contain the right amount of shadow detail (with the usual 3D caveat). Contrast is too strong so as to clip whites, with foam, clouds and mist never showing any signs of detail loss.
Digitally there are no compression problems, edge enhancement or posterization issues. Grain is nonexistent, being a digital film, and everything is clean and bright. An excellent example of how to present a 3D picture.
Only the one track to choose from: English dts-HD Master Audio 5.1, luckily it’s excellent. As with an animated film the whole sound-scape has been manufactured from scratch so ADR and foley are what we are listening to, but, because of this we get a very precise and often engaging surround track that helps the immersion of the visuals no end. First up, dialogue is clear and precise mostly emanates from the frontal array though there is a wee bit of directionality given when needed. Effects are myriad and range from wind and sea to creaking of ships and general hubbub of voices in taverns. Big set pieces, such as the bath sequence, make the greatest use of surround effects though they pipe up pretty much throughout the track to help add to the overall ambience. The score makes full use of the dynamic range and fills the soundstage considerable. Bass is well handled but seldom plumbs the depths that the very best do with LF effects being somewhat sparse compared to ‘action blockbusters’, but it more than holds its own. It is a track that imparts its information with great finesse and while it doesn’t quite tip the balance into reference, it nevertheless adds a great deal to the visual experience.
- Audio Commentary – Director Peter Lord, co-director Jeff Newitt and editor Justin Krish give us their thoughts on the film. You know those commentaries with plenty of pauses in the conversation, or where participants show little to no chemistry between them, or where comments are restricted to what’s going on, on screen and barely develop beyond what you can see? This commentary has all that and more. It is extremely tedious and boring and a chore to sit through.
- From Stop to Motion – A twenty minute making of featurette that covers everything very briefly from story inception right through to the sound recording and everything in-between. It is far too short (and almost glib) in its presentation to give any real depth to the information it presents though there are plenty of interviews (sound bites really) with animators, set designers, model makers as well as director and producers. One thing that struck me was how old the crew were, as if this type of film making was no longer for the young, up and coming – still their dedication and expertise is clearly breathtaking.
- Creating the Bath Scene – A closer ten minute look at the best scene in the film (and one that is typically Aardman in its presentation) which includes interviews and behind the scenes filming giving away a few tricks of the trade on how it was achieved.
- Pirate Disguise Dress-up Game – Rotate the spinners to match the picture. Why?
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! is the latest stop motion comedy from Aardman Animations as we follow the Pirate Captain and his odd crew as he attempts to find fame and fortune as winner of the Pirate of the Year competition – only one problem he’s a hopeless pirate. A chance encounter with Charles Darwin leads to the opportunity to win the Scientist of the Year competition but some questionable decisions regarding the ships mascot lead down the predictable path of humility and redemption. And that’s the biggest problem with The Pirates!, it’s full of gags, both visual and verbal in the best tradition of Aardman, but it also treads the very familiar territory that all their films (save Wallace and Gromit) take. So whilst there is a lot to enjoy in the movie it fails to push the boundaries into something great – though I would love to see further adventures and I guess that’s the best thing about it, it leaves you wanting.
As a Blu-ray Sony has releases an okay package; the picture is reference all the way – it’s bright, colourful and exhibits the kind of 3D that all 3D films should aspire to be, immersive and engaging while remaining visually stimulating; the sound doesn’t quite live up to those lofty heights but it is still nevertheless punchy, absorbing and enhances the visuals. The only letdown is the extras package which seems rather rushed with very little engaging content, especially the commentary which is dire. But on the whole the set is pretty good.
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