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A Christmas Carol (3D/2D Combo) (2009) Print E-mail
Monday, 29 November 2010
ImageThanksgiving has passed and no it is time to get into the Christmas spirit.  Is there anything that can do that better than listening to Christmas carols, decorating the house and baking cookies?  Maybe not for some, but in my line of work it is about the holiday films.  Each year there are a select few holiday classics that have to be watched in my house.  Timeless classics like “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”  And then there are guilty pleasures like “National Lampoon’s A Christmas Vacation.”

But there is one tale that is hardly ever out-classed – A Christmas Carol.  This tale by Charles Dickens in the mid 19th century has been told and retold since its inception.  It is hard to pass up George C. Scott’s version each holiday season.  Will this new Disney telling of the classic become the new staple in my household?  Unfortunately, probably not.  Many of you are probably surprised at that, but let’s examine.

Disney has taken a dark and gloomy turn in this recreation.  Perhaps it is simply unexpected from the studio that brings us such well-loved characters.  Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” is the most frightening film that have perhaps ever released.  Be forewarned, this is not really a children’s film.  It will leave your young ones with nightmares and maybe even ruin the holidays for them for years to come.  I don’t want to sound like I am exaggerating, but I believe it to be true.  Put yourself in your children’s shoes for a moment.  The film is dark, the characters are scarily animated, there’s no music and the sound is more overpowering than the latest Harry Potter film.  More on that in the section below.

When the film was initially released I sensed this would be the case.  Jim Carrey has a way of making a tempered dark story into a nightmare.  Look what he did to the Grinch.  Personally, I find the overall atmosphere of the film to be a bit too dark for children.

All that being said, the film is remarkable in many respects.  Despite my distaste for several of Jim Carrey’s outings, his performance in this film is intense.  Scrooge has never been scroogier.  Gary Oldman and Colin Firth do very well in addition.  I would say the only performance that I couldn’t really handle would be Cary Elwes.  His chest laughter was just way over the top for my tastes.
Aside from the performances, the technicality is terrific.  Environments have a sense of realism.  Buildings, streets and horse carriages are all finely detailed.  The characters have been given facial characteristics that make them look like intensely real characterizations of the actual voice actor.  It is terrific to be able to tell who is the voice of whom without the character having to open his or her mouth to speak.  This is a new direction in animation, one that will probably take a foothold in the right genre of animated films.

This Blu-ray is the next evolution in household video, if the industry ever makes use of it.  Luckily for us, “A Christmas Carol 3D” is not a ridiculous exclusive and happens to be the best 3D presentation to date.  You will find this as the demo disc for 3D presentations throughout the holidays, and longer if the studios don’t start release originally created 3D films, not upmixed, so to speak.

First, let’s make sure that you are aware that this is true 3D and not the anaglyph red/blue, green/magenta glasses 3D.  That means that color, of which there is not much, is nicely preserved.

The 3D presentation here is breathless.  Story elements are nicely integrated to the 3D technology.  Snowflakes fall all around you.  Fingers protrude from the screen.  Buildings have a sense of realism that makes you want to feel the texture.  In addition to protrusion from the screen, the 3D offers depth to the picture.  The snowflakes continue to fall in the depths of the screen.  Rooms seem to spread to their utmost limits.  Of course watching this on a 9-foot display does help.  So, #d is all well and good for the static shots, but how does it handle fast motion content?  In a word, superbly.  The opening dolly shot animation moves fluidly.  Take a look at the sequence in Scrooge flies through the town and air on a rocket-horn thingy.  The 3D is breathtaking.  If you can stand the terror, then the sequence in which the ghost of Jacob Marley appears to Scrooge in his bedroom is probably the best 3Ddemo yet.  The throwing of chains and bricks, along with the transparency of the ghost is marvelous.  I would say that this disc is almost worth getting a 3D HDTV and Blu-ray.  If only the movie was closer to perfection, the studio would have had a hat trick.  Note, that the 3D transfer is impressive but lacks perfection due to the presence of some ghosting here and there.  It is never really severe or distracting, but it can cause minor annoyances. (3D - 4.5/5)

So, for those that do not have a 3D Blu-ray player or 3D HDTV, you can still future-proof your collection by getting this combo.  The package also contains a 2D Blu-ray copy of the film.  Despite being 2D, the image still retains much depth.  Black levels are pitch perfect with not an ounce of crushing.  There are no banding or artifacting issues, which crept up once or twice in the 3D version.  Colors are limited for the majority of the film.  However, during the Ghost of Christmas Present, the warm glow of golden yellows and oranges is marvelous.  Details and textures are exceptional.  Fine lines of wrinkles are present on ever character.  Clothes are finely rendered.  The textures of the bricks and building materials are lifelike even in the 2D version.  So, if you don’t have a 3D system yet you will be more than satisfied with the 2D version. (2D – 5/5)

Unfortunately, I am not as big of a fan of the audio quality as the video quality.  As a whole the track is sonically excellent.  However, there is on crucial element that hinders the overall experience – the dialogue.  The dialogue is muddy and unintelligible for much of the film.  Jim Carrey’s mumblings are hugely annoying.  You can never understand them.  Mumbling is a pet peeve of mine.  On top of that, dialogue is frequency response limited.  The clarity is lacking in the sibilants arena.  Aside from the dialogue issue, the track is perfect.  The use of the surround channels is never disappointing.  Horse carriages and moving objects move effortlessly around the soundfield.  Directionality and panning is spot on.  Ambience is subtle and enveloping.  The overall experience is very close to being wholly immersive, which is terrific, especially considering the 3D nature of the image.  The LFE channel gets some use with the Ghost of Christmas Future chase and the thuds introduced by the ghost of Jacob Marley.  This track would be perfect if it weren’t for the dialogue blunder.

This is a 4-disc set.  It includes a Blu-ray 3D disc, a Blu-ray 2D disc, a DVD Copy and a Digital Copy.  The film is also available for purchase as a standalone 2D Blu-ray, or 2D Blu-ray + DVD combo pack.

The majority of the bonus materials are on the 2D Blu-ray disc.  “Behind the Carol: The Full Motion Capture Experience” is the best feature in the set.  This is a picture-in-picture track that allows you to view the full motion capture technology process side by side with the finished film, or you can enlarge the full motion capture window to fill the entire screen.  The Full Motion Experience is also equipped with an audio commentary by director Robert Zemeckis.  This is one of the best commentaries I have heard on home video, explaining the technology used in the making of the film and some of the themes.  If you are filmmaker or animator this is an absolute must.  “On Set With Sammi” is a basic follow and actor around set sequence.  “Capturing Dickens: A Novel Retelling” relates the making of this film with the original Dickens tale.  “Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar” is self-explanatory.  There are also some deleted scenes.  The 3D disc contains “Mr. Scrooge’s Wild Ride,” which takes a look at the 3D making of the film.

“A Christmas Carol” is not a light and fluffy retelling of Dickens’ tale.  It is dark and broody and will cause some discomfort for some people.  This puts a damper on the 3D video presentation, which is the best I have seen to date on Blu-ray.  So, if you have little ones (probably about 11 years of age or younger) then you may want to opt for my personal favorite, “Mickey’s A Christmas Carol.”  For the technology alone, this disc is worth adding to your collection.

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