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'So how does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?' The answer: Santa's exhilarating, ultra-high-tech operation hidden beneath the North Pole. But this year, Santa's son Arthur has an urgent mission that must be completed before Christmas morning dawns.
For more about Arthur Christmas and the Arthur Christmas Blu-ray release, see Arthur Christmas Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 27, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Ashley Jensen
Director: Sarah Smith
» See full cast & crew
Arthur Christmas Blu-ray Review
No need to buy this release with worry.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 27, 2012
You bring a genuine aura of seasonal positivity.
Arthur Christmas delivers a delightful display of holiday hurrah, a bundle of joyous Christmas spirit, and the gift of laughter, all wrapped up in beautiful animation and world-class voice work. Sony Pictures Animation sometimes seems like the forgotten studio behind DreamWorks Animation and Pixar, but their stock should rise with what may be the most entertaining and heartfelt Christmas movie of the past few years. Arthur Christmas is a dazzling spectacle packed with nearly blinding eye candy, but it's also an honest film with touching core themes on persistence and the importance of believing in something good, righteous, dependable, and personal. The film incorporates all sorts of new, even some radical, ideas into the greater Santa Claus mythos, all of which are welcome additions, particularly as the film embraces traditional (nonreligious) Christmas narratives with cutting-edge ideas. At its core, however, Arthur Christmas is simply a touching high tech movie affair that's populated by memorable characters and that offers both a meaningful plot and top-notch animation. In other words, it's Christmas movie gold (and red and green with a twinkle of tinsel).
Christmas sure has come a long way. What was once a jolly old fat man in a red suit with a sack full of presents, sliding down chimneys after hopping off a magical sled pulled by eight (or nine) reindeer has given way to a high tech operation of startling efficiency that uses the newest of the new gizmos and gadgets, including the formidable S-1, the North Pole's pride and joy aircraft capable of incredible propulsion and digital camouflage that can adapt to any environment. It's also the mobile home base for an army of elves trained to deliver packages with the sort of stealth and exacting precision that would impress even Ethan Hunt. In the middle of it all is Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent), a veteran of several decades on the job and thought to soon be hanging up the suit -- maybe after this very Christmas -- and handing the now figurative reigns over to his son Steve (voiced by Hugh Laurie), a dashing young charismatic man with a strong chin and a firm grasp on the command operations on board the S-1. Christmas has turned into a high precision affair but one without that personal holiday touch; milk is now lapped up into a container, cookies are turned into biofuel, and the old sack and chimney routine has been replaced by more "efficient" means.
Only Santa's bumbling son Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) still gives the holiday the personal touch it deserves. He personally answers all of the letters Santa receives and makes it his mission to ensure that every child finds exactly what he or she wants under the tree. When a gift delivery goes bad and the entire operation on board the S-1 briefly shuts down in a panic, a single present becomes lost in the shuffle, leaving one English girl without the pink bicycle she so desperately wants. With time running out until daybreak and Steve not wanting to spend so much effort to deliver one gift, Arthur and his grandfather (voiced by Bill Nighy), a retired Santa, set out to deliver the gift in the old 1845-vintage sleigh with a few elderly reindeer out front. The sleigh may be an antique but its gears still turn, its knobs still work, and the creased leather bench seat is still comfortable. Nevertheless, it will take a real Santa to get the gift to its destination before Christmas is ruined for one young girl with high hopes and a willingness to believe.
Arthur Christmas tells a story that blends the old with the new and demonstrates how even cutting edge technology cannot replace a personal holiday touch, how gadgets and gizmos cannot make up for a lack of Christmas spirit, how even one miscalculation can have potentially disastrous effects on holiday cheer. The movie finds a wealth of intimacy in what begins as a hugely impersonal Christmas Eve voyage, the tale of Santa's high tech vessel performing incredible physics-defying feats and making use of radical technology while its crew carries out its duties with faultless clockwork precision. Yet all that wizardry, the film states, cannot substitute for heart or replace the soul on either side of the Christmas equation, those giving gifts or those receiving gifts. And when all that technological marvel fails -- just by the tiniest insignificant fraction -- the human spirit rises, refusing to settle for "nearly perfect" and turning Christmas Eve into a personal mission to guarantee happiness for just a single child. The movie is a reflection of the modern world, using Christmas as a lens not to critique the place of technology in society but at least to comment on the ever growing impersonal nature of the world and, of course, on important occasions like Christmas. It's not so much about efficiency but rather the spirit of giving and the joys of receiving. It's not about saving time but rather savoring time, cherishing those special moments that are most certainly worth the effort, whether that means a trip to the corner store or a voyage around the world in a rickety old sleigh with a handful of retired reindeer cutting a path through the Christmas Eve sky, all for the payoff that priceless Christmas morning smile.
Arthur Christmas also dazzles away from its plot. The movie is every bit an animation champion, assembling not only a top-notch story packed with wholesome values, honest drama, lots of humor, and a readily evident tenderness but also superb animation and voice acting that make the movie a complete experience to be cherished for many holiday seasons to come. Sony and Aardman Animations have left no digital stone unturned, creating a wonderfully unique and visually arresting world, both at the icy North Pole and on board the S-1, Santa's massive high speed gift delivery vessel, complete with nifty invisibility technology and a design that's a hybrid of Santa's old reindeer-powered sleigh and the starship Enterprise. The movie offers razor-sharp and intricately detailed elements, right down to the last background elf, the smallest computer monitor off in the corner, the tiniest little bit of fuzz on Arthur's sweater. Animated movies simply cannot be more polished than this in 2012, and whatever technology that's to come won't be able to mask this film's superb visuals or lessen its dramatic impact, even if it's one day viewed with nostalgia rather than awe. The voice acting is the exacting final detail to bring it all together. James McAvoy is superb as Arthur, finding the right cadence for every moment, from exuberant letter-writer to deflated second fiddle, from frustrated traveler to satisfied gift-giver. Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, and Hugh Laurie are also strong as the family Santa hierarchy, but McAvoy definitely shapes the movie above many others of its kind with a faultless representation of the newest, and one of the best, animated holiday heroes.
Arthur Christmas Blu-ray, Video Quality
Arthur Christmas features a splendid 1080p transfer, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The digital animation genre tends to produce eye candy every time out, and this is certainly no exception. Indeed, Sony's Blu-ray presentation dazzles from start to finish. The image is defined by a wide array of brilliant colors that will impress even the most difficult-to-please videophile. Christmas greens and reds really pop -- particularly Arthur's sweater -- against the largely white backdrop of the S-1. Every shade is handled efficiently, even down off the ship and in lower light on Christmas Eve as Santa and elves scramble to deliver Christmas presents to silent, sleepy houses. Black levels are rock-solid and the entire color palette, from the darkest blacks to the most blinding whites, simply pleases throughout the movie. Fine detail is superb as well; the Blu-ray seems to capture every little nuance the filmmakers have included, right down to the most subtle clothing and facial textures. Even the raised textures of heavy glitter pen markings or the well-worn creases in the sleigh's leather bench look marvelous. The image is razor-sharp all around, with striking clarity even on the most distant objects inside the S-1. There is a trace amount of banding in a few spots, but the image is otherwise so gorgeous and the banding's visibility so minimal that it doesn't warrant a half-point knock off the final score because otherwise, and for 99.99% of the film, this is visual perfection at its animated Blu-ray finest.
Arthur Christmas Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Arthur Christmas features a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack that's up to the challenge of complimenting the film's rich visuals. The track excels in presenting everything with just right sense of harmony and balance, creating a realistic atmosphere in every location. Whether the sense of cavernous space and the various beeps and bloops aboard the S-1 or the sounds of the sea, the African desert, or the barely audible early morning small town England effects, Sony's track offers a precision listening experience that shapes every single environmental dynamic with the utmost accuracy. There's a nice sense of power and heftiness to the S-1 in exterior scenes, and some of the more action-oriented sound effects play very well, with natural spacing, great clarity, and faultless balance. Music, likewise, features the same characteristics, playing with natural spacing and fine clarity. Dialogue is crisp and faultlessly delivered, even finding just the right amount of space whether in intimate scenes or wider shots featuring the spoken word gently echoing through larger locales. This is a first-rate soundtrack that should please listeners of all ages.
Arthur Christmas Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Arthur Christmas is disappointingly short on extras. Included is the following:
Arthur Christmas Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Arthur Christmas takes a stab at answering all of the usual Santa Claus questions -- does he exist, how does he deliver presents, how does he keep it all organized, how many elves are there, what does he do when he retires, who takes over for him after all the years -- and approaches them all with resounding joy, visual delights, and heartfelt honesty. This is easily one of the best Christmas films of the decade, if not the very best, and certainly at the top amongst films of this magnitude, of such high quality animation and voice work. Only The Polar Express truly rivals it in every category, from animation to heart, but there's a simple joy and pure honesty to Arthur Christmas that's unique to the film and also the embodiment of holiday cheer. Sony's 2D Blu-ray release of Arthur Christmas delivers dazzling video and amazing audio. Unfortunately, the supplements are far too few. Nevertheless, this is a must-own holiday package that comes enthusiastically recommended.
Arthur Christmas: Other Editions
Arthur Christmas Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Arthur Christmas Blu-ray - August 28, 2012
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has detailed its upcoming 2D and 3D Blu-ray releases of directors Sarah Smith and Barry Cook's Arthur Christmas (2011). The two releases will be available for purchase online and in stores across the country on November 6th.
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