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Set in a 19th century European village, this stop-motion, animated feature follows the story of Victor, a young man who is whisked away to the underworld and wed to a mysterious Corpse Bride, while his real bride, Victoria, waits bereft in the land of the living. Though life in the Land of the Dead proves to be a lot more colorful than his strict Victorian upbringing, Victor learns that there is nothing in this world, or the next, that can keep him away from his one true love.
For more about Corpse Bride and the Corpse Bride Blu-ray release, see Corpse Bride Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 10, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Tracey Ullman, Michael Gough, Paul Whitehouse (I)
Directors: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
» See full cast & crew
Corpse Bride Blu-ray Review
Another odd, dark, and atmospheric Tim Burton film looks and sounds great on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 10, 2008
Land of the living?...now why go up there when people are dying to get down here?
If ever a director could be labeled "dark," it would be Tim Burton. His best movie, and arguably the finest superhero movie of all time, 1989's Batman, is the most popular example of his trademark dark style, while Sleepy Hollow and Corpse Bride are also projects representative of the director's stylistic approach. It's the latter film that concerns us in this review, the 2005 song, dance, and stop-motion animated hit film which perfectly captures the filmmaker's trademark style, creating an atmospheric, odd world replete with musty locales, dark, devious characters, creepy visuals, and Burton staple Johnny Depp (From Hell) voicing the lead role.
It's the day before a major wedding, and bride Victoria (voiced by Emily Watson, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep) and groom Victor (Depp) have never met. The setting places us in the Victorian era (the names of the characters should clue you in if the dress of the characters, the ornate settings, and means of transportation didn't already), a time when marriages were pre-arranged for the benefits of the families rather than for the love felt between the couple. When the two finally meet, alone, following a piano solo by Victor, they seemingly find themselves enamored with one another more so than they expected, but their meeting is cut short when they must attend the wedding rehearsal. Unable to perform his basic duties as groom, including reciting his vows and lighting a candle, Victor vanishes to the woods to practice. When he recites his vows and places the wedding ring on what seems to be a branch, a dead woman rises from the ground, the ring on her finger, and accepts Victor's vows! Victor soon finds himself amongst the living dead in an underground tavern, where the living dead engage in song and dance about the recent wedding between Victor and his "corpse bride," Emily (Helena Bonham Carter, Planet of the Apes). Victor finds himself suddenly and unexpectedly married, but not to the girl he expected (and not even a warm-bodied one, at that). Meanwhile, Victoria is courted by a new, wealthy suitor, and her parents, desperate to come into money from anywhere they can find it, accepts his offer. Victor must choose between fighting for Vicotria or remaining with Emily and keep the vows that he (unknowingly) made to her in a ritual that could literally kill him.
I'm simply not sure what Tim Burton is trying to say with Corpse Bride. Take, for example, the completely lifeless, bleak, devoid of color look of the "land of the living." The scenery and people are positively cold, nearly devoid of color. The "land of the dead," on the other hand, is lively, colorful, and fun, the characters full of vigor and verve, their faces anything but the ghastly look of the living. We've seen drab and dull cinematography before, deliberately filmed that way to set a specific mood and enhance the tone and themes of the story (see, for example, Million Dollar Baby, a film where this style is employed and proven most effective). Here, perhaps, the dead are supposed to be depicted as the more rational and sensible in their approach to marriage. They marry for the meaning of the vows, not for money or prestige, although Emily and her fellow dead-ites (to borrow a phrase from a far superior series of films) take Victor's vows as gospel, even though he had no idea he was reciting them to anyone who could hear them, let alone a corpse. Emily is portrayed as the most sensible character in the film, seemingly the only one to realize the true meaning of marriage.
One thing's for sure, stop-motion animation has come a long way since the days of 1933's King Kong and 1957's 20 Million Miles to Earth. There is no denying that, even if I wasn't enamored with the coloring and mood of the movie, the animation is wonderfully detailed and flawlessly rendered, with fine attention to every aspect of the worlds we become privy to during the film's extremely short 77 minute runtime. The movements of the characters are so good that its hard to think the movie isn't wholly computer generated. Rather, the images were captured one frame at a time with a simple digital camera, a remarkable feat to be sure. The movie is well worth watching if for no other reason than to marvel at the painstaking effort that must have been involved to bring this movie to a finished product, one that is highly polished and perfectly respectable, regardless of any reservations I may have had with the final style, tone, and story of the movie.
Corpse Bride Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner Brothers brings Corpse Bride to a Blu-ray engagement with an excellent 1080p, 1.78:1 high definition image. This should come as no surprise as any kind of animation tends to look marvelous on Blu-ray, and even if this may be one of the least colorful animated movies ever, it still manages to wow the viewer. One of the best visual offerings from the studio, catalogue title or otherwise, the disc is simply marvelous, no matter how dull some of the movie may look. The dullest of scenes, many appearing mostly as shades of gray, are expertly handled, detail remaining high, every minor addition to the small set and features of the puppets perfectly rendered and visible on the disc. It's truly amazing just how detailed both the puppets and the set pieces on which they interact truly are, and we are fortunate to see it all, clearly and crisply, courtesy of this Blu-ray disc. Color reproduction when we are taken below ground is superb; many shades, and very bright ones at that, make their way into the frames, the result an eye-popping experience that definitely gets Burton's point across about the liveliness of the underworld very well. Black levels are solid and deep, proving to be yet another positive on this most impressive looking disc. Depth is also impressive, both worlds coming to life in environments so rich that we can almost reach through the television and become a part of it. It should come as no surprise that yet another animated title has ranked so highly, and fans of this film will be more than pleased with the end result.
Corpse Bride Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Corpse Bride is wed to Blu-ray with no high definition lossless sound option to be found. While unfortunate, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is top-notch anyway, one of the finer lossy tracks I've heard. Dialogue sounded somewhat low at times, and I found myself fiddling with my remote throughout the movie, turning up the volume from my normal level during softer dialogue-heavy scenes, and turning it down again during the musical or effects-heavy portions of the soundtrack. The sound ranges from pleasant to in-your-face aggressive. One scene in particular, a quieter moment where Victor is seen playing the piano, played out with a flair of realism and tranquility, this musical theme referred to by composer Danny Elfman (Chicago) in the supplements as the basis for the remainder of the soundtrack. It is said of Victor that he plays "beautifully," and the sound we hear matches that description. A small commotion when he is interrupted by his living bride-to-be creates a nice presence in the soundstage as minor echoes and reverberations accompany the scene. The sound can be very dynamic and immersive, the music playing through all the channels. The soundtrack truly shines during the musical numbers, as expected, but other nuances and details make the track a fun listen, too. Imaging is excellent, and sound is impeccably placed for wonderful directionality and effects. Bass didn't make its presence felt all that much. It's there, but the subwoofer doesn't have to break much of a sweat during this film. A perfectly acceptable soundtrack, this one holds its own and despite not coming to us with a high definition option, the results are nevertheless impressive.
Corpse Bride Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Corpse Bride walks us down the isle with several good features. Inside the Two Worlds (480p, 4:03) is first, a comparative look at the stark contrast between the lands of the living and dead as depicted in the film. Danny Elfman Interprets the Two Worlds (480p, 4:56) is the next feature, the famed composer discussing how his score fits into both worlds as seen in the film. The Animators, The Breath of Life (480p, 6:38) looks at the process of bringing the movie to life as well as the benefits of stop-motion, a fascinating piece that certainly heightens the appreciation of the effort that went into making the film. Tim Burton: Dark vs. Light (480p, 3:39) features the cast praising director Tim Burton's influence and style, and the director himself describing why the stop-motion medium was appropriate for this project.
Moving along, Voices From the Underworld (480p, 5:58) is a feature that shows how the voice actors approached their roles. Making Puppets Tick (480p, 6:33) shows audiences the arduous task of bringing the puppets used in the film to life, and ensuring they were created just as Burton envisioned them. The Voices Behind the Voice (480p, 7:36) is a piece where we see the real-life actors working in one window and the corresponding final scene from the movie in another. Rounding out the set of short features is The 'Corpse Bride' Pre-Production Galleries (480p, 13:28), which shows us storyboards, animatics, and screen tests from all phases of production. This disc also offers a music-only track that plays over the film, presented in Dolby DIgital 5.1 audio. The film's original theatrical trailer (480p, 1:55) concludes the extras.
Corpse Bride Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I know that Tim Burton's Corpse Bride has a legion of fans, but the film simply never spoke to me or piqued my interest, Burton's odd depiction of light and dark and life and death never making the impact on me that he must have been aiming for. Nevertheless, the film is a visual treat in terms of the excellent stop-motion animation, the method definitely befitting the material and the effort that went into creating this film definitely worthy of praise. The Blu-ray version of Corpse Bride is a solid effort from Warner, the picture quality ranking among the studio's best offerings, and the soundtrack, despite not being presented in high definition, is an excellent listen nevertheless. The supplements are many and mostly interesting, providing a solid if not slightly underwhelming look at the process of making the movie. Fans of this movie should be eager to add this one to their Blu-ray collections.
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