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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D(2009)
The sub zero heroes are back. Scrat is still trying to nab the ever elusive nut, while maybe finding true love. Manny and Ellie await the birth of their mini-mammoth. Diego the saber toothed tiger wonders if he's growing too soft and Sid the sloth gets into trouble when he creates his own makeshift family by hijacking some dinosaur eggs. On a mission to rescue the hapless Sid, the gang ventures into a mysterious underground world, where they have some close encounters with dinosaurs, battle flora and fauna, run amuck and meet a relentless, one eyed, dino-hunting weasel named Buck.
For more about Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D and the Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D Blu-ray release, see Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 5, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Eunice Cho, Karen Disher, Harrison Fahn
Directors: Carlos Saldanha, Mike Thurmeier
» See full cast & crew
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D Blu-ray Review
How does Scrat spell "wow?" "3D."
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 5, 2010
We had a great run, but now it's time to move on.
It's too bad that Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs on Blu-ray 3D is another bundled exclusive tied to a hardware purchase, because Fox's technical presentation is nothing short of a system-seller. Make no mistake, Monsters vs. Aliens looks good in high-def 3D and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Coraline both look great, but Ice Age takes the cake as the current cream of the crop, a perfect 3D presentation that's absent any real perceptible issues that would be cause for concern. More on the disc's technical prowess below, but it's worth saying once again that Blu-ray 3D is no gimmick, and one need look no further than the four strong releases -- that only seem to be getting better -- to realize that this is a technology worthy of the hype. No doubt high hardware prices and the lack of a large selection of discs available for purchase at retail (the number currently stands at one -- the aforementioned Meatballs -- with another, Monster House, on the way) are justifiable complaints, but as with any new technology, being a little slow out of the gate seems the norm, and with no competing format to worry about, Blu-ray 3D appears to have just about everything going in its favor. Except, of course, for these unfortunate exclusive releases that need to be out on store shelves now to help sell TVs, not stocked in some distribution center and tied to a brand-specific hardware purchase.
The herd is back for an all-new adventure in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, but the group's friendship is put to the test as Manny (Ray Romano, Welcome to Mooseport), Sid (John Leguizamo, Nothing Like the Holidays), and Diego (Dennis Leary, "Rescue Me") find themselves at a crossroads in life, each with his own reasons for choosing his own path and, just maybe, splitting up the makeshift herd once and for all. Manny and Ellie (Queen Latifah, Last Holiday) are expecting their first child, but Diego doesn't see himself as much of a family man. He's slowing down physically and decides that leaving his friends to lead their new lives would be preferable to playing the role of fifth wheel. Sid, well, he's the same old Sid, somewhat absentminded and not always sure of the ramifications of his actions. He's still loving and lovable, though, but when he decides that, like Manny, it's time for him to become a father, he does what any Sloth would do -- he finds three eggs on the brink of hatching and calls them his own. Unfortunately, those eggs just so happen to belong to a mama dinosaur -- of the flesh-eating variety. Needless to say, she's not too happy; she scoops up both Sid and her three newly-hatched younglings and hauls them off to a mysterious underground tropical paradise filled with amazing new creatures. It doesn't take long for the herd to remember and act on the unbreakable bonds of friendship; Manny risks the welfare of his wife and child to save his friend, and Diego, too, chooses to join up with Manny in the quest to rescue Sid. Along the way they meet Buck (Simon Pegg, Star Trek), a pint-sized weasel who once lived on the surface but now fights off dinosaurs many times his size and on their own turf. Can the herd -- now minus one but plus another -- rescue Sid from an angry dinosaur and make it out of the newly-discovered environment alive?
What's new in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs? Other than Buck, the answer is "nothing much, really." The film plays with the same basic formula of reveling in the misadventures of several unlikely friends as they struggle to survive in a harsh arctic environment. Oh, and they're cute and cuddly and they can talk, too. But Fox has a good thing going with the Ice Age franchise; the characters are well-developed, friendly, familiar, and funny; the stories are innocent and probably factually and historically incorrect but not to the detriment of the pure entertainment value they offer; and the franchise is a proven cash cow. Raking in over $800,000,000 in worldwide gross, the third Ice Age picture proves that it's hard to keep a good franchise down, and while the movie is structurally no different from the first two, it builds up a nice little story that's oozing adventure, overflowing in action, outlandishly witty, overwhelmingly funny, and oftentimes touching. Indeed, Dawn of the Dinosaurs retains the franchises' hallmark element that combines humor with stories about family and the bonds of friendship. The herd's latest adventure is one that's built on relevant personal and moral values that shine through even beyond the nonstop absurdity that defines the characters and their plights. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs focuses on family and responsibility, friendship and parenthood, and priorities and sacrifice. Like many animated films of its kind, Dawn of the Dinosaurs builds an oftentimes touching and thematically purposeful story out of a series of hilariously staged events meant to, first and foremost, elicit laughter, but to also subtly comment on some of life's more important lessons and values. It's done extremely well here, and while the younger target audiences will likely gloss over those elements in favor of the action and humor, adults can enjoy the picture's subtle overtones that advance the plot and advocate some worthwhile life lessons.
Still, none of the Ice Age films hold a candle to the emotional relevancy of some of Pixar's finest titles; Dawn of the Dinosaurs shares in common some thematic elements with what may very well be Pixar's most underrated gem -- Cars -- through its look at the importance and bonds of friendship and family, but Wall●E or Up this is not. That doesn't diminish it or make it a substantially lesser film. While Dawn of the Dinosaurs' emotional resonance might be a notch below the best, its animation and voice acting stand as tall and proudly as anything else out there. Ice Age lacks the spit, polish, and intricate detailing of a Wall●E, but then again, the series' cold and bland locales didn't call out for anything elaborate. Until now. The new worlds the characters discover in Dawn of the Dinosaurs are of a complexity and grandeur never seen before in an Ice Age picture. They're colorful and visually captivating, a new palette on which Fox's digital artists have painted the finest-looking Ice Age yet. Best of all, the new world looks fantastic in 3D; the layers of color, distant details, and varied natural elements of all shapes and sizes not only set this film apart from the cold and relatively barren icy landscapes of the past films, but they allow for a much greater dimensional effect through which to show off that snazzy new 3D technology. What hasn't changed in Dawn of the Dinosaurs, though, is the quality voice acting. Romano, Leary, Leguizamo, and Queen Latifah all return to do outstanding work, though Simon Pegg positively steals the show with his fine performance as the Rambo-ish Buck, a characters that would seem right at home in a Pegg live-action Comedy in the spirit of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs dazzles with a stupendous 3D Blu-ray presentation that's the most complete and problem-free of any of the four releases yet. The 3D effect is in full splendor right out of the gate with a nifty-looking Fox logo nestled amongst some snow-capped trees, but the best part comes via the way the on-screen text -- in this case "A News Corporation Company" -- seems to hover off the screen and over the rest of the image. As with the other 3D titles, this one's about depth perception first and a few scattered "gotcha" pop-out effects second. Like Coraline, not every scene delivers some exciting, deep, and dazzling 3D imagery; some of it looks little-to-no different than its 2D counterpart, but that's the point. 3D isn't about gimmicks, its about a more natural look that's reflective of a real-world environment comprised of three definitions. If something's flat, it's flat; there's nothing going on here that suggests that the filmmakers were overzealous with the 3D effects, instead allowing them to naturally become a part of the film rather than forcing into the frame for no good reason. That's the biggest contributor to the succes or failure of a 3D film, it would seem; make it real or don't make it at all. Of course, "real" is a relative term when discussing a computer-animated movie that features talking prehistoric animals, but the point is that nothing about this 3D presentation stands out as visually dishonest.
Still, there are plenty of times where "wow" just doesn't do the picture justice. There are the few obligatory scenes where animal snouts seem to stick out of the screen, but it's in the way the characters seem to have greater shape and a more realistic form that proves the image's most compelling element. Environments, too, look fantastic; backgrounds extend out at a more perceptibly deep distance whereby viewers will find a definitive balance between background and foreground elements and be able to better judge where everything is situated in relation one to another. A dance in chapter 13 between Scrat and his new girlfriend delivers one of those seemingly inconsequential but visually enthralling elements as something -- stars, dust, snow, who knows -- floats about the screen, each one appearing at some distance away from the other and creating a simple but breathtaking effect that's just as mesmerizing as the more obvious elements throughout the picture. Best of all, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs seems free of distracting "ghosting" or double image elements. A few peek through during the end credits, but this is easily the most seamless 3D presentation yet in that regard.
As to the more traditional elements, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs proves just as handsome as its 2D counterpart. Details are nothing short of striking. One could easily count the hairs on various characters' bodies in appropriately up-close shots, while the rougher texture of dinosaur skin or the many nuances seen on rocks, trees, plants, and ice sheets appear as crisp, smooth, and intricately detailed as most anything ever seen on an animated Blu-ray release. Colors, too, are excellent. The new underground dinosaur worlds allow the transfer to capture a wonderfully vibrant array of hues that look bright and pleasant even through the filter of the 3D glasses. The 3D presentation doesn't lose much, if any, vibrancy compared to the 2D version. Additionally, black levels excel; a cave scene in chapter seven is an excellent showpiece for the transfer's retention of both shadow detail and inky and honest blacks. Very slight banding is visible for but a few seconds worth of the movie; it's as slight as can be and in no way detracts from the viewing experience and, by extension, in no way lowers this disc's score. Fox's Blu-ray 3D presentation of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is, visually, the format's most stable and attractive yet. It's practically flawless, and the only downside is that owners of other than Panasonic gear will have to wait out what promises to be a lengthy exclusivity window if they want to enjoy this masterpiece of a 3D transfer at an affordable price.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs hatches a quality DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack that's very good but not quite at the level of the absolute best soundtracks. This is a very strong track that's audibly convincing in its recreation of the film's varied environments. It handles everything from Scrat's light scattering about the soundstage to the most prodigious thumps and roars that emante from the largest dinosaurs with an ease and naturalism that's hard to top. The track also delivers a healthy bit of atmospheric support throughout the film; thunder rolls gently about the stage in one scene, and rain saturates the listening area to nicely realistic effect. Bass rumbles with authority on several occasions; it's never overbearing, but it could stand a slight boost in power. As it is, though, it's relatively convincing and positively tight, finding a nice mixture between excess and minimalism in a film aimed at smaller children. Music is nicely delivered, too, as it floats through the soundstage and emanates from the speakers with pinpoint clarity and a smoothness that ranks among the better presentations. Rounded out by crisp and accurate dialogue, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs delivers a fine listen that's a good companion to the film's breathtaking 3D visuals.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This promotional Blu-ray 3D release of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs contains no extras. Note that the menu screen is not in 3D. Also note that screenshots 1-15 in this review were captured from the 2D version of the film found on the 3D disc. Additionally, images in the 16-20 screenshot slots are still photographs taken of the television while displaying the 3D material in action.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Animated films seem to be well on their way to becoming the predominant bearers of the 3D technology, and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is an exemplary presentation that shows off the strengths of that technology as well as -- and in some areas better than -- any of the other four animated pictures to earn a 3D Blu-ray release. Though it's the least of the four in terms of story, style, and substance, Dawn of the Dinosaurs is no slouch. It's plenty fun and funny, not to mention emotionally touching and thematically purposeful, even if it does follow the same basic Ice Age formula that's worked in the previous two pictures and still works here. Best of all, it's earned the finest 3D picture quality of any such Blu-ray yet. This promotional disc also offers a high quality lossless soundtrack but no extras. Hopefully, there will someday be a proper retail release that reinstates all of the extra goodies found on the 2D release. As it is, buyers of Panasonic's hardware will find plenty of value in this barebones release, but it's time to end these lengthy exclusive windows and instead get discs out there to the public. More movies and more options means more televisions sold, and since the 3D quality is exceptional, it's not like the studios are hiding poor releases behind exclusive manufacturer-specific hardware bundles. Why not make a few more movies available at retail? People will buy them, Ray. People will most definitely buy them.
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