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American astronaut Captain Charles "Chuck" Baker, lands on Planet 51 thinking he's the first person to step foot on it. To his surprise, he finds that this planet is inhabited by little green people who are happily living in a white picket fence world reminiscent of a cheerfully innocent 1950s America, and whose only fear is that it will be overrun by alien invaders--like Chuck! With the help of his robot companion "Rover" and his new friend Lem, Chuck must navigate his way through the dazzling, but bewildering, landscape of Planet 51 in order to escape becoming a permanent part of the Planet 51 Alien Invaders Space Museum.
For more about Planet 51 and the Planet 51 Blu-ray release, see Planet 51 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 8, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Directors: Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad (III), Marcos Martínez (X)
Writer: Joe Stillman
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jessica Biel, Justin Long, Gary Oldman, John Cleese, Seann William Scott
» See full cast & crew
Planet 51 Blu-ray Review
Finally, a movie where man is the alien on a distantly-populated planet.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 8, 2010
So you've been invaded by aliens...
Why do "Alien Invasion" movies always assume that beings from another world will be the "invaders" -- not to mention the possessors of vastly superior intellects and technologies -- and the people of Earth the "victims?" Granted, it's more fun to see the White House destroyed, the Washington Monument toppled over, or any other recognizable landmarks wiped from the map by alien weaponry, but for as much fun as Alien Invasion movies can be, the repetitiveness does tend get a bit stale. Is it such a far-fetched idea to believe that, one day, mankind will step foot on extraterrestrial soil, much to the surprise of some distant beings that may or may not be intelligent or technologically advanced? Is it an even greater task still to make a movie about such a reverse invasion? Sure, there's "Star Trek," but the show's stories more often than not take place in a galaxy of relative equals, and the Prime Directive forbids interference with civilizations that have yet to harness warp-speed technologies, minimizing the possibilities for the "superior alien force interacts in one way or another with a lesser species" angle. Fortunately, that idea has finally been brought to fruition in Planet 51, a charming if not somewhat flawed little role-reversal picture that pits man against alien, with man the visitor and little green men the "victims" that see in him the potential for danger -- crafted, of course, by the planet's obsession with "Alien Invasion" stories -- with every move he makes on their otherwise peaceful planet.
On a world known as "Planet 51" and in its quiet little 1950s-style town called Glipforg lives Lem (Justin Long), who has just earned himself a new job as an assistant curator at the local planetarium. Outer space is a big hit around town, and the latest Alien Invasion film, Humaniacs 3, is just days from its premiere. The film's release has Lem's geeky friend Skiff (Seann William Scott) on edge, and when a real alien visitor -- a NASA astronaut named Chuck Baker (Dwayne Johnson) -- really does set foot on Planet 51 soil, terror abounds as visions of the local population being turned into zombies runs rampant. Planet 51's military -- led by General Grawl (Gary Oldman) and his scientific sidekick, Professor Kipple (John Cleese) -- attempts to track down a suddenly-elusive Chuck and his robotic companion, Rover. Chuck's vanishing act is aided by Lem, who realizes he and the alien speak the same language, easing tensions and instilling within him the fact that Chuck isn't the deadly alien that the others of his kind fear. Chuck's visit and his friendship with Lem threaten to reveal the planet's well-hidden secrets about the existence of extraterrestrial life, while Lem must juggle his newfound friendship with a creature from another world; his would-be romantic relationship with his neighbor Neera (Jessica Biel); and a challenge to all he thought he knew about the universe.
Planet 51 is a picture built around a grand idea that ultimately falters due to middling execution. The movie works better in theory than it does in this reality, the problem stemming not from the basics of the plot but rather its oftentimes goofy and insipid details. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block stems from the picture's collection of dullard characters; they lack much beyond a basic personality structure, are constructed of very base elements that often delve into cliché, and just don't prove all that memorable. Additionally, the dialogue is often uneven and lacking in heart and humor; the picture earns most of its laughs from visual elements that hearken back to the days of Science Fiction yore, most of which will fly over the heads of the picture's target audience but at least keep those grown-ups with a knowledge of the genre passably entertained and engaged to at least the point where there's some curiosity as to what the filmmakers will have in store for them next. There's also the problem of the picture falling off track on several occasions; the romantic angle between Lem and Neera, for example, proves a weak spot that only detracts from the more exciting and thematically-engaging elements of the picture. The love angle is hackneyed beyond belief, and if it played a bit more convincing or purposeful role beyond adding some false drama to the story, it might have proven a bit more welcome.
Still, Planet 51 nicely juggles in humor with its nods to Science Fiction movies past; small touches like an iPod blaring out Macarena -- that's seen by an alien general as a "heinous weapon" developed by a "sadistic enemy" -- is likely to garner more laughs (and, admit it, some toe-tapping, too!) from the adults in the audience than the kids, and the film's many nicely-realized elements that hearken back to genre greats of yore will prove fairly compelling to the grown-ups in attendance. There are subtle nods to movies like Independence Day, E.T., and The Day the Earth Stood Still, though the picture's longest-running gag revolves around an alien dog-like creature that looks like, well, the creatures in Aliens. Its name is Ripley, and it even has acid for urine, which of course comes into play once in the movie. Additionally, the picture nicely integrates a classic 1950s look and feel while changing a few things up and adding in some seamlessly-integrated advanced technology into the alien world that retains the right look while giving things a proper retro-futuristic appearance that combines real-world decade elements with various technologies and designs envisioned in the genre pictures of the 1950s. That's the real problem, though; Planet 51 seems to hedge its bets on satisfying the adults rather than the children. Perhaps the filmmakers believed that "little green men" and lots of colors would keep the kiddies entertained, but even the younger audiences will likely realize that the picture lacks much beyond a very basic structure. The plot is fine at-a-glance but its details and resolution are realized painfully by-the-book with practically no creativity or originality whatsoever. Mostly seamless voice acting and excellent animation can't save a story that's high on potential but lost in execution.
Planet 51 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Planet 51 comes in peace via this dazzling 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer from Sony. The picture quality astounds throughout, whether through a strong sense of depth and dimension that's noticeable in most every sequence, exceptional details, or strong colors. While Planet 51 does, at times, want for more color due in part to some darkened interior scenes or several that take place at dusk, the picture's brighter moments positively sparkle with a wonderful array of finely-tuned shades, whether the green-skinned aliens or the red, white, and blue of an American flag that sparkles as brightly as ever. Still, it's the image's exceptionally-rendered details that make this one a real winner. While the aliens themselves are almost painfully bland -- with clumpy "hair" and incredibly smooth skin -- there's no questioning the intricate details and texturing of most every other object seen in the movie, whether in the foreground or even in distant backgrounds. Indeed, fine lines on the wooden desks inside the alien classroom; the individual blades of grasses seen in appropriately tight shots of lawns; the stitching on Chuck's uniform; or even the slight lines and ridges seen on the aliens' lips, which proves the only real texturing found on their bodies, all feature what is nothing short of breathtaking resolution and practically infinite detailing down to the smallest of intricacies. Viewers will even note several dust particles floating about in one scene inside the comic book store in chapter nine. A touch of banding is evident in a few scenes, but it's completely gobbled up by the otherwise pristine visuals. This one is an absolute stunner that will leave jaws agape from beginning to end.
Planet 51 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sony's Blu-ray release of Planet 51 arrives with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack that's of a high quality but not on par with the cream of the crop of high definition presentations. It delivers an aggressive posture and plenty of surround information, but rarely is it wholly convincing. It never quite attains the same level of heft or absolute seamless clarity as the most refined of listens, but it's not sorely lacking in any of these areas, either. The track spews some pronounced bass as the American spacecraft lands and, later, takes off. The picture's consistently-catchy soundtrack is nicely played with only some minor but nevertheless noticeable shortcomings in clarity and definition. The track does enjoy a prominent surround structure; alien gunfire zips through the listening area on several occasions and various objects maneuver from side-to-side with a fair amount of precision. However, environmental ambience never fully realized. Dialogue is mostly strong and sharp, but is occasionally lost underneath some musical cues or sound effects. The track certainly isn't bad, but for a brand-new animated movie with plenty to offer from an aural perspective, it simply comes up just a bit short when compared to some of the more seamless, complete, and immersive presentations out there.
Planet 51 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Planet 51 lands on Blu-ray with an assortment of extras that's high in number but low in value. Target 51 Game allows users to play a game through two different modes: Galaxy and Survival. Galaxy mode challenges players to shoot incoming spacecraft from a first-person perspective in level one, dodge objects in a third-person mode in level two, and blast asteroids in level three, the final level a nothing more than a rip-off of Asteroids. Survival Mode is simply level three of Galaxy Mode. Users can also download a Planet 51 app for their iPhones or iPods (and, presumably now, iPads), allowing for the Apple devices to be used as a controller for the game. The World of 'Planet 51' (1080p, 2:54) is simply a compilation piece that showcases some of the locales found throughout the film. Life on Planet 51 (1080p, 12:04) is a fairly basic making-of piece that features cast and crew speaking on the story and moving on to look at the process of lending voiceover work to the film, the quality of the voice actors, the design of the alien world, and the computer effects used in the process. Next up is Planetarium -- The Voice Stars of 'Planet 51' (1080p, 3:18), a short piece that features several cast members describing their characters and their place in the plot, with little emphasis on the actual voice work, aside from some behind-the-scenes footage of the actors behind the microphone. Planet 51 Music Video Montage (1080p, 2:11) contains clips from the film playing against poppy rock tunes from the soundtrack.
Animation Progression Reels (1080p) showcases six scenes from the film in in four stages of progression, each placed in a box across all four corners of the screen. Highlighted scenes include Chuck's Landing (2:23), Chuck on the Run (1:12), The Chase (3:05), Gas Station (2:49), General's Orders (2:20), and Showdown With the General (4:35). Also included is a collection of extended scenes (1080p, 2:50); BD-Live functionality; and 1080p trailers for Hachi: A Dog's Tale, Open Season 3, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, Open Season, Open Season 2, and Surf's Up. Planet 51 also contains two digital copies and a DVD version of the film. The Blu-ray disc houses a PSP-only digital copy of Planet 51. Sampled on a PSP Go, the image retains strong color reproduction and excellent detail resolution, even in distant and small objects. Banding is kept to a minimum, and excessive compression artifacts are far less prominent here than on the iPod version, particularly in brighter scenes. The soundtrack is fine, featuring acceptable clarity in dialogue, sound effects, and music, while also retaining a fair sense of spacing. Meanwhile, disc two contains a DVD copy of the film as well as an iTunes-compatible digital copy of the film. Sampled on a second-generation iPod Touch, the digital copy's picture retains its fine detailing and color scheme, though it looks somewhat flatter and less vibrant than the PSP image, while sporting far more banding and more unsightly compression artifacts. Meanwhile, the soundtrack proves rather full and convincing, with clear dialogue and music and sound effects that often flow between the two headphone channels. Still, the PSP version proves the vastly superior visual experience.
Planet 51 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Planet 51 certainly isn't going to be remembered as one of the greats in the recent string of digitally-animated films, but there's still a charm and appeal -- despite a middling plot and dull characters -- that make it worth a watch. The movie could have worked better, no doubt, but it earns points for a creative idea and lush animation, the movie looking nearly as good as anything put out by Pixar, even with the filmmakers' ability to get away with practically textureless alien creatures. Most of the picture's best material will find favor only with the adults in the audience, but kids should still get a kick out of the film's generic but whacky characters, bright visuals, and innocently fun tone. Sony's Blu-ray release of Planet 51 is solid. Although the extras are many number, they're a bit thin in actual content, but the technical presentation -- and the video transfer in particular -- is a cut above. Science Fiction fans owe it to themselves to check the movie out, and no doubt the kids will want to add it to the library, squeezing it in between Pinocchio and The Polar Express on the bookshelf.
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Planet 51 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Planet 51 Blu-ray Announced for March - January 11, 2010
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced the release of 'Planet 51' on a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack on March 9. 'Planet 51' is an animated movie about an astronaut who lands on a distant planet and finds it inhabited by little green people who take ...
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