BIG HERO SIX: THE BLU-RAY
While the digital version has been available for a couple of weeks now, the physical Blu-ray/DVD packs are coming out next week.
I already reviewed the movie, but I’ll say here that the presentation on the Blu-ray is top notch. I have no complaints about either the sound (DTS 7.1) or video quality. I paused in numerous spots while watching the movie to get a close-up look at the computer animation. The new renderer the movie used does tremendous work in some very unexpected ways. There are moments of simple back-lighting where the light steals the scene, creating enormous amounts of mood and texture. “Volume” that the light fills on the screen makes things feel real without being showy. It’s hard to describe.
The wider city shots of San Fransokyo are beautiful, with every window etched into the buildings, and a believable interplay of streets, buildings, and flying objects living together in a shared space. You can see every detail of every house and every office building and every tree along the way. It doesn’t ever feel overwhelming. It just feels right, like a camera really is flying over the city in a helicopter with its aperture squeezed all the way down to get the most in focus at any time.
Complete tangent here, but an interesting sign of the times: After watching the movie on the big screen from the Blu-ray, I slid the DVD into my computer to have it playing while I wrote this review. I tried watching it for a bit, but didn’t last long.
We’re so completely HD-spoiled these days that DVD quality looks like absolute trash compared to Blu-ray. Everything looks soft. Ten years ago, 480p was an awesome resolution and I’d pay top dollar for it. These days, I can’t think of any instance where I’d pick up the DVD over the 1080p Blu-ray. The difference is too profound. Really, go get a Blu-ray player for this movie if you don’t have one yet. You’ll see the difference.
Sorry, back to the review:
The behind the scenes features are a little sparse. Here’s what you get:
- Deleted Scenes: There are three or four of them on here, include two alternate movie openers, which are the most interesting. The directors of the movie introduce them to explain where they’d fit in, and then the scenes — in storyboard form — are shown. If you’re interested in storyboards, these are great resources. If you’re interested in alternate paths the movie might have gone, they’re good. If you’re looking for new scenes that add amazing twists or will help you see characters in new lights, just skip this section. (This feature is not on the DVD.)
- The Characters Behind The Characters: The animation supervisors for each of the characters have a round table discussion. Without the table. Just some stools. It’s a typical Disney puff piece: well lit and well filmed, with two minutes of interesting quotes packed into a six minute reel.
- The Origin Story of BH6: Hiro’s Journey: This 16 minute segment gives us the most interesting background material on the development of the film, including how Marvel worked with Disney on it. Joe Quesada and Jeph Loeb are featured from the comics side. Loeb has the most poignant moments of the piece, where he talks about the relationship between the movie’s two brothers and how one has to deal with the sense of loss for the other. Knowing Loeb’s history, his voice lends a strong feeling of gravitas to his descriptions of the feelings of loss more than anyone else’s could. (This feature is not on the DVD.)
- There’s an Easter Egg about Easter Eggs in the movie, which I haven’t found yet. It’s cute that they made it an Easter Egg and all, but it’s more frustrating than enjoyable for me. I’ll see it once the disc hits wide release and the feature’s location is easily Google-able. (I have no idea if this feature is on the DVD or not.)
- Movie trailer.
- The “Feast” short that preceded the original film and is up for an Oscar in the “Animated Short” category this weekend. It’s a great one.
There’s no director’s commentary for the film, unfortunately. Knowing how much this movie grew and changed in the process of making it — read the “Art of” book — I’d have loved to have heard some animators talking about the process more. (They did it unofficially with “Tangled,” so maybe there’s hope someday for BH6.)
Yes, there’s a lot of stuff they couldn’t fit onto the smaller-capacity DVD, but don’t worry. They still found room to pack nine minutes of Disney ads in under the “Sneak Peeks” moniker, in case you missed them the first time they played when you put the disc in the player. Isn’t that awfully nice of them?
Also, as they did with “Frozen” and “Maleficent,” Disney has chosen not to release a 3D edition of the movie for the North American region. Does Disney feel there’s no market for it in the States? Or are they, for some reason, protecting Walmart’s VUDU on-line streaming service, which has BH6 in 3D?
As always, though, you can buy the movie in its 3D form in the UK and import it on your own if you have a player for that region.
To sum it up: “Big Hero 6” is a great movie. This Blu-ray release showcases the movie well. If you’re a big fan of the background materials, you won’t find anything spectacular here. It’s rather by the book. (In fact, you’re better off buying the book.) But the movie — the most important part of it all — is intact beautifully.
“Big Hero 6” is available on Blu-ray and DVD (and in a couple different combinations therein) on next Tuesday, the 24th.
THE EPIC “ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER” RE-READ, Episode Seven
Batman and Black Canary enjoy each other’s company. Robin must decide between being an avenger or a detective. Since this is a DC Comic, though, that choice is kind of obvious…
This issue is split almost perfectly in half. The first half is Batman and Black Canary at the docks finishing up their fight we saw last issue. The second half is Robin in the Batcave against his parents’ killer.
We’ll start with the rain-drenched fight at the docks. In many ways, it’s just another example of the crazy Batman enjoying breaking bad guys in half. This time, he gets to use bottles of bleach and some small explosives to do the most damage, but it’s par for the course in this series. He laughs a bunch, he smiles sadistically, and he hurts people with guns who are doing bad things.
In many ways, it’s stereotypical superhero behavior: good guy versus bad guys, where the good guy wins by taking advantage of some unique part of the situation to out-think and out-muscle the bad guys who outnumber and out-gun him. It’s all covered in a layer of dialogue showing how macho and how sure of himself the Batman is.
The first page is a great example of a small comics trick that works very well to quickly make a point. Batman is seen kicking one of the bad guys or their crates, I’m not sure. He’s the powerful, crazy, action-oriented guy bringing fear down upon the evil-doers. The multiple bad guys (at least six are shown) are in a panic, faces frozen in fear, bodies flying, gunshots missing by a mile.
Batman is cackling with his usual “HAHAHAHAHAHA” as he goes, but a series of short word balloons above the heads of the bad guys gives you a very quick peek into their states of mind in reaction to The Batman:
- “Oh, no–”
- “Oh, Christ–”
- “Not him–”
- “We’re screwed–”
It seems like a minor thing, but it’s not. It gives you an instant look into the mind state of all the players in the scene in a very short chunk of time and page space. The bad guys are universally worried and scared by Batman, who’s clearly in his element and enjoying himself. Your eyes glaze across those balloons quickly and may even barely register them, but Frank Miller is showing you emotions with those balloons more than telling it to you in a caption box, as he could.
Well, OK, he does. There are two caption boxes on the page:
- “Striking TERROR.”
- “Best part of the job.”
The first line might be redundant to all the small balloons, but I think it’s necessary to set up the second one that acts like a punch line. All is forgiven.
All of that action isn’t even the memorable part of the issue. No, the part you might remember happens right after that. Batman, having saved Black Canary, is instantly seduced by the Irish ex-bartender. She jumps his bones immediately after telling him how hot he is.
“Her TONGUE’S a little bit SANDY. She’s a SMOKER. Cigars. Cuban. I haven’t kissed a SMOKER in WEEKS. Not since SELINA.”
Being the GD Batman is a lonely job that brings about an attraction to the Bad Girls, obvs.
The scene also pre-dates the infamous New 52 “Catwoman” #1 scene by a few years.
I think that’s the first reference to Selina we’ve had in the book so far, but it’s also the first reference to Batman’s romantic life. We maybe had a hint in the first issue that Bruce Wayne is a ladies man. He asks Vicki Vale out on a date to the circus for — no apparent reason. He admits in that issue that he’s scouting Dick Grayson out, and maybe with his social standing he needed an available “hot chick” to be on his arm for the night.
Well, he likes to do it with his mask on. “It’s BETTER that way.”
And how do we gloss past the high point of the Black Canary/Batman dance of the beast with two backs? Why, with a thunder clap:
Because a train running through a tunnel would have been too cliche.
There’s also the inevitably awkward chatter post-coitus:
And then Frank Miller goes with the “GD Batman” meme and blows it completely out of the water in two balloons that I think act as the apex of that phrase for the series:
Batman picks up Jocko-Boy Vanzetti, throws in him in the back of the Batmobile, gives Black Canary a lift home (as a gentleman does), and heads back to the Batcave.
Their conversation on the way out turns a little serious, as Black Canary plays junior shrink and hits on a main theme of the series that got quickly lost in the original outcry against this series: This is a story about Batman being such an isolated loner that he lost part of his humanity. The series is about him creating Robin to save his soul. Canary calls Batman out for being the kind of person whose only interactions with other people is when he’s punching them in the face.
He’s quick with a quip to shut her up, but his thoughts betray him. A small part of him, at the very least, recognizes that she’s right. He’s keeping the walls up for now, but he admits that he is half crazy.
We move on now to Robin, who we didn’t see last issue. He has been locked in the dark Batcave for a while, told by Batman to go eat a rat if he gets hungry. He hasn’t. He killed the rat, sure, but he didn’t like it. We see him throwing up at what he’s done. Dick Grayson, as bad as life has turned for him in the last 24 hours, is still no killer.
But will the arrival of the man who murdered his parents in front of him change that? Surely, if there’s anything that might make a boy go down that dark road, it’s that. Who amongst us might not snap? With Robin having just a couple of issues ago discovered a really big manga-sized axe, would he wield it wildly to take out the man who made his life so miserable?
He swings the axe, but uses it to cut the duct tape off of Vanzetti’s mouth and maybe give him a little cheek scar. Then he beats him up until he gets Vanzetti to give up the name of the man who hired him to kill his family.
Smash cut to:
This is something i skipped over in earlier issues, but it happened at the end of issues two and three, as well. Those issues ended with the logos of Robin and Superman, in order. It’s one of those neat little tricks that only happen in comics. In this issue, Vanzetti gives up the name of his employer off-panel. Batman, in his caption boxes, thinks, “Jocko-boy TALKS. I don’t like his ANSWER. Not one BIT.”
Turn the page and there’s a playing card of a Joker.
You instantly make the connection between words and images there. You know Batman is thinking about the Joker. He doesn’t need to say it. That graphic drives it home. Earlier, the Robin logo was used right after Dick Grayson came to his sense and agreed to be Batman’s sidekick. The Superman logo showed up after Clark Kent was visibly angered by Batman’s actions.
It’s a neat trick and one that works only in comics. No other medium could pull this off as well. Great stuff.
One point on Alex Sinclair’s coloring on the series: Have you seen the videos making the rounds lately about how all movies these days are color graded to be teal and orange? Alex Sinclair’s color scheme in this issue, in particular, follows that path. Gotham is steely gray and dark blue, while the characters offset that with more orange skin and color highlights. Gunfire, of course, is a blast of orange-ish/yellow. Car headlights are in that bright range, too. The sound effects lettering lean towards the red/orange color area, too.
It looks great, but after watching that video, you’ll see the color wheel in your mind as you read the series. Issue #9 is a big exception, and my favorite issue. Can’t wait until we get to that one…
Next Issue: The Joker. Green Lantern. Catwoman. Robin.
Quick correction to last week’s column: In “Batman: Year One,” Gordon’s wife was pregnant with James Jr., not Barbara.
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