Two krill are part of Happy Feet Two’s story. Well, they’re a part in the sense that they exist within the film. They have no real purpose other than to dazzle the theater goer who forked over an added five bucks to see this in 3D. The actual, limited story arc doesn’t do much short of containing the penguins in a location. Clearly, there’s not enough pizazz to request more funds from the customer with that story arc. So, in jump the Krill.
What Happy Feet Two is superb at doing is completely avoiding making that obvious. Why? CUTE BABY PENGUINS! They’re everywhere, with their seething little voices and accents that make them incomprehensible to actually understand. It’s not as if they’re saying much of importance. No one here does. But…
CUTE BABY PENGUINS!
Humans are interjected into the narrative, weird not because they’re human but because they’re live action. There’s an entire guitar solo from a pitifully green screened boat. Why? So said people can be lured in to help the penguins trapped between moving glaciers. As they work, a snowstorm kicks up that prevents them from ever finishing, pushing them out of script on a contrivance. Their entire existence in this film is rendered completely and utter useless, just like the krill. Which means it’s time for:
CUTE BABY PENGUINS!
Elephant seals are introduced, generating a rescue sequence as the penguins try to find their way back home. The whole thing lasts around 15 minutes, the penguins rallying to save this adult seal as the exploitative, doughy-eyed babies look on in horror. The eventuality is that the seal owes the penguins a favor later, but in reality, could have been resolved in another way in a matter of minutes. Instead, the false drama leads nowhere, because?
CUTE BABY PENGUINS!
There are new characters, including a flying penguin (yes, it’s loosely explained) that has an entire scene dedicated to him. Oh, don’t worry. That’s meaningless too. He never amounts to a plot device. The endless songs play up popular culture and finish on the upbeat to send the audience home happy, marketing 101. There’s also a slight environmental message, hidden but it’s clearly there. The irony of sitting at home on a big screen TV, with booming home theaters, sapping precious power while watching a movie detailing the downfall of Earth is too thick to even touch. But hey, at least we can all go out knowing we did it watching…
CUTE BABY PENGUINS!
Instead of being entirely covered in snow or water, Happy Feet Two plays a little with the color. The iceberg that slams into the colony is a beautiful steely green. Krill carry a magnificent red, and some greenery shows through the ice. This is of course on top of the brilliant oranges of the penguin’s beaks and sometimes frilly natural décor.
Highlights remain the insignificant krill, animated with a superb transparency and slimy texture. The effect is totally convincing. At a distance, most of the penguins and seals look the same too, dotted with fur or features. The seals especially have a fleshy look to their faces. It’s when the camera strides in, looking to create some depth, that the artificiality creeps in. Textures are no longer precise so much as they are stretched across the animal, limiting the finest detail and certainly causing scrutiny.
Warner’s encode job is immense, holding onto extraordinary complexity. The mountain of particle effects, from kicked up snow to rushing water, is held without any visible compression. During a swarm of krill -thousands of them in motion- not a lick of artifacting is noticeable. This was even after pausing the piece just to be sure. It was too unbelievable otherwise.
With the backdrop set as snow, it’s no surprise the contrast is healthy and vivid. Even during deep underwater dives, there’s a sense of intense brightness that keeps this image alive. Black levels equal things out as needed.
As with everything else, the 3D is sold by the krill, characters redundant even in this text by now. Their suspension in the water and pokey feelers on their nose are extraordinary in convincingly creating depth. They float and swim amongst the crowds, totally flawless and with splashes of color so rich, it makes for some of the brightest 3D around.
Penguins still impress. Watch their beaks peer into the virtual lens, or their escapades create a fully dimensional environment. Rows of the flightless birds go on for miles, and their entrapment between icebergs is convincing with the addition of 3D. Given its own disc, the 3D version does carry some additional banding, although so minimalistic amongst the total beauty of the depth, no one will likely care.
As ice moves, so will your home theater, and in some cases that’s literal. The LFE is extensive, booming as massive chunks of frozen water smash into each other. Scale is delivered with sizable subwoofer support, doubly so come action scenes. An underwater chase accentuates the push of water as a carnivore makes a move through some icy tunnels, leading to a flood of water at the conclusion.
Spacious use of the directionals is outstanding, capturing the flow of dialogue as characters push off screen. Not a line is missed when it needs to move, stereos or surrounds. Songs fill the entirety of the soundfield, offering vibrancy and clarity. Echoes of far off penguins ricochet off the virtual ice and fire directly back to the full capabilities of the home system.
Warner pushes ahead with second screen support, putting games and features on a mobile device while you watch the movie. Clearly, it’s a diversionary tactic to avoid people paying attention to the feature. Smart. Five other bonuses, mostly for the kids, are lackadaisical in execution. A Looney Tunes short, sadly CG (not a classic one) has mild interest, while learning to draw penguins is only for the younger set. Nothing here deals with the adult technical side.