Ice Age began life with Manny, Sid, and Diego on adventure through dated CG landscapes. To imagine this series with only three key characters anymore is a dream. The new faces are coming in clusters now, some ingenious as Grandma sloth voiced by Wanda Sykes and others that clog the landscape, i.e., pirate crew of Continental Drift.
This franchise is a marketing machine; imagine the level of action figures created for each entry and then subsequently dropped. It’s a one-off success that has ballooned into a mega-franchise. And to think it all started with a squirrel.
Scrat, the nut-hoarding rodent who adorns every slice of trailer time, sets off the splitting of Pangaea with his latest escapades. That births Europe, Australia, Africa, and the US, all while pushing the characters we know from their homes. Rattling off a list of appearances from famous faces to single use characters would spiral this text into a 1,000 words before discussing story.
The split separates Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah), along with their now rebellious teenage daughter. While the key trio that began this franchise ends up on a small slab of ice, Ellie and the rest of the mammals are being pushed off their homeland by a massive mobile landscape. The set up works as a pressure cooker and time creator, establishing enough of dramatic back-end to fuel the action.
New to Continental Drift is a band of pirates, led by a grizzled monkey. Voice work by Peter Dinklage is suitably coarse, giving the character a spark that it would otherwise be lacking. His crew is made up of dolts, as if Ice Age needed the redundancy of added comic relief, and through a series of events, Manny enters into an impromptu war with these seafaring types. Of course, in the midst of the fighting, Manny discovers a current which would lead him back home to his family. Dramatic convenience, ahoy!
Continental Drift is still fun in chunks. Some of the designs are inspired, and this world – through the enormous increase in technology – has become something to celebrate. Snappy one-liners from a slew of dopey minded creatures are funny even if there is little distinction between any of them. In the end, the entire project is saved by a wonderfully cranky Granny who could not get enough screen time. She’s spiteful, disillusioned, a bit out of her mind, and wouldn’t you know it, plotting the entire movie.
On its own worldwide, Drift is a near billion dollar movie, so a fifth entry is almost assured. It’s hard to say what else these animals could experience as they age, but almost assuredly, the pirates will be forgotten and the Earth with spawn some other fast talking critter to join in on the fun. Predictable to a fault? Yep. Frustrating? Sometimes. Still fun? You bet.
Continental Drift comes with a bonus on Blu-ray that uses select clips from previous films to keep viewers up to date on the story. Seeing 2002’s Ice Age is humbling. Here’s Drift with such remarkable landscapes, flowing water, incredible fur, and stunning destruction. Ice Age struggled with backgrounds. Computer animation is not timeless.
This world has become brighter, both in terms of saturated characters and lively landscapes. Trees carry a vivid green, mammoth fur brings with a variety of shades, and ice is a dazzling blue. All encompassing covers the palette and without diminishing the snowy formations that birthed this series.
All of this creates a tighter visual impact, the small hairs on Sid or the flowing locks of Captain Gutt unmistakable regardless of distance. Mammoth and saber tooth fur is fantastic, while the shimmering hides of walrus or whales is equally impeccable. The level of texture work is challenging any and all comers in the major studio animation department, and on Blu-ray with a flawless encode, you can pick out everything.
This a transfer that nearly blows out color but pulls back at the last second to give them a perfect sheen. It pushes for depth and contrast while finding it at a perfect balance. Backed by snow and aided by black levels that cannot be any better, Drift is predictably perfect in the best way possible.
The success continues with a radically fun 3D effect, with animal noses, horns, trunks, and more sticking out of the image with incredible regularity. Continental Drift is everything people talk about when they say the tech is gimmicky, but know what? It works. Not only is the disc delivering the mesmerizing detail, the snow and ice creates an intense contrast that not even the glasses can dim.
With this 3D edition, you’ll gain a little of everything. Long shots of massive landscapes in flux, furry close-ups that pop from the frame, landscapes that seems miles deep, a superb sense of roundness that ensures characters are not merely cardboard cut-outs, and some underwater stuff that cannot be missed. Like 2D, the 3D landscape will almost assuredly be dominated by animated features. Ice Age solidifies that line of thinking.
Powered by a DTS-HD 7.1 mix, the key here is a lack of consistency. To be more direct, elements tend to come and go. For every instance of positional dialogue out of the frame, there’s another where the chatter merely sits without movement. Rumbling rock structures on the move generate tremendous weight before barely registering when they reappear.
There is a sedateness to the mix that holds it back despite some grand highs. Water will rush up into the surround field, ice with scratch as it collides, and characters will audibly move through the frame. This is not a mix of concerns or problems. It balances well and works hard when it has to, but it’s missing an extra element of precision. With two additional rear speakers to work with, you’d be hard pressed to specifically pick out when they are in use. They exist without direction.
If you enjoy being annoyed by a pirate, then the Party with a Pirate feature will step in to interrupt your experience, even into the extras. Skip it. The Story So Far is the above mentioned look at the narrative flow of the franchise up until now. Two deleted scenes are followed by dual features (a half hour together) on the pirates, from their designs to their voice actors. Granny and the Stink of the Sloth details the sloth family and their reason for being in the film.
Whale of a Tale spends 24-minutes detailing the loose science and the reality it is all based on. Scrat Got Your Tongue explains how critical this character is to the identity of the series. The Scratist is a parody of The Artist in trailer form starring Scrat. Some music videos and some trailers are left.
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