Corpse Bride
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Cameron Murray (3rd April 2006).
The Film

The Corpse Bride is a fantastic contribution to the genre of animated movies. A dark musical tale of true love, betrayal, murder and redemption, it is a wonderful story for both children and adults alike. While the title is somewhat morbid and haunting the movie itself is quite light hearted in the way that it deals with its subject matter, and it is the living rather than the dead who are the less lively and more sinister of the two.
The film is about Victor (Johnny Depp) who is to be married to Victoria (Emily Watson), Victors parents Nell (Tracey Ullman) and William (Paul Whitehouse) believe that this is a great opportunity to climb the social ladder as Victoria’s family has quite a high social standing. Victoria’s parents, Maudeline (Joanna Lumley) and Finis (Albert Finney) need the marriage as they are currently dirt poor. With the marriage arranged and the practice ceremony in progress Victor has an incredible inability to say his vows, and is sent away to practice them. He walks into the woods where he begins practicing his vows and then places the wedding ring on a branch. The branch, or rather what Victor thought was a branch turns out to be the Corpse Bride’s (Helena Bonham Carter) finger, and by this gesture she is resurrected. Upon her rising, she whisks Victor away to the land of the dead and informs him of her unfortunate story. Meanwhile in the land of the living a mystery suitor appears, Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant), very suave and confident, claiming that if the missing Victor were not to return he would be more than happy to marry the lovely Victoria. Victoria’s parents are ecstatic at this proposition and set about changing the wedding for the new groom. Victor finds out about this change in plans and decides to marry the Corpse Bride, but in order to do so they must have a wedding ceremony, and there the plot is set for an amazing future animated classic.
The cast does a fantastic job of giving the characters voice and emotion that leads you to have real sympathy for their plights. Depp does a fantastic job of playing Victor, a timid Englishman who is very shy and retiring, with over bearing parents who seem more interested in climbing up the social ladder than their sons future happiness. Bonham Carter (Tim Burton‘s significant other) does a great job of giving the Corpse Bride a certain (I know this will sound dodgy, but what the hell) sex appeal that is necessary for you to believe that Victor would be attracted to her. The rest of the cast do magnificent jobs in their relevant roles leading to a beautiful harmony throughout the film. Top notch efforts all round.
Stylistically this movie is a feast for the eyes, with amazing flowing shots that lure you in to the film and making you, at times, forget that it was shot frame by frame. Incredible attention was taken with character movement appearing natural and smooth, which leaves you in awe of the amount of effort that must have been taken, to make this painstaking process dance across the screen. The contrast in the colours used to separate the world of the dead from the world of the living is marked, but matches the tone of the film and is consistent the whole way through and adds to the overall feel. The music serves more as an extra character than simply being there to fill the silence with some catchy musical numbers in there to boot; Danny Elfman again excels in delivering a film score that is a testament to this true maestro of his craft. Burton brings to life the old English gothic feel with ease and the movie is some what reminiscent of his earlier works with Beetle Juice (1988), Batman (1989) and Edward Scissorhands (1990).
While the story is quite simple and the movie quite short, the style, acting and direction make it a wonderful viewing experience. I found the movie to be refreshing and interesting though not particularly taxing on the old noggin, which can be nice sometimes. With the movie running for just seventy-four minutes it does leave you wanting more, which personally I prefer, unlike a lot of the new movies which are coming out that could end twenty or thirty minutes before the final credits roll. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys Burton’s work or anyone who feels like an enjoyable but not particularly long foray into the old English gothic world, where marriage of convenience was a regular occurrence.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1 this anamorphic transfer is reference quality. The image is pristine in its sharpness and detail is excellent. I wasn’t able to spot any grain, damage or dirt as is the case with the majority of recent releases. Colors are well rendered and true to the filmmaker’s visions, blacks are solid and defined and shadow detail is consistent throughout the entire film. Once again we have another nice job from Warner Brothers.

Audio

Two audio track are included on this release an English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track as well as a German Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track. I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack and was blown away with its quality and depth, Burton’s worlds are so dense and complex this track perfectly suits it and allows the viewer to immerse themselves right in. Dialogue is clean, music makes excellent use of the 5.1 space and directional effects and action surrounds all feel natural and nothing appears out of place. This track makes a perfect compliment to the reference quality image transfer.
Optional subtitles are also included in Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, English for the hard of hearing, Finnish, German, German for the hard of hearing, Greek, Icelandic, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

Extras

First up we have Danny Elfman‘s complete score, presented here as an isolated music only score track in Dolby Digital 5.1, completely uninterrupted from dialogue and other sound effects, this one’s for the music buffs out there otherwise this extra can be skipped without missing a whole lot.

There are a total of 7 featurettes included on this release, the first of which is entitled "Inside the Two Worlds" this featurette runs for 4 minutes 4 seconds and takes us through an inside look at the major difference between the land of the living and that of the dead. Information is spoon fed here with nothing of value to add that audiences can’t already work out themselves.

Next up we have the Danny Elfman Interprets the Two Worlds" featurette which runs for 4 minutes 56 seconds and takes a look at the music for the film and Elfman tells us about the key songs used in the film, this feature is similar to the music featurette Sweet Sounds as seen on the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory DVD.

Following that is "The Animators: The Breath of Life" featurette which runs for 6 minutes 38 seconds. This takes a closer and very brief look at the animation process of stop motion animation. Although interesting I wasn’t entirely satisfied with this clip, perhaps something more in-depth would have been better?

Next up is the "Tim Burton: Dark Vs. Light" featurette which runs for 3 minutes 39 seconds, although this clip tells us about the ‘Burton style’ this is your basic appreciation clip were everyone tells us how great Burton is-boring, I fail to see how a bunch of people telling me how cool this guy is qualifies as an extra feature.

Next we have the "Voices from the Underworld" featurette which runs for 5 minutes 59 seconds. This clip covers the voice acting, from the choice of certain players to voice the characters to the recording process. This is one of the more interesting featurettes and that’s not saying much at all.

Our next featurette is entitled "Making Puppets Tick" which runs for 6 minutes 33 seconds. This takes a closer look at how these puppets were made from the design stage to modeling. This is by far the best extra on this disc, but certainly leaves you wanting to know more.

Our last featurette is "The Voices Behind the Voice" and runs for 7 minutes 36 seconds. This shows us the recording sessions of the actor with the actual footage from the film and provides for an interesting comparison.

A slideshow is also included entitled Pre-Production Galleries which runs for 13 minutes 28 seconds, this reel shows us some of the designs created for this film.

Rounding out the extras is the film’s original theatrical trailer which runs for 1 minute 51 seconds.

While on paper it may seem that this release has plenty of extras, in reality you’d feel short changed. I believe Warner Brother’s missed the boat in producing extras with substance, why is there no audio commentary and furthermore how come an in-depth making-of was not produced? Instead we are give a collection of brief featurettes that barely scratch the surface for a film as technically brilliant as this. This release could have been brilliant but instead the extras are rather lackluster and mediocre.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: C Overall: B+

 


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