A $75 million turkey
My first two optical discs of 2008 arrived this morning, and I’m sorry to say that neither one turned out to be particularly impressive, albeit for different reasons. The first, The Simpsons Movie on Blu-ray, I’ll discuss in a minute, but for the moment, I want to take a moment to discuss Cat People on HD DVD (the Paul Schrader remake, not the Val Lewton original), which features, hands down, the worst high definition transfer I’ve ever paid money to see. Okay, so Traffic and Spartacus (both also from Universal, as it happens) both look worse, but I didn’t pay to see these.
From start to finish Cat People has been attacked, and I mean attacked, with the edge enhancement and noise reduction filters, to the extent that every high contrast edge is surrounded by a large white outline, and every time the camera moves the screen turns to mush, while every texture, from skin to fabric to hair, looks like wax. Even more infuriatingly, the clips that play behind the main menu look nothing like this. They are alive with unmolested film grain and, beyond the still-visible edge enhancement, generally look pretty tolerable. Now don’t get me wrong: I suspect that the master used was less than stellar to start with, as is true of many catalogue titles from Universal and other studios. However, I also suspect that, had the image simply been left alone, it would have looked no worse than the likes of Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Lost in Translation, which fall way below my standards of acceptability but are at least watchable. Cat People is just… ugh.
Now, on to the main point of this post (no, I’m not done ranting): The Simpsons Movie. I’ll probably be doing a full review for this at some point, so I’ll withhold my comments about the transfer until then, save to say that the ringing that some people have pointed out is indeed present from beginning to end, and you’ll no doubt be able to see the evidence on my brother’s site when he does his own post on the subject very soon. (Incidentally, it really sticks in my craw when people don’t themselves see problems that have been identified with transfers, and illustrated through solid evidence, and have the audacity to claim that those who do see them either have faulty equipment or have somehow got “a bad copy” of the disc in question. If you have even the slightest comprehension of how digital replication works, then you’ll know how ridiculous the latter is.)
No, my blithering will primarily be restricted to the film itself and what a tragic waste of time it is.
I like The Simpsons, I really do. The first five seasons are almost consistently hilarious, and, for all their bland animation and shoddy timing, they are pretty hard to fault. However, I think it’s fair to say that the show has not been at its prime for some time now, and the only thing worse than a has-been show is one that is unceremoniously hauled on to the big screen, where the flaws become even more readily apparent.
I saw The Simpsons Movie late last summer and was thoroughly underwhelmed by it. Foolishly, I thought that a second viewing might improve my appreciation of it, so I decided to pick up a copy of the Blu-ray release. Besides, we’re somewhat starved for high definition traditional animation, so, as the saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers. Unfortunately, I now find myself wishing I hadn’t bothered. The simple reason for this is that, second time round, I already knew the story, so there was nothing, and I mean nothing, left to engage me. Had this, the result of the toiling of fifteen writers, god knows how many animators and a gaggle of overpaid actors who sound like they’ve never taken voice direction in their lives (that’s $75 million to you and me), been broadcast as part of the regular series, it would have been the worst episode of The Simpsons I’ve ever seen (bearing in mind that I stopped watching regularly at around Season 11). As it stands, it’s three times longer than the worst episode of The Simpsons I’ve ever seen, which means that it’s actually three times worse than the worst episode of The Simpsons I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen the one where Homer gets raped by a panda.
I don’t often say “Can I have an hour and a half of my life back?” after watching a film, no matter how bad, but I’m going to say it this time. I honestly can’t understand how anyone could have a positive word to say about it. The sad part is that it isn’t even awful. It’s just empty, bland, insincere and ultimately pointless. It’s not even funny - I laughed at it perhaps three times: once at Bart’s “doodle”, once at the gag where Bart defaces the Wanted picture of his family (itself a retread of a gag used at least twice before in the show), and then at the one genuinely funny line in the entire film: “You just bought another load of crap from the world’s fattest fertiliser salesman!” Which, oddly enough, is exactly how I felt when I remembered I’d given 20th Century Fox my money for this film.
So can I have an hour and a half of my life back, please?
Update, January 3rd, 2008 09:52 PM: Lyris’ post, with pictures, can now be found here.