Ice Age has never been a series loaded with originality. Nor was it one particularly well received by critics (with each installment of the series the reviews get gradually worse). So when it came time for third (and supposed final) installment of the series, logic dictates that it do the worst. Well logic clearly can’t dictate worth crap in this case as Dawn of the Dinosaurs went on to gross $878 million worldwide, making it the second highest grossing animated film of all time and the third highest grossing international film of all time. And this is for the third installment in the series, mind you, that came out nearly ten years after the first one originally debuted. I’m more impressed by what this film accomplished than I am with the animation contained within it.
In the coolest Ice Age adventure yet, Manny and the herd discover a lost world of ferociously funny dinosaurs, including a cranky T. rex who’s got a score to settle with Sid! Meanwhile, Scrat goes nuts over the beautiful Scratte, but is she trying to win his heart – or steal his acorn?
Of course this is all very worrisome because now Fox will get greedy and greenlight a fourth film, even though there really can’t be another one. I have visions of this turning into The Land Before Time, although I would really just prefer it if they did a Scrat spin-off as that dude is freakin’ hilarious even after all of these years. In any case, what Ice Age has accomplished is truly astounding. I guess furry animals living in a glacial environment is something everyone wants to go see.
Having said all of that…this third film really is the weakest in the series, by far. What doesn’t help is it just starts out right away and throws our characters into a plot that has little setup. This is normally good as it doesn’t keep the audience waiting, but it actually made the film feel more like an episode of a TV series rather than an installment in a trilogy. I guess if you watch the films all back to back the jumping in is less abrupt, but really that’s just a minor qualm. The rest of the pacing for the film is solid and tight.
The main focus of this film is Sid (naturally). I really never liked Sid in these films and he’s the key reason I found this third installment so tired and tedious. He gets into trouble once again and everyone comes together to save him. Of course we get a new character with Buck, voiced by Simon Pegg, who nearly shows up Scrat in terms of hilarious dialogue and mannerisms. So while Sid was an annoyance whenever he was on screen, the addition of Buck was a welcome surprise which balanced things out, I suppose. Although the big bad guy in this film was kind of underwhelming, but still fun.
Another strange area of the film that didn’t make a whole lot of sense was Diego’s brief departure. I mean it’s set up nicely enough but it just seems kind of shoehorned into the whole story and feels like a reason to add another subplot for no real reason. I created some necessary tension and whatnot, but I still feel they could’ve come up with a more inventive way than to just randomly insert sequences like that to pad the time and story.
Really I just keep coming back to the “episode of a TV show” when I think about this film. It has the crazy guest star that sucks up most of the time (Buck), the comfortable and easily recognizable main cast that adds an anchor to the setting and…well, that’s it. The film is astonishingly light on its toes when it comes to plot depth and aside from the random adult-oriented jokes (of which there are quite a few good ones…as well as one you could possibly read a bit into with the Scrat and Scratte plot which is as hilarious as the past Scrat outings) the majority of this film will just be enjoyed by the younger audience it was originally meant for. Sure, adults will perk up when something naughty is alluded to, but most of the time they’ll be snoozing.
At least until Buck hops on screen, because he really adds a whole bunch of fun to the film. Although this has been called the “end” of the trilogy, there was no such feeling at the end of it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fourth film come down the pike. Maybe a film that focuses solely on Buck and Scrat…I’d go for that. Worth a Rental.
When you pick up this release, be prepared for some heft. The Blu-ray version arrives in a standard width Elite Blu-ray case but boasts a series of paper inserts, three discs, and an embossed cardboard slipcase. So there are plenty of discs inside the case (one Blu-ray, one DVD, and one Digital Copy) and the usual adverts for Blu-ray and other Ice Age related products. The DVD edition arrives in a single disc white amaray case with an insert and advertisement for CHECK THIS, which is incredibly odd to me as that movie is old. There’s an alternate side-by-side pack that has the Scrat Pack attached, but if you get the Blu-ray edition all of that is included on the Blu-ray disc anyway.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded 1080p transfer and I have to say it looks horrible. There’s compression everywhere, banding, horrible color levels and…nah, I’m just kidding. A modern CGI film should look nothing less than stellar and Fox once again exceeds expectations. A truly flawless print is included here that is just oozing detail, vibrant colors (at least in the hidden Center of the Earth place they travel to), and some truly enjoyable and astounding visuals. If nothing else home theater aficionados will appreciate the pristine picture this film gives.
Audio is similarly exciting with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix…but is much sparser in exciting events than the transfer is. The fact of the matter is the film is light on action sequences and whenever those pop up there is plenty of rear channel and bass to be had. But when it’s just walking and talking like most of the film is, there just isn’t anything but the front channels. Oddly enough there weren’t even any jungle sounds or extra SF/X in the surrounds until the “big” sequences, which just made it all the more confusing. So the track definitely has its moments, but it’s not consistently amazing as the video transfer is…which, sadly, doesn’t make this an ideal demo disc (unless you just want to show off the visual portion of your home theater). Also included are French, Spanish, and Portuguese DD5.1 tracks as well as English SDH, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Portuguese subtitles.
Extras are vast (in number, at least; content’s iffy) and include:
Ice Age Story Maker
Buck…Easel to Weasel
Falling for Scratte
Unearthing the Lost World
Two Unfinished Deleted Scenes
Walk The Dinosaur Music Video
Two Scrat Shorts
oGone Nutty – Scrat’s Missing Adventure
oNo Time For Nuts
The Sabre-Toothed Squirrel: Natures Nutty Buddy
Scrat: From Head To Toe – learn how to draw Scrat tutorial
Scrat: “Breaking Story”
Scrat: “News Report”
Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with John Leguizamo
Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Ray Romano
Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Queen Latifah
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making A Scene
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making A Scene (Ice Age 2)
All total, with commentary, that giant list of extras adds up to about three hours of goodies. And, honestly, most of the extras are all things we’ve seen before—basic makings of, some Fox Movie Channel fodder and…well, ok those Scrat bits were pretty awesome. The commentary was dry and very technical so animation fans will probably be the only ones to really find it all that interesting; hell I love animation and I could barely get through it, what with the intermittent pauses of silence and boring sequence and storyboard discussions.
Overall this is certainly a packed set…but there is shockingly little substance. Still if you’re going to get this film then the Blu really is the way to go—you get a DVD copy of the film for the non-Blu-ray enabled rooms in your house and one stunning transfer. Plus all of those other extras, should you be so inclined. Recommended.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.