Tangled 3D Blu-ray Review
Running time: 100mins
Blu-ray regions supported: A, B, C
Package includes: 3D Blu-ray, 2D Blu-ray with extra features, Digital copy
Directed by: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard
Starring (voices): Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman
Price: £17.99 from Amazon
Apart from having a photogenically big tower in it, Rapunzel has never struck us as a particularly cinematic story – which may explain why it’s taken Disney so long to get round to making a film based on it. Against the odds, though, Tangled turns out to be one of Disney’s best cartoons yet.
There’s no need to dwell on the story, obviously. It’s just an every day tale of nasty woman locks stolen child with magic hair in a tall tower until she’s rescued by a cheeky chappy with chiselled cheekbones. But the very lack of story with the Rapunzel tale is arguably what helps Tangled work, as it forces screenwriter Dan Fogelman to focus on developing the film’s characters through loads of consistently pithy and witty banter, as well as introducing an inspired extra comic touch in the shape of Maximus, the horse who thinks he’s a dog. The result is a fun film for adults and kids alike – and one that looks gorgeous to boot.
We went for the 3D version of Tangled, and have to say that we don’t regret it at all. Obviously animated films lend themselves rather well to ‘3Dfication’, but even by the consistently high standards of 3D animation, Tangled stands out. In fact, it’s only equalled in our opinion by How To Train Your Dragon and some bits of Despicable Me.
The most interesting thing about Tangled’s approach to 3D is how subtle it is. This might initially sound like a negative thing – and it’s certainly true to say that people who like to have 3D effects shoved in their faces might be disappointed. But for us, Tangled’s 3D restraint seems a deliberate choice born out of growing maturity with the 3D format.
The main plus of Tangled’s 3D restraint is that it makes the film brilliantly relaxing to watch. Hardly ever during any of its 100min running time did we feel as if our eyes were being worked too hard. What’s more, even though we were watching Tangled through reviewer’s eyes rather than just for fun, we seldom found the 3D effect showy to the extent that we started focussing on the composition of the images rather than on the film’s story and characters. In other words, the level of 3D used in the film feels just right, adding a sense of immersion to the film without distracting you out of it.
As part of this, it’s interesting to note that aside from a couple of sequences (see our Showstoppers at the end of the review) Tangled doesn’t try to overload its 3D images with different layers of depth; it generally has two or three ‘layers’ in the relative foreground while leaving objects in the far distance feeling more or less flat. This doesn’t look as unnatural as it maybe sounds when described, and actually serves to keep your eyes focussed on where the main action is as well as saving your eyes from working too hard.
Tangled is also one of the first films we’ve seen where 3D actually contributes thematically to a film. For instance, the use of 3D really adds power to the contrast between the tiny, confined world of Rapunzel in her tower and the complete freedom enjoyed by Flynn Rider as he hops across rooftops and charges through forests.
The extreme brightness and colour-richness of so many of Tangled’s visuals also helps it still look punchy and dynamic even after you’ve put your 3D glasses on, and some scenes, like the opening one with the ‘golden flower’, show how different brightness levels between objects and backgrounds can enhance the 3D effect.
The only complaint we can make about Tangled’s 3D visuals is that they are occasionally very demanding of your 3D screen. There are quite a few scenes that feature bright objects against predominantly dark backgrounds, a combination guaranteed to produce crosstalk ‘double ghosting’ noise on screens that suffer from it (like most do). The lantern sequence in particular – which is also used to provide the 3D disc’s menu screen – can look a blurry mess on screens which suffer even a little with crosstalk. This was even the case on a Samsung PS64D8000 plasma TV we’ve just received (and will be reviewing soon), despite plasma usually handling crosstalk better than LCD TVs.
The only 3D TVs we tried Tangled on that were able to suppress crosstalk to almost nothing and thus allow the disc to deliver its full 3D glory were, inevitably, Panasonic’s latest 3D plasmas.
Turning to the 2D disc for people who don’t have or don’t care about 3D, the news is again very good. In fact, the image is pretty much flawless. Detail levels are immense without any sort of grain or dotting noise (as usual with animation). There’s no sign of any edge enhancement, noise reduction, telecining or other such nonsense either.
Colours are dazzlingly rich but also beautifully subtle and textured, and the image’s contrast range is natural and perfectly judged in that bright scenes don’t seem over-aggressive while dark scenes don’t push their darkness so hard that shadow detailing is lost.
The bottom line here is that regardless of whether you’re watching Tangled in 2D or 3D, it’s an absolute visual feast.
Whether you think Tangled’s soundtrack – available in 7.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio if you’ve got the AV kit to handle it – is great or merely good depends on what you like from your soundtracks. If you’re a fan of lots of aggressive effects placement, boldly portrayed speaker transitions or even subtle use of the rear channel speakers to portray a sense of space, then Tangled’s audio mix may leave you a little cold.
Instead it focusses on delivering a very lush, immersive, and ‘smooth’ (for want of a better word) soundstage designed to keep your focus on the film rather than the sound mix. In this respect it’s a perfect match for the unflashy style of its 3D visuals.
Don’t take this to mean that Tangled’s audio mix is poor, though. Yes, the mix is perhaps a little too centred on the front speakers at the expense of the rears. And yes, the smooth, undetailed nature of the mix meant that we didn’t feel the 7.1-channel version added much beyond the the 5.1-channel version (except for a little more seamlessness if you have a particularly large room). But the reproduction of the film’s score is outstanding, and the vocals and what few effects there are are delivered with absolute clarity and precision.
If you initially doubt the mix, just try closing your eyes for a minute or two during one of the musical numbers, and let the DTS-HD dynamics wash over you…