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Release Date(s)2012 (October 16, 2012)
Studio(s)Universal (Focus Features)
Moonrise Kingdom is, without a doubt, the best film I saw all year. As I stated in my review of The Darjeeling Limited, I'm definitely a fan of Wes Anderson's work and I patiently wait for what he does next. Moonrise Kingdom feels like a more accessible film to regular movie-going audiences than something like Rushmore or Bottle Rocket. At its basis, it's a story about the innocence of young love, and that seems to be bringing more people into the fold to see it than I would have expected.
Like Wes Anderson's other work, Moonrise Kingdom is a more intimate affair. It's not a special effects-laden film or even a clichéd independent film. It's better than that. You're basically sucked into the world of the Island of New Penzance in 1965, a time and place where innocence was more commonplace. In that regard, it's kind of cheeky that there's only one policeman (Bruce Willis) on the island but yet there are two lawyers (Bill Murray & Frances McDormand). We follow their troubles as they search for two missing 12-year-olds who've run away from home together. Aiding them is Khaki Scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton) and hounding them is a heartless social worker (Tilda Swinton). As with all of Wes Anderson's films, it's beautifully-composed & shot, well-edited and contains an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the actor's performances, especially from all of the children, and in particular, the two leads (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward). The film is also slightly whimsical in nature, but rooted firmly in the reality of the moment. It's a balance that works well because of the subject matter.
In different hands, the film could have easily come off as a clichéd young love story, but it doesn't. It's also about this group of people coming together and taking action and how they're all affected by the experience. The universe of the setting is huge as well, allowing the characters to really shine from moment to moment. Like Fantastic Mr. Fox before it, everybody has something to do, and we ultimately get emotionally invested in the outcome of the story, but it's not tears or sadness that we feel. Instead, it's a very smile-inducing and happy kind of film with nods to nostalgia and innocence, as well. It all comes together for a very rich and rewarding viewing experience.
Speaking of which, let's dig into this Blu-ray release. First of all, the A/V presentation is superlative given the source material. Wes Anderson intentionally shot the film using 16mm film stock, which means less fine detail, softer images and a high level of grain. Having said that, it's amazing just how much detail cinematographer Robert Yeoman squeezes into the presentation. There's the aforementioned high grain level, which never feels like a distraction, but there's also the darker scenes which have a marvelous amount of detail to them. The tint of the film has a very yellowish-period look to it as well, setting the film comfortably in its own timeframe. Browns and greens dominate the color palette, but there's plenty of room for eye-popping color at times, such as Suzi's pink dress, or one of the latter scenes that takes place in a rainstorm with a deep blue tint to it. Skin tones aren't completely accurate, but because of the style of the overall color pallet, they wouldn't be. They're certainly not bad, just a bit tinted more in the direction of red. It's a gorgeous presentation, but my only complaint would be the transfer's natural brightness, which appears too dark at times. It's not a major issue, but when the scenes get really dark, some detail feels lost. Nothing is indiscernible, but it could have been brightened up a bit more. I'm comparing this mainly to the presentation of it that I saw in the theater from memory, which seemed brighter to me, so take that last bit with a grain of salt.
However, you'll find no complaints with the film's soundtrack. There are four options: English DTS-HD 5.1, English DVS 2.0 and Spanish & French DTS 5.1. The main DTS track is absolutely wonderful. While the film is very much a dialogue-heavy piece, the other elements are never sacrificed because of it. The dialogue itself is mostly front and center, and perfectly audible. Other ambient effects, including wind, crickets chirping and rainfall, definitely give the rear speakers something to do. There are plenty of LFE moments sprinkled in and the score & the songs are fantastically sweeping, as well. It all comes together with impressive movement from speaker to speaker for an incredibly immersive and enveloping sound experience. There are also subtitles in English SDH, Spanish and French for those who might need them.
Unfortunately, the extras included feel more like an electronic press kit than they do supplemental materials. Most of the material is less than five minutes long and doesn't really get into the aspects of the actual making of the film. You have the A Look Inside Moonrise Kingdom featurette, the Welcome to the Island of New Penzance section containing 4 vignettes (Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Wes Anderson), the Set Tour with Bill Murray featurette, a BD-Live option and Ultraviolet & Digital Copy options with a code redemption paper insert. The DVD is virtually identical to the Blu-ray, save for the BD-Live and other options and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks instead of DTS. As a sidenote, I could have done without the eight trailers at the beginning of the discs, which was more overkill than anything. All in all, it's very sparse set of extras and a bit disappointing, but I have a feeling we'll be seeing this title again in the future, quite possibly through Criterion. It makes a lot of sense being that nearly all of Wes Anderson's work is on their label, as well as the popularity and respectability of the film itself. We'll keep you posted on that as we're also looking forward to seeing it pop up on their label eventually as well.
Returning to Wes Anderson's universe was something that I had been looking forward to for quite some time, and Moonrise Kingdom did not fail to disappoint at all. It's sweet, charming and enjoyable for all the right reasons. While this Blu-ray release soars with a fantastic A/V presentation, it sorely lacks in the supplemental department. Despite that, it's still a title that you should pick up. It's a wonderful film and looks great on the format, and that'll do for now.
- Tim Salmons