What’s up, Contenders? Terry Malloy here reporting live from the Waterfront.
FINDING NEMO on Blu-ray released last week, December 4th, 2012.
Let’s get directly to the point here, friends. FINDING NEMO on Blu-ray is a visual revelation. It is one of the most stunning looking high definition films I have ever seen. Taking that fact into account, I was surprised to realize that FINDING NEMO is also approaching its 10 year anniversary in 2013. Can you believe FINDING NEMO released initially in 2003? It doesn’t look dated at all, and may even have a whole new layer of beauty on Blu-ray than it ever had before.
I hadn’t seen this film since the theater, and it hit me directly in the heart upon revisiting this Blu-ray. Just a few weeks ago I got a chance to review the BRAVE Blu-ray after seeing it for the first time. And while that movie underwhelmed me in comparison to more recent Pixar fare such as WALL-E and UP, NEMO had sort of fallen off my Pixar radar. I remembered liking it a lot. I remembered it being sweet-natured, that it looked cool, and that Ellen DeGeneres was really funny in it. But beyond that and a vague memory of a sea turtle sequence, I just plain didn’t remember a whole lot about this film.
Before the opening credits are even complete, FINDING NEMO sets up a beautiful and gut-wrenchingly dramatic world for our story to be told in. The film’s main character is actually Marlin, Nemo’s father, voiced by Albert Brooks! I had no recollection that Brooks was the lead character of this movie, and I get a huge kick out of that. At any rate, Marlin the Clown Fish and his wife live inside a beautiful sea anemone at the edge of a coral reef. All is right with the world and the couple are expecting a few hundred babies as they go to visit the resting place for their eggs. But a barracuda snatches Marlin’s wife away and almost every last egg as well. The final moment before the opening credits finds father promising to always keep little pre-hatched Nemo safe and your heart strings are already being pulled. It is a masterful opening sequence that just sets up a phenomenal film.
After the credits, Nemo is grown, ready to head off to school for the first time, and voiced by Alexander Gould (AKA Shane Botwin from WEEDS!). Nemo’s teacher takes the students on a field trip of their coral reef and at that point I realized that this Blu-ray was something special. FINDING NEMO is one of the most immersive, colorful, and fully realized computer animated worlds ever attempted.
The inevitable clash between our overbearing father and coming of age son leads to Nemo rebelliously swimming towards a boat and being netted by a human diver and taken away to a dentist’s office in the port harbour of Sydney, Australia. At this point, Pixar pulls off another story-telling challenge with aplomb: the split story. Now we will follow Marlin and Dori (Ellen Degeneres as the memory-challenged companion) on their search for Nemo, and we’ll also follow Nemo as he meets the other fish in the dentist’s tank and they all plot their escape.
FINDING NEMO is an epic quest film. Marlin must overcome his insecurities about the wider ocean world and encounter sharks, whales, sea turtles, and ocean currents to find his son. But nothing can stop him because his love for Nemo (and guilt for losing him) drives him to overcome his anxiety. Meanwhile, little Nemo with one misshapen fin is constantly told he isn’t a good swimmer because of his disability. But Nemo grows in confidence through his trials in the “real world” and manages his own victory by escaping from the tank to be reunited with his father. This is grand, iconic story telling told in a massive playground of a cartoon ocean.
At one point in the movie’s extra features, Director Andrew Stanton says something along the lines that they wanted to make a movie that “excluded noone”. And I think that gets at the heart of why I LOVE Pixar movies but otherwise don’t always jump at the chance to watch the latest animated feature. FINDING NEMO isn’t a kid’s movie at all. It is just a huge, sweeping, family adventure whose goal was to exclude no one. Adults, kids, teens… anyone can identify with FINDING NEMO and love it. Whether you let the visuals sweep you away, the adventure thrill you, the jokes crack you up, or the drama tug at your heart, this movie is just a bona fide work of magic from the good people at Pixar.
My particular screener copy is the 3-Disc edition minus the 3-D version of the film. I don’t have 3-D capability at home and don’t plan to have it in the near future, so for me this addition of the film is all I could ever ask for. It has the Blu-ray and the DVD copy of the movie, and a bonus Blu-ray with extras. Sure, maybe it’d be nice to have a digital copy thrown in, too, but I also haven’t really integrated digital copies into my movie watching habits yet, so I don’t miss that personally.
As I mentioned in the title of the review, FINDING NEMO is probably going to be one of the discs I pop in to show off the power of high definition to anyone who would ever care to see it. (While I often think this is a useless concept we geeks throw around, the mythological “Demo Disc”, I did recently get a new TV at home so the occasion actually has arisen to show something off, and I’ve pulled out NEMO!) The level of detail that is visible in high definition is stunning. It is almost as if the animators future-proofed this film with levels of detail that weren’t even perceptible in standard definition. When fish are close up, you can see scales and ripples of muscle under their skin. It is kind of profound.
I guess the ultimate testament to the incredible visuals of FINDING NEMO come down to some pretty tech-heavy stuff, which could become really boring to learn about. But the special features here are just as playful and accessible as the movie! I actually highly recommend budding young film fans check out the bonus features on this disc. There is a cute Pixar studio tour hosted by a young Alexander Gould that finds each Pixar department furiously slacking off when he arrives. They all relax when they realize Director Stanton isn’t with him and show him what they did on the film. It is a funny little gag that also introduces you to the world of Pixar.
The real technicians of Pixar do things that I can’t even imagine, such as working JUST on lighting, or colorization, or physiology. In the disc’s version of a commentary, you get a very well presented mode of movie-watching called “CinExplore”. I’d kind of like to see commentary tracks like this more often, but I’m sure they take a ton of work. This mode is basically a curated watch of the film, with different filmmakers and crew popping up in a picture-in-picture to talk about a particular moment or set piece in the film. There are illustrations and storyboards that appear as well, just to root what you are seeing as a finished product. It feels incredibly natural and immersive. I don’t think this type of commentary should outright replace filmmakers’ commentaries, but I do think this “CinExplore” mode feels very seamless.
I haven’t tried any of this “second screen” stuff yet on any home video releases as I am too broke to really own a “second screen” beyond a smart phone. But I can’t imagine the second screen experience being as fun as CinExplore is here. With this unique commentary track, you get a curated walk through the film without having to look away, press buttons to branch off for more content, etc. I clearly really enjoyed it.
There are just a ton of bonus features to explore here, some tiny bits of comedy or storyboards, and even a touching tribute to Pixar animator Glenn McQueen who passed away before the film was completed. The coolest little minor touch is an Aquarium feature which lets you keep the beautiful seascapes of the discs menus playing on an infinite loop with NEMO music playing softly in the background. As I was navigating through the disc and doing chores around the house, I actually put the aquarium mode on a couple of times and found it ridiculously soothing. There are probably 2 dozen clickable little bonus features packing out these 2 discs.
So this film is an undeniable Pixar masterpiece and the Blu-ray more than does it justice. This is a must-own for any Pixar fanatic.
And I’m Out.
Terry Malloy AKA Ed Travis
* Images and screen captures from Blu-ray.com