Although it looks and sounds amazing, ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE is a potential extinction-level event.
Review by Matt Cummings
There’s franchises that are beloved, those that audiences wait in anticipation each season and who by default see great returns, and then there’s The Ice Age franchise. Beset by diminishing Box Office receipts, there’s a sense that what was fresh and hilarious is now tired and facing extinction. ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE makes that all too clear, pushing an agenda of retreaded concepts while we’re left to ponder this franchise’s future. And while the home release features a gorgeous transfer and a decent amount of supplements, it will be difficult for parents to rationalize a purchase over streaming it.
Having discovered an acorn lodged in the launch control of a buried flying saucer, Scrat is jetted into outer space and returns with a collection of asteroids ready to impact the Earth. Meanwhile back on Terra Firma, our heroes including Manny (voiced by Ray Romano) and Buck (Simon Pegg) learn that a recent meteor strike could be the beginning of something far worse, and decide to journey to a remote location in the hopes of creating an electro-magnetic pulse to divert the remaining asteroids away from the planet. Faced with the end of life on the planet, the herd must work together while battling some of their own, including three dromaeosaurs intent on stopping them.
From this summary, you wonder who 20th Century Fox was hoping to market this film. Sure, the action here has never followed any scientific rules, and we’ve seen other animated fare use that to great effect. But COURSE doesn’t get the mix quite right, and honestly hasn’t for awhile. We all know that Scrat will somehow get everyone in trouble with his insatiable desire for an acorn, putting the herd at some sort of risk. We also know that Director Michael Thurmeier will continue to use the old tropes of family, friendship, and working together to achieve a common goal. But the result really feels like Fox is just trying to keep a tired franchise from going extinct. In all fairness, we cinephiles have become accustomed over the years to a deeper experience with animated movies that when something like COLLISION comes along, we don’t know quite what to do. Kids might find the antics to be amusing, but adults will most likely roll their eyes at the line-by-line repeating of concepts and Fox’s steadfastness in not pushing the envelope. That makes a difference in the final product, and it’s what gives us pause when recommending it.
ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE regular blu-ray arrives with MPEG-4/AVC encoded transfer that makes the film at least a tad more watchable. Fox has steadily improved upon their transfers over the years, and that finds its way into various aspecs of this film. For one, animated hair and eyes are fabulous, looking almost real. Forests, water, and other outdoor elements are also beautiful, as is the sense of depth between foreground and background. Colors are warm and inviting, but if there’s anything amiss is the weird purple coloring of the aliens; maybe it was an issue with the master print, but Scrat’s experiences with the aliens looks a bit off. With that exception, we’re treated to a very nice transfer that says more about the state of the animation business – that few differences between studios remain – than it does the quality of the movie. It does nothing to make us like COLLISION more.
ULTRA HD BLU-RAY (4K):
The Ultra HD Blu-ray 4k on ICE AGE COLLISION COURSE is nothing short of spectacular. Animated movies are beautiful in HD as it is but the addition of HDR just really sends this one over the top. Eye candy bliss at its finest, and everything you would expect from a 4k Ice Age movie. Vibrant colors explode the wide range and the blacks are as deep as you’ll ever need them while watching a flick.
If ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE suffers from a terribly predictable story and flat characters, it certainly does not miss in the audio transfer. Simply put, Fox’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is expansive, loud, and immersive. The experience starts off early and continues throughout the film, which finds you looking over your shoulder as effects ring through the surrounds with appreciable frequency. There’s even wind and bird noise apparent throughout the herd’s travels. The LFE pulses and pounds its way through every scene, happening almost too often but never getting in the way of the clear and separated dialogue coming through the center channel. Once again, it’s clear that Fox and other studios have closed the gap against Universal and others in the home market arena. With some exceptions over the past two years, the overall quality of the movie still resides squarely outside of Fox’s wheelhouse, but in every other way Fox is ready to lead this herd.
If Fox’s home release suffers appreciably, it’s in the supplements. Granted, I’m not sure there were moviegoers out there pining for a director’s commentary on this one, but the quality of the supplements themselves are poorly chosen and executed. At least everything is presented in HD:
- Ice Age: The Story So Far (13:15): This breakdown of the past films in the series is not really great, and incorrectly assumes that anyone watching COLLISION COURSE hasn’t already seen at least one of these and therefore doesn’t need such a long-winded review.
- Scrat: Spaced Out (14:42): The only marketable figure in this series is Scrat, and here the studio takes the opening sequence and simply makes it longer.
- Scratasia: Scrat’s Solo Adventures (4:13): Again, Fox is attempting to market Scrat in the way Universal has marketed The Minions as lovable losers. Here, we get an overview of the available Scrat shorts.
- Mystery of the Scratazons (5:13): Again, another Scrat short, this time done in the style of alien investigation shows.
- Star Signs of the Animal Kingdom (4:42): Guess who’s the subject of this one about animals and astrological signs?
- The Science of It All: DeGrasse Tyson Debunks (9:18): The great scientist shows up to discuss many of the film’s less-than-scientific elements. After so much Scrat, it’s a welcome respite.
- Figaro Sing Along (1:47)
- Gallery (1:05): Here, you can choose to either auto- or manually advance through various images from the film.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:26)
Our evaluation copy arrived as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack with a Digital HD copy tucked inside. There is no interior artwork, but the cover is colorful and embossed. Target is offering an exclusive second disc in their stores, and there is also a 4K edition of the film available.
ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE does absolutely nothing new, appealing strictly to children or adults who wish to turn their brains off to view something undemanding. But the result is so tiring that you might find yourself dozing off instead of laughing at the hijinks. If you’re thinking about a purchase, consider renting it first or waiting for the inevitable 5-disc franchise box set to come out. It might be a tired cliché that’s been used far too many times by others, but ICE AGE seems to be heading for an extinction-level event that might necessitate a long, long nap. And even though its technical aspects are leaps ahead of the original, I can’t recommend it for purchase.