Bryan Adams lends a lyrical voice to Dreamworks’ marketable fusion of traditional and computer born animation, the singer sometimes hokey and oftentimes pure in his contribution. Narration by Matt Damon collapses into boredom without matter as Spirit cultivates a daring, often voiceless narrative which strikes a direct assault towards Disney and their squandering of 2000’s Dinosaur.
Spirit is not faultless, rather an admittedly unique peering into America’s tumultuous formation as Native Americans were stripped of their land. Stout and proud, Spirit spits out loose analogies to both Native and slavery cruelties, an unusual formation for mainstream animation to follow, wrapped into a formality of human evils.
Railroads begin to encroach on territories, spawning historical conflict around the free roaming mustang. Perspective demands intelligent artistic license in avoidance of anthropomorphism, broadening the horses, their colts, and behavior with minimalist human qualities. Spirit, roped and bound in fierce summer suns, becomes increasingly enraged and stoutly independent – a parable for not quitting, if lackadaisically applied considering the dire context.
What’s here is a startling visual piece, caught up in enormously depth fueled backdrops which often maintain the painted appeal of hand crafted cells. Scenery displaces the instantly dated, tacky Hans Zimmer electronic score and raises over Bryan Adams’ pop work. Dazzling forestry coincides with clean rivers for a sight seeing festival across untouched plains as horses graze or run.
Human involvement is universally soured, always an odd means of entertainment to force viewers to look inward. Spirit uses the tip of American military to establish dominance over its equestrian star, pulling the mare into their base with control exercises. Simplistic plotting rushes Spirit forward in desperation to reunite with his herd, the only cause for any of this fare. Condensed design allows for snippets of humor before moving ahead, ultimately leaving Spirit in a comfortable position considering where history was leading.
Early, Spirit rumbles with a wild cougar, as if the Katzenberg-led Dreamworks was taking shots at Disney’s Lion King animal stars. The cougar’s resemblance to young Simba is nigh unmistakable. Sleazy as it appears, Spirit pushes a varied agenda of preservation (through ample destruction), historical prowess, and personal perseverance with a defining voice prior to Dreamworks swelling up with pop culture parody. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]
With exceptions set aside for shots appearing with notable halos (all two of them), Spirit’s HD launch is one of animation greatness. Computer work displays age as expected – more so on Blu-ray – while hand crafted ink & pencil work offers sharpness. Lines are pure and the color dense, this mixture a powerful combo on a disc without compression faults.
Cloning the Disney perfectionism, Spirit is removed from instances of aliasing, banding (impressive against graded night skies), or other potential and associated animation kinks. Backgrounds produce splendid layers of colors, bursting with brightness against sun draped landscapes. Primaries are luscious, pouring on greens, yellows, and other variety concoctions. By its end, Spirit is launching a forest fire with controlled bursts of orange against depth grabbing black levels.
One distinct challenge will brush up to the encode, a dreamy snow vision which forms into horses. Between the flakes, artifacts are resisted with high-end bitrates. The results are pleasing and technically acute even in consideration of Blu-ray’s progress since its inception. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Video]
Light on LFE until climatic moments feature a steam engine cascading down a hill, Spirit is mixed together by its music first. Lyrics sit firmly in the center with orchestrated splits carrying into the center and surrounds. Outside of Matt Damon’s narration, human voices are pulled down almost to an indifferent level. The effect is doubled when amongst action.
Design will create a flood of sonic activity when horses pass through canyons, hooves hitting the ground with sounds reflecting from the rocks. Ambient audio is handled with care when intensity rises, although Spirit has a complete lack of forest-esque noises such as birds to fill in these spaces. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Bonuses are shared between the included DVD with the exception of some games. Commentary duties are handed over to the filmmaking team, while promotional featurettes help longtime home media fans realize how far these features have come. Songs of Spirit and Animating Spirit combine for 18-minutes, discussing the unique qualities of the main film. Some storyboards (with optional commentary) are viewable along with an instructional guide to draw Spirit himself. Finally, a fun feature shows the multi-language recording sessions. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.