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Blu-ray Review: MISSING LINK

Jul 29 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) is a gentleman adventurer and monster hunter. What he wants more than anything is to be taken seriously by the adventuring community and become a member in their exclusive club. However, after his assistant is nearly eaten while joining Frost on his expedition to obtain photographic proof of the Loch Ness Monster, Frost becomes a laughing stock. Frost doesn’t let this stop him, and announces his next venture…to find physical evidence of the link between man and ape. Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry), head of the adventurer society, begrudgingly agrees to grant Frost membership in the club should he be able to complete his mission, but believes the task to be a fools errand.

Just as Frost is trying to figure out where to begin, he receives a letter from someone offering to show Frost a Sasquatch in exchange for assistance with his own expedition. When Frost arrives at the meeting place, he discovers that the letter was written by Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis), the Sasquatch himself! Mr. Link tells Frost that he is lonely and tired of being the only one of his kind, and asks Frost to help him find his cousins, the Yeti. Frost honors his promised to help Mr. Link, and starts to plan this next adventure. Besides, finding the Yeti will definitely secure him notoriety and membership in the club. Frost’s deceased adventuring friend had possessed the only known map to Shangri-La, and they are going to need that in order to find the Yeti. However, the map is locked up at the home of the man’s widow, Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), and she and Frost had had a rocky history of their own.

After Adelina refuses to hand over the map, Frost and Mr. Link attempt to steal it, but Sasquatch aren’t really the stealthiest of creatures, and the expedition soon becomes a party of three as Adelina insists on joining the adventure. Meanwhile, Lord Piggot-Dunceby catches wind of Frost’s plans, and puts a bounty on his head in order to stop him from successfully completing his quest. And so Frost and his gang find themselves pursued by gunslinger Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) as they try to make their way to Nepal to unite Mr. Link with his frozen brethren, encountering various obstacles throughout the journey.

 

The Missing Link is another fun and beautifully animated tale from the folks at Laika (Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings). The characters are well defined, each with his or her own unique personality that comes to life on screen, making them feel like actual people (or creatures) and not just animated characters. Frost is always self-assured and full of (sometimes false) bravado, while Mr. Link balances this with his naive and ever-positive outlook. He takes things very literally and doesn’t quite get Frost’s sarcasm, which leads to several really humorous misunderstood moments and interactions. The Missing Link is an delightful blend of action, adventure and humor. I’m not generally a Zach Galifianakis fan, but he makes Mr. Link so charming and lovable; Hugh Jackman is perfectly cast as the overly-confident and sometimes full of himself Sir Lionel Frost; and Zoe Saldana is a nice addition to the trio as the strong and tough woman who may or may not still have feelings for Frost. The only voice that didn’t really work for me was Timothy Olyphant’s Willard Stenk—I had a difficult time reconciling the voice with the character—but even so, he still made a fun foil/constant thorn in the side of our trio.

In addition to the witty writing, and slapstick physical humor, the film also includes some incredible action sequences, such as a bar brawl, a chase aboard a boat on the stormy seas, and a dangerous fight atop an icy mountain bridge. It’s amazing to look at these scenes and think that it was all painstakingly stop-motion animated one frame at a time! This animation style also adds a level of realism to the action and characters that you don’t get with other styles. There is more texture and almost a third dimension to what is seen on screen, even when not viewing the film in 3D. (Unfortunately, this is the first Laika film to not get a 3D Blu-ray release. I originally saw the film in the theater in 3D, and there were definitely a few sequences designed with 3D in mind, so it is a shame that those who still have 3D capabilities at home are now able to experience this.)

Twentieth Century FOX Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds excellent. The picture captures the beautiful color palette of the animation, which changes as the characters make their way to the different locations on their journey. It also captures the incredible detail in the sculpting of the characters, and their fur (in the case of Mr. Link) and clothing. The audio track provides clear dialogue, as well as a nice immersive viewing experience, from the roaring of the ocean to the whizzing of bullets across the room. It also makes good use of the Dolby Atmos overhead channel for things like seagulls or the growling of the giant prehistoric sea creature.

The Blu-ray release includes both a Blu-ray disc and a DVD, which come packed in standard HD keepcase with a slipcover, and also includes an insert with a code to redeem for an HD Movies Anywhere digital copy of the film. All of the bonus material is included on both discs, and consists of an audio commentary, about 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes, a photo gallery, and trailers for the film and other FOX releases.



What’s Included:

Film: (1:34:25)

    Blu-ray:

    • 1080p / Widescreen 2.39:1
    • Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Descriptive Audio 5.1
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish (for both feature and commentary)

    DVD:

    • 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 2.39:1
    • Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish (for both feature and commentary)

    Digital:

    • HD Digital copy redeemable via Movies Anywhere

Extras:

All of the bonus material can be found on both discs.

  • Commentary by Chris Butler (1:34:25)
    Writer/director Chris Butler provides an entertaining and informative commentary throughout the film. He talks about some of the alternate titles for the film, discusses the story, characters, the color choices, and technology improvements available for this film. He also points out some fun and interesting small details that you may not have noticed, and so much more.
  • Creating Mr. Link (1:23)
    The filmmakers talk about how the story came about, and the technological advances that allowed Mr. Link to seem more lifelike than prior characters. Includes a look at the original sketches and artwork, footage of the models being sculpted, dressed and tested, and interviews with director/writer Chris Butler, puppet fabrication supervisor John Craney, animation supervisor Brad Schiff & rigging supervisor Ollie Jones.
  • Bringing the Final Battle on the Ice Bridge to Life (1:46)
    The filmmakers talk about the techniques used to bring the exciting Ice Bridge scene to life. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with animation supervisor Brad Schiff, visual effects supervisor Steve Emerson, CEO/producer Travis Knight & director/writer Chris Butler.
  • Animation Inspiration (3:44)
    Collection of picture-in-a-picture footage comparing the film’s final animation with storyboards/color script images, animation tests, and live-action reference performances. Director/writer Chris Butler provides an optional commentary, describing the R&D and development process.
  • VFX Breakdown Reel – Realizing the Potential of Stop Motion (6:05)
    Laika VFX supervisor Steve Emerson provides an introduction to this shot breakdown reel, which showcases how layers of background plates, visual effects, and additional elements are added to the original puppet animation to create the film’s stunning final shots.
  • Oh What a Mystery: Pulling the Camera Back on Missing Link’s Magic (2:25)
    Time-lapsed footage of the sets being built and the characters being animated for the cameras, all set to “Do-Dilly-Do (A Friend Like You)” by Walter Martin.
  • Making Faces (:46)
    An assortment of the characters’ faces animated and talking over one another.
  • Inside the Magic of Laika (2:46)
    Laika president/CEO/lead animator Travis Knight, and stars Hugh Jackman (“Sir Lionel Frost”), Zoe Saldana (“Adelina Fortnight”) & Zach Galifianakis (“Link”) talk about the exciting and painstakingly-detailed work being done by the animation studio.
  • Gallery (2:05)
    Manually step through this slideshow of 24 behind-the-scenes photos, or allow the slides to auto-advance every 5 seconds.
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:25)
  • Sneak Peek (6:22)
    Play All, or select from trailers for Breakthrough, The Miracle Season, & Dog Days.

 


Final Thoughts:

My Rating
Film:
Video:
Audio:
Extras:
Highly Recommended

The Missing Link is another entertaining and beautifully stop-motion animated tale from the folks at Laika, who have really outdone themselves this time around. The voice cast does an excellent job of giving these fun characters personality and charisma as we follow them on an action-packed adventure across the globe. FOX’s Blu-ray provides excellent picture and sound, with a small but interesting assortment of bonus material. The one disappointment is that this is the first Laika film to not receive a 3D Blu-ray release—I would have loved the opportunity to revisit this film in its original 3D format at home. That said, the Blu-ray still comes Highly Recommended based on the quality of the film.