I confess to not being a follower of 'Robot Chicken.' Other than the clips that were part of the Blu-ray release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga, I haven't seen a minute of 'Robot Chicken' material. However, I'm a pretty big fan and follower of DC Comics, so I was anxious to see how my favorite superheroes (and villains) would be spoofed. Pretty well, as it turns out.
Many of you may have already watched this special back when it originally aired on TV in September. For those of you that did, this is the same 23-minute version that was on then, with no extra footage and all the swearing still being 'bleeped' out (although scenes with swearing shown again in the extras on this disc are not censored). For those of you who caught the special on TV, you probably have a pretty good idea if you want to pick up this disc or not. For those that haven't, I'll try to proceed without giving away too many of the jokes…which will be hard since the feature is so short to begin with.
There is somewhat of a plot to the 'DC Comics Special,' but it's really only an excuse to set up a number of different sketches. The character getting the most attention in this story is Aquaman, probably due to the fact that he tends to be the most ignored/least popular (arguably, of course) member of the Justice League. Plus, let's face it, when you're king of the oceans, you're open to a lot of pot-shots from your superhero buddies, and 'Robot Chicken' takes full advantage of the situation. For those not familiar with the 'Robot Chicken' method of animation – it's all stop-motion using real figurines…in this case, the actual Mego and Mattel action figures that have been released to the public over the years (in addition to a few 'Robot Chicken' regulars and other characters that pop up).
Among the entertaining bits is an early scene where Superman makes further use of his 'amnesia kiss' that was first seen in 'Superman II.' There's also a recurring bit with Batman and Bane in which a joke (that really shouldn't be funny, since it's so obvious) is used over and over again and yet managed to make me laugh each and every time. Another one I really liked was The Riddler's creation of a 'Punctuation Posse.' I won't spoil it more than that.
When you're throwing jokes at the viewers left and right, a few aren't going to be home runs, and one such skit involving the powers of the Green Lantern going to the 'Robot Chicken' nerd instead of Hal Jordan doesn't quite work the way one would hope. There's also a bit involving Sinestro's mustache I could have done without, but – as always – humor is in the eye of the beholder, so while these bits didn't work for me, another viewer could find them hilarious (and not crack a smile at the ones I laughed at).
I enjoyed this release far more than I thought I would and, as a result, will probably be going back and try to catch up on all the other 'Robot Chicken' episodes I have yet to see. Although it's just now coming to home video, the TV airing of the 'DC Comics Special' apparently was successful enough to warrant a sequel, which is due in 2014. Maybe by that time, Batman can get Bane off his back.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special' soars onto Blu-ray in an eco-friendly keepcase, which houses the single-layer 25 GB disc, plus two inserts – one containing the code for an UltraViolet copy of the movie, and the other containing a list of the disc's special features and an ad for the Stoopid Monkey website. The disc is not front-loaded with any trailers, and the menu consists of a still of all the villains (the same still that the disc is labeled with) and menu selections along the bottom of the screen. This being a Warner Bros. release, the Blu-ray is region free.
For the most part, I was really impressed with the video quality of this release. Colors just pop from the screen and the details are great. As noted in my review above, actual toys that were released by both Mego and Mattel over the years are used here, and the video quality is sharp enough to see little defects in the figures and even places where rips appear to have been sewed back together by the production staff.
Those with larger screens will notice some slight aliasing (jagged edges) in certain scenes, as well as a random occurrence of video noise here and there (also around the edges of certain objects). However, at best, this is nitpicking. Black levels are, for the most part, strong and shadow delineation is good.
Please note: the slick for this Blu-ray (back cover) mistakenly says the aspect ratio is 2.4:1. The ratio is actually 1.78:1.
Because of the wording on the back of the Blu-ray case, I actually thought that this release contained both a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track and a standard Dolby Surround 5.1 track (as many Warner releases do). However, only a True HD track exists. The track is so front-heavy, I actually had to get close to my rear speakers to see if any sound was actually coming from them. There is some rear action (pardon the pun!), but it's so low it is barely audible. Occasionally there will be a sound noticeable from the back speakers, but for the most part this is an up-front presentation.
Even though the front speakers are getting the brunt of the work, there is some directionality between them, and the dialogue, effects, and music are properly mixed and presented in a crisp and clear manner. There were no obvious defects in the track, such as popping, hissing, or drop-outs.
English SDH subtitles are also available, and can be accessed from the main menu.
The vast majority of 'Robot Chicken' fans out there will have caught this one when it aired on TV, so they're already in a position to know if they want to add this to their collection or not. For the rest of you, particularly those of you who may follow DC Comics but not 'Robot Chicken,' I can say with some confidence that this Blu-ray is worth your time and money. The feature presentation is short, but it's packed full of fun, and the bonus materials more than make up for the limited running time of the main presentation. Recommended.