Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)

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Released 28-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Alternative Version-2-D Version
3D Glasses
Audio Commentary-Robert Rodriguez (Director)
Featurette-Robert Rodriguez Film School
Featurette-Alexa Vega In Concert - 3 Songs
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-The Effects Of The Game
Featurette-Making Tracks With Alexa Vega
Multiple Angles-Surfing And Stunts
Featurette-Big Dink, Little Dink
Game-Set Top Game
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 81:00 (Case: 79)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Rodriguez
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Antonio Banderas
Carla Gugino
Alexa Vega
Daryl Sabara
Ricardo Montalban
Holland Taylor
Sylvester Stallone
Mike Judge
Salma Hayek
Matthew O'Leary
Emily Osment
Ryan Pinkston
Robert Vito
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music Rebecca Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian
German
Italian Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Italian Titling
German Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Numerous plugs for video game companies.
Action In or After Credits Yes, Action during and after end credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    GLASSES OFF

    Just so you know up front: this DVD is FUN. You get two DVDs and two versions of the movie in the set; Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over and Spy Kids 3: Game Over (notice that key letter "D" in the first title). You also get 4 pairs of cool 3-D glasses to watch the "D" version of the film, along with a template for making more just in case you need them. The set also comes with a nice collection of extras. I have watched this film 5 times in the last 4 days while compiling this review, and you could talk me into watching it again with no trouble, which has to be a good sign.

    For those who are wondering what I am going on about, the Spy Kids franchise has taken the Jaws route and gone 3-D with this third (and apparently final) episode. Disc One in the set includes the 3-D version of the film as seen in most cinemas during its theatrical release. Depending upon the quality of the cinema you saw it in (and particularly the brightness of the bulb setting the projectionist used) , the 3-D either worked fairly well or just gave you sore eyes. The same applies at home. There is a 3-D setup menu on the first DVD and it is well worth taking the time to run through it for advice about optimal viewing of the 3-D version of the film. Because of the technology used, the best way to view this 3-D version is on a home computer equipped with a DVD player. I watched it like this and the effect was breathtaking; fabulous clear picture and exceptional 3-D effects.

    OK, for family viewing, the computer is probably not the best way to go (and you may not have good sound on your computer anyway), so what is next best? Well, from my experiments with multiple televisions, your next best option is a projection TV in a darkened room (I mean this part, no lights anywhere if you can manage it). The experience here is pretty much on a par with the cinema experience; pretty good 3-D and great to watch with friends. Now for some honesty in advertising: the reason you get two versions of the film is that the 3-D effect does not work very well on a standard television. You can watch it this way in a pinch, but you may be disappointed. This is why there is a nice shiny bonus 2-D version of the film in the set - it has a glorious picture and will surely please if the first disc does not.

    This interesting piece of cinematic fun has been brought to the screen by the multi-talented Robert Rodriguez, who was also the genius behind the first two Spy Kids films. For this outing he was the producer, director, editor, ... , ... , director of photography, ... , well, you get the idea; I spotted his name in the credits 12 times - you may find more. While he was working on this film he was also completing his "Mariachi" trilogy that began with El Mariachi, continued with Desperado, and concluded with Once Upon a Time in Mexico. The final films in each series star Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek - you will even notice some of the music crossing over between them as well. I don't know how Rodriguez manages to do all of this and still find time to eat breakfast, but I am in awe of his energy and talent.

    Each version of the film is identical, except that the 3-D version includes a humorous prologue that recaps the first two films while getting the audience used to the idea of taking their 3-D glasses on and off when prompted on-screen. The plot is pretty basic, and starts out with Juni (Daryl Sabara) beating the mean streets as a private investigator, having apparently left the Spy Kids organisation (the OSS). He is drawn back in when his sister Carmen (Alexa Vega) vanishes while investigating a new virtual reality video game programmed by the evil Toy Maker (Sylvester Stallone). He is forced to enter the game to rescue her, and the rest of the film follows his adventures as he moves through the various levels of the game seeking the elusive final level which will lead to freedom. Along the way he meets the usual assortment of friends and foes, and is aided by an amazing virtual reality incarnation of his grandfather (Ricardo Montalban - he may be 84 years old and in a wheelchair, but he can still turn in a great performance).

    In his commentary track, Rodriguez is a little upset that some critics seemed to dislike the film because it doesn't follow the same formula as the first two films - he even said "damned if you do, damned if you don't". He also reveals that this was originally intended as a standalone kids science-fiction movie and not a Spy Kids film. In my view that is the problem with this film - it has a sub-par Tron plot, and the Spy Kids elements feel tacked on as an afterthought. Daryl Sabara is a nice enough kid, but he struggles to carry the bulk of this film; the earlier films succeeded because of their strong ensemble cast. Most of the team only enter this story in its final moments, and the film suffers as a result. I was going to say that the film might be three-dimensional but the plot was rather one-dimensional, but I'm not sure the editor would let me get away with such a poor pun.

    The positive side is that the 3-D element works really well at times, which gives the 3-D version a theme park ride feel - it is an enjoyable experience. The 2-D version is also bright and the story breezes along well enough. I know that a lot of people out there are not great fans of Sylvester Stallone, but I think he is just brilliant in this film. Apart from the villain, he plays 4 or 5 other roles, and the interaction between them is the best part of the film. The rest of the cast (particularly Banderas), and the guest stars (such as George Clooney, Steve Buscemi and Bill Paxton) all look like they are having fun and the film has a pleasant feel which wraps up the series nicely. This one is good fun, particularly if you have a projector to watch it on, but is worth a rental even if you don't to see how it looks on your equipment.

    GLASSES ON.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This film is rather unusual in being presented on DVD in two completely different versions, with quite different video transfers. As the visceral experience of the 3-D version of the film varies so markedly dependent upon the type of equipment it is viewed on I will base my discussion and ratings in this section upon the 2-D version, but will start off with a discussion of the 3-D (after noting that both are presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, which is close enough to the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1).

    3-D transfer

    The quality of the 3-D version is very much affected by the nature of the technology required to generate the effect. It uses two slightly offset versions of the picture, overlaid on the screen, viewed through red and blue cellophane. These factors mean that the picture is fuzzy at times, and the amount of light reaching each eye is different (the left eye sees a darker image) which can be unsettling in some scenes. The colours are also muted, with silver and grey predominating. Red does not come across very well at all, and in fact some red objects in the 2-D version are changed (most likely by Rodriguez) to blue in the 3-D. I wear spectacles and managed to cope with the 3-D set, and in spite of the general reduction in quality this is just plain fun. Some of the 3-D objects look amazing (check out the floating robot at 14:16 for one), and the overall quality is pretty good in spite of the issues I have outlined. You need to be aware that it can be quite tiring watching the 3-D version for an extended period of time, as one of the characters notes in the film - "Video games are killers on the eyes".

    GLASSES OFF

    2-D transfer

    The 2-D version of the video transfer is nice and clear, but is not as sharp as it might have been. The film was shot digitally, and not on film, and to my mind digital equipment has yet to reach the same optical quality of the best film cameras (of course, the 3-D elements of the film would not have been as effective if film had been used as noted in the commentary track). Shadow detail is exceptional (check out the detail on Stallone's jacket at 17:59) and there is no low level noise.

    The colours in the film are simply brilliant. They are rich and bright and a joy to behold, with natural looking skin tones throughout. In the opening scenes set in the real world, colours are a little muted, but when Juni enters the game at 9:48 it is like Dorothy entering Oz and moving from the black & white (OK, sepia) world of Kansas into the Technicolor glories of the Yellow Brick Road.

    The film has obviously been transferred from digital input direct to digital distribution, as there is no damage at all to note. There is a slightly artificial look to the proceedings, but as the film is basically one long special effects shot this is hardly surprising. Most of the film was shot using a green-screen process (check out the 10 Minute Film School extra to see how this was done), and the effects have been added very well. You will only note the occasional misregistration of elements.

    The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are adequate but miss a number of audio cues. For some reason they also overlay the occasional redundant label for onscreen objects (at one point a parcel labelled 'fragile" is given a subtitle of 'fragile' - why?). There are numerous other foreign language subtitles to choose from.

    There is a brief layer change at 41:52 for the 3-D version and at 59:27 for the 2-D version. Neither is particularly disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is quite good, without reaching demonstration quality. I get the impression that the film was produced to a tight budget and schedule, and that getting the 3-D visuals right was the main priority with the sound following a distant second.

    There are four audio tracks. I listened to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track (encoded at a bitrate of 448 Kb/s) and the English Audio Commentary track which is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track encoded at a bitrate of 192 Kb/s. I also listened to parts of the film with the Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 track (encoded at 384 Kb/s); there is also a German Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 384 Kb/s. The Italian track was actually not too bad, though you do of course lose some of the vocal characterisation.

    Dialogue is clear throughout and audio sync is good. You will even be able to follow what Stallone is saying as he keeps the mumbling to a minimum (as does Clooney in his excellent Stallone impersonation).

    The music suits the on-screen action well, and composer Rodriguez is developing his abilities in this area nicely. You can tell that he has worked closely with special effects supervisor Rodriguez to find music that suits the action perfectly, and it is nicely edited by Rodriguez to ensure it all flows along smoothly.

    This is a film where the sound is immersive but surround activity is subtle at times. While watching the 3-D version you tend to be captivated by the amazing on-screen effects. It is only when you watch the 2-D version that you appreciate how well the surround sound has been incorporated into the action. The subwoofer is effective without being overdone - listen to the nice battle sounds at 52:34 for one example of good surround sound supported by some nice bass.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The two versions of the film in this set are supported by a nicely balanced selection of extras. Most of the extras are good, though one or three could have been combined instead of being rather strange shorts, but they are all worth at least one look (or listen).

Menu

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced and animated - the one on the 3-D disc is in 3-D. From the menu you can go to the Set Up screen, go to Scene Selections, Play the film, go to the Bonus Material or play the Set Top Game. The cover of the DVD lists all of the extras on each disc. In fact, they are all on Disc Two (the 2-D version) except for the game, which is on both. There are 29 scenes to choose from on the Scene Selection menu.

Theatrical Trailer

    Oh, there isn't one, I like these things, so it is a pity that it is missing (ha, even when I get a truckload of extras I can still find something to complain about).

Set Top Game

    The game is in 3-D on Disc One and in 2-D on Disc Two. It recreates the bike race from the middle of the film, and requires a quick finger on the remote control to play well, which means that your remote needs to be very responsive (as does your brain). The kids had a bit of fun with this one.

Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Film School

    If you are a fan of RR you will have seen one of these on his other DVDs. In this one he runs through the use of the green screen (or the "dream screen" as he calls it). Shown at 1.78:1, non 16x9 enhanced (why not?), this runs 9:52 and is informative and entertaining.

Alexa Vega in concert

    Now 15 years old, Alexa Vega (Carmen in the film) has grown a lot since the first entry in the series. She sings the catchy Game Over song during the closing credits and performs 3 songs at the world premiere of the film in this short (around 10 minute) segment. My children thought she was rather embarrassing on stage, and also claim she is lip-synching. This one is again at 1.78:1, non 16x9 enhanced.

Feature Commentary by Robert Rodriguez

    This is a pretty entertaining audio commentary track, nice and clear to listen to, with lots of information both about the making of the film and nice gossip about some of the stars and their working relationship with the filmmaker. Among the many interesting items of information on offer was the fact that all of the effects were not ready for the cinema release, so that some have been added for this DVD. Rodriguez also laments the fact that we don't have high definition DVDs yet, which is part of the reason the 3-D works better on a computer screen than on your TV set. He also criticizes the NTSC standard, which makes my Region comparison a little easier this time around. I know a lot of people give these commentaries a miss, but if you have been thinking of giving one a go, this might be the place to start. My family audience stayed for all of this one, which is a first.

Feature - The Making of Spy Kids 3-D

    This is the standard 30 minute (well 21:15 without the ads) feature they usually show on TV to promote the feature. Presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 this one is a pretty good example of its kind, with good involvement from cast and crew. It also has an interesting potted history of 3-D films (this film celebrates the 50th anniversary of 3-D in the cinema - at least in its present form with 3-D glasses). I attended a 3-D film festival in the 1970s and enjoyed classics such as It Came From Outer Space and House of Wax, but I had not realised that even 'mainstream' films such as Kiss Me Kate had a wide release in 3-D.

Featurette - The Effects of the Game

    This is a brief (runs 6:42) presentation of some of the animatronics used in pre-production for the film, shown at 1.78:1, non 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette - Making tracks with Alexa Vega

    I'm not sure why this 1:01 minute clip of Alexa Vega in rehearsal is here, except maybe to show us that she can't really sing and that the soundtrack must have had a VERY technically enhanced version of her voice on it.

Featurette - Multi-angle: Surfing and Stunts

    Another short (running 1:07) segment showing some of the effects and stunts with storyboards, green screen and final versions. It is so short that you hardly have time to switch between each before it is over. This looks like it was added purely to use the multi-angle feature. It would have been better presented with the 3 elements side-by-side in split-screen.

Featurette - Big Dink, Little Dink

    A real piece of home movie fluff, here we see Bill Paxton and his young son making their cameo for the film in a 1:40 segment.

3-D Glasses

    Last, but definitely not least, you also receive 4 pairs of 3-D glasses, which come packaged in a cardboard sleeve which also includes a template for making more if you need them. I assume this sleeve will be attached to the rear of the DVD cover as it duplicates the information off the back of the case.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this set is basically the same as the Region 4, I will give the local version the nod as the superior PAL picture should make the 3-D effect work a little better than the NTSC.

Summary

    This is an enjoyable enough kids science-fiction film which is made all-the-more interesting by the fact that it comes in 3-D, and the 3-D effects work brilliantly on the right equipment. Even if it doesn't work too well on your setup at home, you have a vibrant 2-D version to watch as well. Supported by a good selection of extras, including an interesting commentary track, this one is great value and sure to entertain all members of the family. At the very least it is quite a sight to see a bunch of people sitting on the sofa wearing those crazy 3-D glasses.

    Now: GLASSES ON!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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