Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle (1999)
Main Menu Introduction
Trailer-Frankenthumb; Bat Thumb; Thumbtanic
Trailer-The Godthumb; The Blair Thumb
Interviews-Character-Gabba The Butt
|Year Of Production||1999|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Steve Oedekerk|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Steve Oedekerk's first thumb theatre presentation Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle is the sort of presentation that you either love or hate. Seeing as how it would be almost impossible for me to spoil the plotline for you (hint, think Star Wars, the original), I am going to shamelessly dictate portions of the presentation in the hope that you will very quickly determine whether or not this is to your liking. If it is, then I suggest at the budget price you add it to your collection, else I suggest you avoid it like the plague.
The Evil Thumbpire has resorted to using the nail side of the power of the thumb to control a region of the galaxy. Now with the aid of a big, dangerous weapon thing they are threatening to blow stuff up. No-one can possibly stop them except the Thumbellion Resistance Fighters who have gone into hiding … It is now time for the Thumbellion to rise and put a stop to the Evil Thumbpire in the interests of protecting the merchandising rights, future sequels and the strange, freaky guys who appear at conventions everywhere.
Of course from here, it pretty much follows the exact storyline of Star Wars the original (Episode IV - A New Hope), with the Evil Thumbpire firing upon Princess Bunhead's transport ship. Aside: If anyone, like me, found C3-PO to be aggravating in the extreme then you will be very pleased with Steve Oedekerk's spoof of him, Prissypeo. He is a spineless, corrupt, and downright low-life who, with the help of Beeboobeep (R2-D2), locates the Princess and hands her over to Dark Helmet Man.
We then cut to Deldar, where the droids are captured by the freaky little hooded creatures and sold to Loke Groundrunner's (Luke Skywalker) uncle and aunt (aptly named Uncle Soondead and Aunt Gonnabiteit). Soon after we are introduced to Oobedoob Scooby-Dooby Benubi (Obi-Wan Kenobi) who convinces Loke to leave Deldar and fight for the resistance. All the required characters are present and accounted for including Han Duet (Han Solo) who introduces himself as "a one-armed man killed my wife, Sabrina, a working-girl. Now I'm a fugitive and in clear and present danger. I should be presumed innocent but they're playing patriot games with me …", Crunchy (Chewbacca), Gabba the But (Jabba the Hut) and of course Puppet (Yoda) who introduces himself as "I am a puppet".
My favourite line, however, would have to be when Oobedoob is advising Loke not to use his feeling and instead to "Use the instrument panel, Loke."; Loke: "What?"; "The instrument panel - that's what it's there for. Advanced weaponry designed to hit tiny targets.". Ah, it is a spade! And finally the most amazing thing about Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle is the claim that it took only seven and a half weeks to produce in its entirety. I almost believe that. If you think any of this sounds good, then you should enjoy this feature.
This presentation fell fairly and squarely into the category of NTSC to PAL video conversion; displaying all of the usual problems that such transfers tend to exhibit. This included intermixed interlaced frames, soft edges, soft focus and less than ideal shadow detail. Thankfully the NTSC master was of a very good quality and not based on a composite signal.
The main presentation is 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. Being unable to find anything to the contrary I'll assume that this is the original full-frame aspect ratio.
The transfer lacks sharpness and detail, appearing soft and at times even blurry. The softness in the image starts almost immediately with the scrolling prologue (1:40) and continues to affect various shots and scenes throughout, with the worst offenders being at 7:55, 11:06, 16:51, 22:54 and 28:20. The black levels and white levels are actually very good, all things considered, and the shadow detail is mostly good, only causing grief rarely, such as at 10:07 and 17:58. There is no grain and only minimal noise present.
The colours are very vibrant and well saturated in the CGI segments and the skin colours, or more importantly the thumb colours, are very natural. I noticed only one instance of colour problems at 27:53 where colour bleeding (red button) occurs, however I suspect this is a source rendering error more than a transfer issue.
There are no MPEG artefacts present which is to be expected as the length of the feature should not have placed any limitations on compression bandwidth and there is only one distracting occurrence of aliasing at 21:59, affecting the line-rendered "Thumbstar" attack analysis scene. That brings us to the major issue with this transfer, the interlacing of frames, which can be seen throughout the presentation. This is most likely as a direct result of NTSC to PAL conversion. The best place to see exactly how damaging to the detail and sharpness this interlacing can be is during the Thumbstar-corridor attack-run scenes which start at 24:20. Edge enhancement is not an issue with this transfer.
There are none of the usual film-type artefacts such as dirt, hairs, flecks, scratches or telecine wobble present, and thus I suspect the material was recorded direct to video as opposed to film first. There are a few occurrences of source-type artefacts--one, most likely due to bluescreen compositing, which causes the edges on the "Hoverthumb" at 11:27 to shimmer against the background—and another, most likely due to a CGI error, which clearly shows a "Fist fighter" flying through the columns lining the sides of the trench at 25:29.
I watched the complete subtitles (hey, it's only a short feature after all), and found them to be almost perfect except for a few dropped words.
There is very little to say about the audio transfer, either positive or negative. It simply existed and performed its function. That is, it made intelligible sound and never degenerated into noise.
I listened to the default English audio track which is a surround encoded Dolby 2.0 transfer. This track is very much focused in the centre and makes infrequent use of the surrounds. I also sampled the other language tracks and they sounded consistent with the English track, albeit approximately 6db louder.
The dialogue is always clear and the lip sync is very good considering the material. There are no noticeable distortions or dropouts.
The music by Robert Folk is present almost continuously, providing appropriate support to the onscreen action. Whilst it lacks the same impact as the original series it performs its task well.
The surrounds and subwoofer were only rarely called upon to lend some presence to the sound effects.
|Surround Channel Use|
The main menu, introduced via an animated lead-in, is simple to navigate and incorporates some background music.
Duration 2:39. This is a mockumentary interview with one of the minor characters, Gabba the Butt. Gabba relays the story behind his involvement in this major production and the opportunities that brought him to this point in his acting career. This is quite amusing stuff and was certainly generating some good laughs from the crew which can be heard in the background.
Audio commentary by Steve Oedekerk and Paul Marshall. Either Steve and Paul were trying to spoof the concept of audio commentaries as well or they simply had absolutely no idea of what was expected of them, which is much more likely. There is some useful information to be gleaned from this commentary and there are some good comedic moments, but for the most part it is pretty average, achieving little more than simply rehashing the action on screen.
There are numerous "Thumbation" previews on this disc, more than are available for the US release. They include:
Duration 2:32. A collection of storyboard sequences for a pseudo-random sampling of scenes from the feature.
A collection of thumbographies for the various major characters in the feature. These included:
There are some important differences between our local release and the US R1 version that are significant enough to justify the R1 as the preferred version. The main reasons for the R1 being considered the better version are: the inclusion of a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack with better directionality and the loss of resolution and detail that occurs as a result of converting NTSC video to PAL format.
The R4 version misses out on:
This is a typical American comedy spoof. There is almost no subtlety whatsoever, although the reasoning behind using thumbs as the main characters still eludes me.
The video is acceptable but is likely to be much better in its native NTSC format than the PAL conversion we have.
The audio is decent. Not great, but not bad either.
The extras are a little lean on both quantity and quality. Mind you it's better than none at all.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||JVC Interiart Flat 68cm Display 16:9. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.|
|Speakers||Front LR - NEAR MainMast, Center - NEAR 20M, Surround LR - NEAR Spinnaker DiPoles, Rear LR - NEAR MainMast-II, Subwoofer - NEAR PS-2 DiPole|