Wes Anderson is a very specific filmmaker. Flip on a couple seconds of any of his seven feature films and you’ll instantly recognize it as distinctively “Wes Anderson-y.” Not everyone loves his peculiar style and controlled aesthetic choices, but fans of Anderson relish being enveloped by a wholly new world with each subsequent feature. The filmmaker’s output has been met with varying degrees of success over the years, but his latest film is a prime example of the bliss that results from the perfect marriage of director and material. Hit the jump for our review of Moonrise Kingdom on Blu-ray.
Video quality is of the utmost importance with Anderson’s films, and so it’s great to see the visuals excellently presented in 1080p HD. The director shot Moonrise Kingdom on Super 16mm so some of the images are a bit soft or muted, but that’s by design. The distinct color palette is exquisitely preserved, beautifully highlighting Anderson’s carefully crafted shots. A few of the nighttime scenes are a tiny bit dark, but it’s a minor qualm with an otherwise swell transfer.
The audio quality here is also superb, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound. Little aural flourishes make you feel like you’re actually on the island of New Penzance, and the storm sequences are particularly excellent without drowning out any of the dialogue.
Sadly, the special features on this Blu-ray release are sorely lacking. All of the extras appear to material that was released as part of the film’s marketing leading up to release, so we don’t get any kind of perspective or in-depth look into the making of the film.
Included on the disc are three featurettes, the first of which is called “A Look Inside Moonrise Kingdom.” This one includes some brief behind-the-scenes footage and an amusing introduction by Bob Balaban. The next is “Welcome to the Island of Penzance,” which is also brief and simply introduces a few of the characters. The best of the bunch is the self-explanatory “Set Tour with Bill Murray,” but this was also released online as part of the film’s marketing and runs a brisk 3 minutes long. I’m holding out hope that the eventual Criterion release will include much more bonus material.
As I said in the introduction, Moonrise Kingdom is an absolute perfect marriage of director and material. The story takes place in 1965 on the small New England island of New Penzance. Two young teenagers—Khaki Scout Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and the offbeat Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward)—decide to run away together in adorably well-planned fashion, and the film focuses on their burgeoning romance as well as the fumbled attempt of the adults to find them and bring them back.
The film boasts fantastic performances from the swell ensemble cast (Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and of course Bill Murray), but it’s the kids who really stand out. Gilman and Hayward command much of the screen time alone and their understated yet confident performances excellently capture the naiveté and earnestness of young love.
Anderson’s aesthetic is put to excellent use in the 1960s setting, and he carries over some of his stop-motion experience from Fantastic Mr. Fox for some truly inspired shots. Unsurprisingly, Anderson’s use of popular music is also great here alongside Alexandre Desplat’s wonderfully bright score. With a cracker-jack script, brilliant performances, and gorgeous photography by Robert Yeoman, Moonrise Kingdom is not only one of the best films of Anderson’s career, but also of 2012.
Blu-ray Grade: B
Film Grade: A