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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 80
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Hammerboy

Hammerboy

By Brett Barkley     August 12, 2005
Release Date: September 13, 2005


Hammerboy
© Central Park Media


What They Say
In the wake of a worldwide disaster, a boy named Mangchi leads a sheltered life with his grandfather on Candlestick Island. Armed with his trusty hammer, Mangchi roams the island in search of adventure. When a fugitive princess named Poplar arrives with power-hungry traitors hot on her heels, Mangchi must help her escape her enemies and return to her homeland. It’s to be Hammerboy’s adventure of a lifetime...if he survives!

The Review!
Audio:
Hammerboy offers Dolby 5.1 in English with sign and song subtitles, Stereo in English with sign and song subtitles, and Korean with English Subtitles. I reviewed all three, finding the Korean audio with English subtitles to be the best in that it most enhanced the viewing experience. The Dolby 5.1, however, has severe flaws. Trying it out on two different systems, I found the Dolby
5.1 option to be muted, the voice track actually dropping so low it becomes very difficult to hear. Even with the volume maxed out on both systems, there was a distinct issue with sound quality. I’m hoping this will be addressed before the disk hits the shelves.


Video:
Hammerboy is presented in1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format. The picture is very clear, doing a great job of reproducing the film's vibrant colors and some very nice computer effects, particularly those featured at the opening and close of the piece. Throughout, I only noticed slight blurring on one scene in particular in what was an otherwise very nice transfer.

Packaging:
N/A

Menu:
The menu consists of a brief animated shot of Mangchi (Hammerboy) flying on his bike/plane hybrid. A brief audio loop accompanies the shot and features some very nice music from the film. The menu layout consists of: Play, Set-Up, Chapters, Extras, and Previews. The menu is established in a very easy-to-read arrangement along the left of the screen. A yellow hammer icon marks the selection.

Extras:
N/A

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain
spoilers)
Hammerboy has one major disadvantage from the very beginning; it has been widely compared to Miyazaki's work. It would be difficult for me to imagine a heavier yoke to bear for an anime film. So does it live up to the hype?

Based on a popular manhwa, Hammerboy is the tale of Mangchi and his adventures in a post-cataclysmic earth. The story opens on some truly beautiful visuals as Mangchi flies among the clouds over the ocean on a beautiful day. The incredible cloud formations and bright, vivid colors immediately evoked many of Myazaki's works and did a great job in establishing a beautiful and serene environment, which in the beginning of the piece, is precisely the world occupied by Mangchi.

The story continues, introducing a small village living among the ruins of the uppermost floors of skyscrapers jutting from the ocean. Apparently, though it is never explained beyond what is suggested on the back of the case, the world is slowly recovering from a cataclysmic event that significantly raised the levels of the oceans. Having been understandably largely effected by this event, the village in which Mangchi lives leads a very simple existence.

Mangchi, who could best be described as a very muscular Dennis the Menace, longs to see the world beyond what he knows. His grandfather assures him he is not yet ready, instead presenting the boy with a special hammer the grandfather himself forged, thus earning Mangchi the moniker, Hammerboy. Soon thereafter, Hammerboy comes to the rescue of a young girl whose badly damaged aircraft is being attacked by another plane. In a particularly well-done scene, Hammerboy attacks and downs the offending plane with only his trusty hammer. As Hammerboy flees yet another aircraft, his grandfather rescues him from certain death, the plane bearing down on the boy, machine guns blazing.

I was a bit surprised by the means in which the grandfather downs the plane. Apparently (again, it is never truly explained) the grandfather possesses the gift of something called the Great Echo. Capable of focusing all the energy in his body in to a formidable blast of force, Hammerboy's grandfather is very adept in the use of the Great Echo. As the origin of the Great Echo is not truly explored (actually, the origin of Hammerboy, his grandfather, and just about every other aspect of the film remains unexplored), there is no way of knowing who, aside from Hammerboy and Moonk, the primary antagonist, shares this gift.

After rescuing the girl and helping her recover, the villagers learn her name is Princess Poplar (pronounced poe-PLAR) of the Jemius Empire. Apparently, after years of tension, her father the King had decided to solidify peace with the Akra Empire. As they were en route to finalize the treaty, the King's most trusted advisors, General Mooskan and Prime Minister Moonk, rose up against him. In the battle, the Princess, flying separately in her aircraft, managed to flee the rebellion, which brought her to Hammerboy's village. Now Princess Poplar asks the village to help her get to the Akra Empire, where she can get the reinforcements necessary to restore her family to the throne of the Jemius Empire.

Hearing her story and recognizing Moonk's name, and not wanting to bring trouble to the village, the grandfather insists they can do nothing to help her. Disobeying his grandfather, Hammerboy agrees to take Poplar to the Akra Empire. Along the way, the pair encounters Pultaco, the bandit king of the strip of land separating the Akra and Jemius empires, and called, "the most ignorant thief of all," and a host of goons in the service of Moonk and Mooskan. Ultimately, the story culminates in Hammerboy learning to wield the Great Echo empowered by his grandfather's tutelage, a quest to steal the gold of Hammerboy's village, as well as Moonk's goal to retrieve a magical crystal from Mangchi's grandfather that will greatly enhance his Great Echo, the death of a character, and the final battle between Hammerboy and Moonk.

Confused? So was I. I often felt like large portions of the film had been edited out with absolutely no regard given to the plot holes. Things seemed to occur with little or no reason other than producing an easy means of advancing the plot. The entire subplot in which Pultaco and Moonk battle against one another to take the gold from Hammerboy's village serves to do little more than to force a confrontation between the grandfather and Moonk. And I'm still trying to understand the scene in which the goat is executed. Ultimately, I found this tension between the various plot points to make it difficult to gain a sense of the picture as a whole.

However, there were several scenes I thoroughly enjoyed in the film. The Hammerboy versus the airplanes scene near the opening was exceptionally well done. The animation was smooth, dynamic and very well paced. The characters, Hammerboy in particular, moved gracefully and worked well in conveying the action of battling an airplane mid-air with only a hammer. Beyond this, the soundtrack really accentuated the action and suspense as the remaining airplane bore down on Hammerboy, its sights locked on him. In short, this scene was truly firing on all cylinders.

I also enjoyed the scene in which Pultaco is attempting to auction the captured Princess Poplar to the highest bidder. In this scene, Hammerboy dons a makeshift disguise and attempts to win the princess and starts a bidding war with some agents of Moonk and Mooskan, also in disguises. He eventually wins by bidding, "Add ten thousand to whatever," and upon being asked for payment, suggests paying Pultaco with credit. This was one scene in which the sense of humor and Hammerboy's naļve perspective on the world really work together. Rather than the mischievous giggling that usually seems to accompany Hammerboy, we actually get something that builds our understanding of his character.

The confrontation between Hammerboy and Moonk was also very well done, utilizing a number of effects that truly made the characters and this battle come to life. From the crumbling of the castle structure around them, the waves of force tossing Hammerboy through the air as Moonk unleashes his Great Echo, to the dramatic lighting on Moonk's face as he attacks, this scene is very comparable to the first in terms of the quality of animation and the use of computer effects. I only wish this level of animation would have been more consistent throughout.

In general, however, the animation primarily fails to really stand out, regularly employing a simpler, more flat style, subdued camera angles, and character models that come across as somewhat uninspired, or just a little off. Hammerboy often appears far too muscular and overdeveloped for a young boy. Moonk's design, seemingly an homage to Marvel Comics' Dr. Strange, is jarringly unique, as it is so different from every other design in the film. The vehicles in general, with the primary exception of the simple aircraft from the beginning, don't fare much better.

In Summary:
Hammerboy is a film that seemingly doesn't really know what it is, or how to get where it wants to be. It straddles a number of lines, apparently unable to determine just what direction to take, leaving the viewer with more questions than answers. It swings from a sense of humor often too immature for the 13-and-up rating, while trying to address more mature themes of maturation and loss interspersed throughout Mangchi's adventure. Unfortunately, it never really fully comes to terms with either of these.

While it may certainly be inspired by Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli's work, it doesn't have the same heart or depth. I think this film could have greatly benefited from a bit more polish before release. Considering the potential for Hammerboy and his world, it is my hope the property has a future, one slightly more developed.

Features
Korean 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Music Videos

Review Equipment
34" Sony FD Trinitron Wega HDTV KD-34XBR910 and Sony Dav-FR9 progressive
scan Home Theatre System with 114 watts per channel to each speaker and 115
watts to each of the subwoofer's two woofers.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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jnager 3/13/2012 2:43:55 PM

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