Prof Layton on DVD & Blu-ray

Sunday, 17 October 2010 23:00

The Professor Layton puzzle games are a world-wide phenomenon amongst Nintendo DS owners, nowhere more so than in the UK as millions of gamers will testify. The Professor has now made the transition to a big-budget animated movie that fans and newcomers alike can enjoy. As we join the adventure, Layton receives an intriguing letter along with complimentary opera tickets from a former student-turned-singer.

Incredibly, the letter explains that a friend of the singer who died one year ago has now reappeared as a seven-year-old girl who claims to be immortal. Furthermore, much to the surprise of Layton and Luke, his boastful young apprentice, at the end of the opera a shady masked man announces that the audience has agreed to take part in a competition to win eternal life. There can be only one winner; everyone else will die! And you had a chance of winning one of three copies of the super-sharp Blu-ray edition!

Professor Layton comes to Blu-ray and DVD

The competition takes place over several rounds of taxing puzzles and physical challenges, and at increasingly bizarre locations including the historic opera house, on a majestic transforming cruise liner and on a remote island infested with a pack of terrifying robotic wolves. As each round passes, more and more competitors are removed from the game, either by way of trap doors or by being carted off by the masked man’s frightening henchmen. Those that remain typically possess skills that give them an analytical edge when solving the puzzles, such as a chess expert, a murder fiction author and an amateur historian.

Some of the contestants have a pressing need for the prize, such as serious ill health or old age; others have a more superficial reason to win such as wishing to remain eternally beautiful.

As the escapade progresses, Professor Layton starts to connect together pieces of a bigger puzzle concerning the motivations of the devious masked games-master, and the true nature and source of the immortality being offered. It all seems to tie into a mysterious lost kingdom called Ambrosia. As clever and resourceful as the Professor is, he still needs the enthusiasm and quick thinking of Luke as well as contributions from other competitors and allies. By pooling their talents and knowledge, they might survive long enough to solve the greater mystery and finish the deadly game.

Films based on games, however loosely, tend to be average at best. Consider “Resident Evil”, “Tomb Raider” and “Silent Hill”, all perfectly watchable action or horror movies. The good news is that director Masakazu Hashimoto has nothing in common with the infamous Uwe Boll! This animated adventure easily sits at the top end of a rather undistinguished table. Although the narrative structure is a little simplistic to begin with whilst the videogame-like rounds of puzzles are allowed to take centre stage, as the film develops and the characters and their back-stories get fleshed out a bit, the movie starts to resemble the quality output of the likes of Studio Ghibli.

Admittedly it is never as nuanced and strangely adorable as the best that the genre has to offer (“Spirited Away”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”), but it does offer quality visuals (a subtle blend of hand-drawn and CGI imagery), an excellent and very immersive soundtrack, solid English voice dubbing and an unpredictable, wondrous plot that proves to be very captivating.

Weaknesses ironically include Professor Layton himself, as his personality feels rather stiff and cardboard-like next to the lively Luke and the colourful array of more minor characters featured in this story. I have not sampled the Layton games, and cannot testify as to how well the movie depicts the heroes and the ambience of the interactive adventures. I can, however, say that the style of the mind-bending puzzles on offer acts as a good advertisement for the games, and I am tempted me to dig deeper into the Professor’s incredible world. For that reason and a general appreciation of the film, I have to give it the thumbs-up!

The one-disc DVD version reviewed has no special features at all, and the same goes for the one-disc Blu-ray edition. There are more extravagant and more expensive packages available though, including a three-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo with over half-an-hour of extras on the third disc. The ultimate version is the Deluxe Collector’s Edition, which rather uniquely also throws in a weighty 630-page story board book! All versions offer subtitled Japanese and English soundtracks.

“Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva” (2009) is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Manga Entertainment. The running time of the main feature is 99 minutes approx, certificate ‘U’ and the one-disc editions retail for £15.99 on DVD, £19.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com

To win one of three standard Blu-ray copies of this movie, you had to take a look at the trailer, and then answer this competition question: Which famous British landmark do we see the Professor and his companion emerging from? Is it: a) Big Ben; b) Stone Henge; or c) Portmeirion Village. The answer was a) Big Ben, and the winners were Rachel Mellor of Winsford, Christine Northrop of Woking, and Darren Cousins of Lymington.  Well done all, and thanks to the hundreds of you who entered!

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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