Four Great Metal-Crunching Demo Scenes
I’ve been guilty in the past of saying that explosions and carnage do little to show off a speaker system’s fidelity, but let’s face it: nothing sells a home theater like carnage. We all appreciate the fine finesse of a truly capable speaker tugging the heartstrings with the delicate nuances of a fine orchestral piece. But sometimes you just need to shock and awe your potential clients, and there simply isn’t a sound that delights my ears quite so well as crumpling, clanking, clamoring metal-on-metal action. Check out these scenes to feel what I mean.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Blu-ray)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon features one of the most epic space battle’s we’ve seen since Star Wars: Episode III–every impact from the massive mortar shells that rip through the gorgeously contrasted backdrop resonate with a fury that your subwoofers will positively hate you for.
If this were a showcase of great 3D demo material, I would skip straight to Chapter 17 of this latest “Bayformers” flick. The wingsuit jump sequence is, without a doubt, the most compelling 3D eye candy to hit any screen since Avatar. But with the goggles off, I find myself returning again and again to the movie’s opening sequence for sheer AV delight. Even the Paramount logo has been spiffied up with a throbbing, pulsating metallic roar that rips around the room in a full 360-degree sweep that’ll leave your head spinning. The space battle that follows is one of the most epic we’ve seen since Star Wars: Episode III–every impact from the massive mortar shells that rip through the gorgeously contrasted backdrop resonate with a fury that your subwoofers will positively hate you for.
Even as the sequence moves into talkier territory on Earth, the pulse-pounding score keeps the adrenaline flowing until the Apollo 11 crew ventures into the creaking hull of the abandoned Autobot ship and a series of low-frequency groans waft through the surround sound field and positively suck the air out of the room.
Real Steel (Blu-ray)
When the mighty Zeus barrels into the arena and the steel fists start flying in Real Steel, every punch is a bowel-quivering, ear-tickling mix of subsonic oomph and blistering high-frequency clank.
If it’s more robot-on-robot action they’re begging for, throw in this surprisingly good family flick–a riff on the old Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots toys.
Skip to Chapter 16 for the opening round of the title bout between the monstrous reigning champion and the Little Boxing Robot That Could. From the get-go, the scene slams you from all sides with 7.1 channels’ worth of thousands of cheering, chanting spectators rendered in a deliciously mixed DTS-HD Master Audio track, all of which surrounds a slick, inky, shimmering image that absolutely redefines “reference quality.”
All of that takes a backseat when the mighty Zeus barrels into the arena and the steel fists start flying. Every punch is a bowel-quivering, ear-tickling mix of subsonic oomph and blistering high-frequency clank.
The Iron Giant (VUDU HDX)
If you have any doubts that streaming is the future of home theater, load The Iron Giant up, buckle your seatbelt, and get ready to rumble.
Sadly, this–undeniably one of my all-time favorite animated films–isn’t available on Blu-ray just yet. It’s a great opportunity to turn your customers on to just how good streaming internet video can be. Queue up the VUDU HDX rental (Amazon’s HD stream will also do in a pinch if you don’t have access to VUDU in the showroom for some reason), and zip to about the 18:20 mark for a gorgeous little demo.
The film’s sumptuous mix of cel animation and computer wizardry translates wonderfully into a high-def stream. And the sound mix in this scene–in which the titular Iron Giant chases his newfound human friend Hogarth Hughes through the woods–is a perfect complement to the visuals: as the Giant stomps through the foliage, every step rattles the rafters (without, for some reason, disrupting the delicate bird-chirping that permeates and sweetens the mix). When he squats to get a closer look at Hogarth? Boom! Seriously, if you have any doubts that streaming is the future of home theater, load this one up, buckle your seatbelt, and get ready to rumble.
Super 8 (Blu-ray)
The train wreck scene from Chapter 3 of recent Blu-ray release Super 8 is already legendary in home theater circles.
Okay, that’s enough robots for one column. How about some elusive alien action in the best ’80s Spielberg movie that Spielberg never made in the ’80s? The train wreck scene from Chapter 3 of this recent Blu-ray release is already legendary in home theater circles, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve got some catching up to do.
Even before the crash itself, the bodacious Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack telegraphs the impending catastrophe with a quease-inducing grumble as the camera points down two gleaming railroad tracks that emerge from the pitch-blackness of night. Kudos to writer/director J.J. Abrams for trying his best to prime your sphincter for the onslaught that follows by flooding the sound mix with the clack-clack-howl of the speeding train. But I’m not sure there’s really anything that could prepare you for this one. When the train finally derails, physics be damned, it’s such an intense attack of screaming, screeching, booming metal flying from one corner of the room to another that–no joke– the grills on my center channel and one of my subs popped off the first time I demoed the scene. And just when you think the killer surround sound attack has run its course, one last train car drops from the ceiling into the center of the surround mix with all the weight and power of...well, a train car falling from the ceiling.