Saturday, 8 September 2012

Movie Review: Blue Mountain Mystery (SPOILERS)



In late 2011, Thomas fans have been revealed of an upcoming DVD special, 'Blue Mountain Mystery' via a toy magazine discovered by a member of SiF. Books from Random House USA has been revealed as well by a Thomas fan on YouTube. Sadly this Nitrogen Studio's final contribution to a Thomas & Friends DVD special as the CGI production is to move to Arc Productions for the seventeenth series - beyond and also this is Sharon Miller's final special to be written. Australia were the first to see it from July - September, and its still showing in cinemas until the 16th and will be up for release on DVD on September 19th, the UK has seen it and is released in stores now and the US has seen it in August and is ready for its DVD release on September 18th. So is this movie better then any of the previous specials released under HIT Entertainment's name from 2005 - 2011? or better then the recent sixteenth series? Well let's take a look at, 'Blue Mountain Mystery'. But before we get on with it, please read the warning up the top :)


Written by
Sharon Miller

Directed by
Greg Tiernan 

Produced by
Nicole Stinn 

Release Date:
3/09/12 (UK)
18/09/12 (US)
19/09/12 (AU)

After Paxton has an accident at Blue Mountain Quarry, the Fat Controller sends Thomas to help out. At the quarry, Thomas spots an engine he has never seen before trying to hide. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, Thomas tracks down and befriends Luke, who tells Thomas he is hiding because he once bumped a little yellow engine into the sea.

I saw this movie back in July 2012 at Hoyts Cinemas in Entertainment Quarters at Bent Street, which is near the city of Sydney. Then I saw it with some YouTube friends who went to see it at Westfield Stratford, which was the main city for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I've heard from many users that the movie is great, but here are my views on the film.

The movie opens up with a prolouge introducing us to the Blue Mountain Quarry. But Bloundin Bridge was falling down as a keystone fell off the bridge and what was worse is that Rheneas is coming down from the up terrace without knowing the danger. The siren was blaring in the distance and Rheneas knew the danger. I know they like to put some heart pounding and nail biting moment with the bridge, but there is a triangle loop on the way before the bridge so why can't they switch the points? And with the scentence 'But he didn't know why the siren was sounding?' As as always, this is typical Miller, there are many other words then 'sounding'.


Rheneas put his brakes on and made it over the bridge just in time. Rheneas stopped at the bottom with his paint all scratched. But Paxton was all broken down. So after that, with the title screen of the movie and the people behind it, we open up to a wonderful camera angle of leaves and panned down to Thomas running his branch line with his two coaches, Annie and Clarabel, who for the first time have their own voices since 'Thomas and The Magic Railroad'. I love the voices, they sound like a sort of motherly figure to Thomas and they were in perfect character. Wonderful voice acting talent by Teresa Gallagher. As Thomas stopped at the signal, the Fat Controller came aboard Winston, the track inspection car. Despite that Season 16 had aired before the release of the movie, I still find Winston a pointless character since 'Happy Birthday Sir!' He has no personality and no reason why he came to the island, just another pointless character to sell toys. The Fat Controller told Thomas that Paxton has been damaged and that he (Thomas) has to take over his work at the quarry, Toby is to look after his passengers and his branch line. But he has to deliver his passenger's first.

I do love the mention of Thomas' branch line, despite that there are points leading to other places, unless they are sidings. But what I especially love is that Toby is working on it as well, something that has never been seen nor heard since the early series or more? And that Thomas has to deliver his passengers first, not just puff off and go to the quarry. Meanwhile, Emily is delivering a broken down Paxton to the Dieselworks. I like the scene, it's been a while since we've seen an engine on a well wagon. Later on, Thomas pulled into the Qurray and saw the accident. Meanwhile we're given a small educating bit of the differences of Standard gauge and narrow gauge, Andrew Brenner as script editor really shows a breath of fresh air for Thomas & Friends, showing us the differences of the two gauge engines. If he weren't editor of the script, this movie would go down in a poor state.

Thomas noticed Rheneas' paint being all scratched from his rollercoaster runaway. Rheneas was thinking about getting a new coat of paint, but Skarloey, in his wise persona, said that it could've been worse and should be glad he's in good working order. The voice of Skarloey is provided by Keith Wickham who gave Skarloey a brilliant welsh accent and I'm thankfully glad that Skarloey is back in his wise persona rather then being a childish engine like in S9-12 which made me ended hated him, thanks to a so-called former head writer of the show. Although I do like Rheneas, his voice was really good by Ben Small, its a shame that he acts like a small child.

We then cut to a montage of 'Working Together', a song break was never seen in a Thomas special since 'The Great Discovery'. After his work at the quarry, the next day Thomas spotted a little green engine puffing out of a tunnel. Thomas wanted to say hello, but the green engine didn't answer. Thomas asked Sir Handel, who said it could be a 'runaway truck'. Later on, Thomas saw the engine again and told Rheneas and then Rusty and then Merrick and Owen. Though in my opinion, I don't think the voice suit the character of Rusty, I picture a possible welsh or english accent. I do like the angle of Thomas talking to Owen, I admire the angles that Nitrogen Studios had made.

Then Thomas spotted the green engine again and was blocked by the others until Rheneas moved away from the tunnel to let Luke, the green engine, pass. Skarloey told Thomas about Luke and that he hides in the quarry as he did something very bad when he came to the Island of Sodor many years ago. I love the scene when Skarloey was telling the story, Wickham really bring a dramatic side to Skarloey with the wise persona he was given in this special along with the music.

As Thomas was heading for the docks, he was wondering what Luke had done that was so bad. Later at the sheds, Thomas was asking the engines what they've done so bad? Percy told him about the time he crashed into some lauggage and sticky jam fell right on top of him because he was going to play a trick on the coaches. Henry then mentioned about the time he was bricked up in a tunnel because he didn't listen to the Fat Controller as the rain would spoil his green paint and red stripes and Thomas told them about the time he fell down a mine after ignoring a danger sign.

Many older fans may find this wrong, but in my opinion, as an older Thomas fan, I like them and there are many other fans who liked the idea as well, as Greg Tiernan wanted to thank the older Thomas fans for their support of the animation for the last three years. The flashbacks were great, it also shows the same angle shots of the original episodes. But I do have to say that off all the Diesel flashbacks, they have to choose Misty Island and yet he was sent away from Sodor many times and there are times he did something bad like the 'Duck and the Diesel Engine' trilogy.

It was Greg Tiernan's dream to recreate that episode and I believe Sharon Miller wrote that part in (Misty Island). Well in my views, I was not offended by this and it didn't destroy the original, it shows the much respect that Tiernan had with the show, despite a couple of errors, and if anyother fan who dislike the CGI flashback well fine by me.

Next day, work started on Bloundin Bridge, but Rheneas still whinged for a coat of paint and was being teased by Rusty and Peter Sam, I believe the two engines were out of character in that part, it would've been more better if it were Sir Handel or Duncan (if he was animated at the time).

Later on Skarloey was puffing backwards, that he didn't see Rocky. Thomas whistled in alram and Skarloey stopped just in time. Their are a couple of ups and downs with that scene. The up, it shows that you better take care when it comes to dangerous areas. The down, what about Skarloey's crew? They are more important then his cab.

However, after saving Skarloey, Luke puffed up to Thomas as he now trust him. He apologised to him about hiding from him and asked him to be his friend. Thomas agreed and the two engines worked together. I love the push/pull combination that the animators had done for Thomas and Luke's theme music was beautiful. We have another montage of 'Working Together'. The shunting in this movie was great too, OK there were some trucks being bashed into each other but in other scenes we see Thomas gentley pushing trucks in a siding unlike the shunting in 'Splish, Splash, Splosh'.

Later on, The Fat Controller and Winston arrived at the quarry with Mr. Percival. They told Thomas that Paxton is all repaired and that Thomas can go and work on his branch line. Thomas asked Luke what he had done that was so bad. While Luke and Thomas were talking, Paxton arrived. He could hear what the two engines were saying. Luke then told Thomas his story and yes everyone, since 'Hero of The Rails' we finally see an engine with a backstory.

Luke was being transported by ship to work on Sodor, as it was always his dream. While he was on board he saw another engine who spoke in spanish. But on Sodor, Luke told Thomas that 'he' knocked the yellow engine off the boat. A few things I liked about the flashback is that there is no narration cramming into the story, just like Hiro's story. It's nice to see and hear that once again. It was also great to see and hear the moral of Luke's backstory. It tells kids not to be over excited and to wait your turn. Next day, Thomas was working on his branch line. But he was still thinking about Luke. He was thinking about him so much that he forget about the signal. Thankfully Annie and Clarabel reminded him, finally Thomas learned some common sense when it comes to the signals. Meanwhile Toby puffed past and Thomas asked for his help again. While Thomas puffed away, Toby took Annie and Clarabel. Thomas was looking all over the island to find the yellow engine. He then pulled into the Dieselworks and saw Paxton talking to Diesel about Luke. Thomas was worried and raced away to find more of the yellow engine. However, Diesel took notice.

Thier was another nostalgia easter egg for the older Thomas fans, the Marklin model. The Marklin model was seen during the time of the first season, it was basically used as a random engine in the background hauling trucks or coaches about. SiF had claimed that it was used as a thank you for SiF and the older Thomas fans for their support, like the flashbacks. Diesel being the main villian for the story was good but the scene really reminded me of 'Hero of The Rails' that Spencer wanted Hiro to be scrapped.

Thomas looked around the island and decided to go and tell Cranky about the yellow engine, but Diesel and Paxton came to find the Fat Controller. I love the sarcastic answer Cranky gave to the engines. Thomas knew where to go and that was the Steamworks to tell Victor about the yellow engine, which was actually him! Hence the spanish accent. 
However, despite that this is the UK version of the special, it was a surprise that David Bedella took on the role as Victor for the UK dub. I don't know why, maybe because he can speak good spanish? Whatever the reason was, I enjoy his role. I don't hate Matt Wilkinson's role, but his voice doesn't sound too Cuban, but he did an OK voice for Victor, and I do enjoy David Bedella's role more, but Matt Wilkinson is still great. It was a great feature to see Victor speaking another language as it shows a more cultural impact to the island and its fleet of engines. It turns out that chains underneath Victor's wheels had broke due to the pressure of the waves in the ocean and was the reason he fell off the ship and landed onto a jetty, which wasn't Luke's fault.
Victor was left in the sea for days due to the bad weather and when at last he was brought out from the water, he was covered in rust and was sent to the Steamworks where he spent his life from then on with his new red paint. Thomas discovered the truth and it turns out it was just an accident and that Luke didn't do anything wrong. So Thomas raced back to the Blue Mountain Quarry. But on the way, Thomas saw Diesel who was telling the Fat Controller about Luke, however the Fat Controller doesn't know what Diesel was talking about and ordered him to take Mavis to the Dieselworks.

Thomas arrived at the Blue Mountain Quarry and he told Luke that he told Victor. But Skarloey was shocked that he thought Thomas had betrayed them. You can really feel the emotion that Skarloey had when he said 'What did you do?!' to Thomas. Later on Diesel and Paxton came along. Thomas was desparate to tell Luke the whole story and so, he was lifted onto Owen's platform. Diesel then told Paxton to get the Fat Controller but Thomas told him to bring Victor. OK, yes, as we all know, anything that the former headwriter writes can be unrealistic for Thomas, but to be honest, I liked it. At first, I thought it was dumb and called it 'Typical Miller', but after reading Chris Tomson's review of this movie, there is actually a saying towards the scene, 'desperate times called for desperate measures' and I agree with him on that. Paxton was great for the role, you can see the pressure he has between Thomas and Diesel. So after being lifted onto the upper terrace of the quarry, Thomas' wheels were too big for the narrow gauge track and was derailed from a siding and dangling over the edge.
Luke then came to his rescue and after pulling Thomas from the edge, Luke shunted him to the platform. I love the music from the rescue scene, the brass was just cinematic and well done towards this scene. But as Thomas was on the platform, Luke was still chained to Thomas and together, they fell down the incline but landed safely down without any damage. I remember how surprised I was when Thomas' eyes rolled, another nostalgic easter egg by Greg Tiernan and his team.
Later, the Fat Controller and Mr. Percival arrived on board Winston. The Fat Controller was cross that Thomas was not working on his branch line. Diesel then expalined his side of the story of Luke and then Paxton arrived with Victor. Victor then explained the whole accident to Luke and told him that he was the yellow engine by talking in his spanish accent. Victor expalined about the steamworks to Luke and told he can be repaired and have a freash coat of paint, which made Rheneas wanting a new coat of paint. The Thin Controller welcomed Luke to his railway and the Fat Controller told Diesel that he should've known the truth. Luke claimed Thomas to be his hero and all the engines laughed with joy. We're then given a song and then a post-credit scene. A few days later, Thomas arrived at the Steamworks, Victor then explained that Thomas is looking for a yellow engine and it turns out it was Rheneas in his yellow paint.
Yes, the reason why Rheneas has been painted yellow was because they like to play a friendly joke on Thomas. To be honest, I liked the yellow livery, but they could've used Victor or Luke. If Victor was green, then Rheneas would've followed his breathern, Dolgoch:
The song 'Blue Mountain Mystery' was a great song and once again since 2010, there is not a mention of the Steam Team. We need more songs like that and I'm pretty sure kids from the target range of the show would know who the engines are. I love the song and I like this movie.
Out of all the CGI specials made, this one is the best of all since 'Hero of The Rails'. The story was great, Annie, Clarabel and Skarloey were in the perfect character. Luke wasn't treated like a character that was made for marketing by being shoved in the corner for five seconds and see if toy sales can make him popular. He was given a back story and you can feel sad for him when he was hiding away in the quarry. The Blue Mountain Quarry, just look at it, it was fantastic, as I heard from the SiF website, the quarry was based off one in North Wales. Andrew Brenner really edited the script well and clearing up the mess that was left in the series. The CGI flashbacks were a great feature and the Marklin model was a nice touch too along with the eye spinning. It's such a shame that this is Nitrogen's last Thomas feature to be made by them, but they've gone out in style. There are a few downsides, Rheneas is suppose to be wise as well as he and Skarloey were built in Wales many years ago when the railway was known as the Sodor & Mainland Railway, yet he acts like a little kid wanting something. I also like that when the engines are having conversations, there is work going on, showing some industrialistation.
After seeing this movie, I'm looking forward to see Andrew Brenner's work for Series 17, if you see the movie or buy it on DVD or Blu-Ray (If you live in America) you can see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the future of Thomas & Friends. Well done Nitrogen and thank you for your hard work on the show and well done Brenner and Miller. If anyone from Arc Productions reads this, I hope you have the same dedication as Nitrogen did for their shows and specials, good luck!
Rating: 5/5
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