Blu-ray Disc Review
Release Date: January 08, 2008.
Film Rating: /
Starring: Cliff Curtis (Dr. Searle), Cillian Murphy (Capa), Michelle Yeoh (Corazon), Hiroyuki Sanada (Capt. Kaneda), Rose Byrne (Cassie), Benedict Wong (Trey), Chris Evans (Mace), Troy Garity (Harvey)
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Alex Garland
There comes a time when I’m looking forward to seeing a particular film. A mixture of the film’s concept, the director and actors involved, as well as an interesting theatrical trailer is enough to make me raise an eyebrow and crack a little smile as to what I’m going to expect from it. Rarely do these films exceed my expectations, many fall into the “acceptable” category, and some are remembered as being downright disappointing. I found Sunshine to be the median of the three.
The sun is dying in the not-so-distant future of 2057. For mankind to survive extinction, a crew of eight men and women are set on the space shuttle Icarus II to spend many years of their lives flying to the sun. Their mission: to hurl a nuclear bomb the size of Manhattan, their “payload,” into the star to re-ignite it and save Earth. It’s a good theory to people on earth and they have no idea if it will actually work, but in this desperate time they have no other choice because they are the second attempt at this mission and all effective resources have been depleted on earth. The first mission, Icarus One, was a failure in that all communications with the crew were lost and the payload was not delivered.
On route to the sun, just at the point of no communication with earth, the crew receives a distress signal from Icarus One that is floating off in the far distance. The crew’s dilemma is either to veer off mission to possibly save the lives on Icarus One (if there are any survivors at all) or to ignore the fellow astronauts and continue forward with their mission for the greater good of saving Earth. A majority of the crew decides to risk and take their mission too high with confidence and melt their wings in the sun. The decision causes division within the crew, followed by errors in calculations that lead to a series of mission failures and death among the crew. These setbacks cause Icarus II to risk suffering the same fate as the first: an incomplete mission. But this time the world dies. So if you wake up one morning and it’s a particularly beautiful day, you’ll know they made it.
The special effects in the film are pleasant to view – I found the scene with the crew noticing the planet Mercury for the first time – scuttling across the sun – to be a rather exhilarating moment, just as if I were there with the crew. If real, I would find the same scenario just as amazing and the scene was done so well I was caught in my own disbelief. Other effects of the planet surface were just as effective, leaving much of it in darkness and mystery.
Beware! Spoiler: As much as I liked many moments in the film, the technology and concepts aren’t placed far enough in the future to be believable. It’s less than 50 years from now and the film’s creators are reaching high for a lot of advancements in technology. I also couldn’t help but take one major issue with this film: crazy people. I can handle the impossible scientific premise of the film for the story’s sake – it’s a sort of fairy tale – but the film uses the excuse of a madman for unexplained troubles and eventually, the events for the climax of the film. I feel this is was cheap way out to explain anything, because with madmen anything is possible, right? The film’s feeling changes considerably and becomes “typical” for the final third. As I reflect on what became scenes spun with little character and direction, it’s a win-lose film and will be remembered that way.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3.5/5
This Blu-ray disc brings the promise of very clear high definition images from this film source. The smallest items are nicely detailed without any artificial enhancement destroying real resolution. Wide shots, especially those effects shots taken in space, appear to be the most finely detailed images of all. But the image falls a bit flat. It’s muted throughout with brown and green taking a slight step forward ahead of all other colours. Colours never bounce off the screen, but then the film does take place in a spaceship with dim metallic hallways and arteficial lighting. Image depth is satisfactory. While fine detail seems to exist on the master, image contrast is only fair which contributes to that flat appearance. The weak black level is the main culprit here, often looking light gray in comparison to the “black bar” of the blank area created by the 2.35:1 image. These areas most often appear noisy but never so far as to be completely unacceptable.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3.5/5
If I were to define the word “bass” I would use Sunshine as an example to help clarify the meaning. I’m not so sure this is a good thing either. While most viewers of this disc probably praise the sound design as being full of impact and dynamics, I’m going to bust their bubble and say I wholeheartedly disagree and they’ve been tricked. In a hifi sense, this soundtrack is a disaster. While loud, dynamic range is relatively flat and compressed sounding unless we’re talking about the bass. It’s best described as letting free a mad pit bull to jump up and tear you apart while the rest of the world seems perfectly comfortable in not getting involved with the loose cannon. The LFE can have it’s share of sonic boom, but the most frightening thing for me was the extreme bass coming from the four main channels. I seriously thought if there was one film I was going to destroy a speaker on it was going to be this one – and my setup is capable of handling quite a bit of intensity. I pray for those of you who are insane enough to leave a small speaker set to LARGE (even if it’s floor standing because it’s not a large speaker by default) and play this back at reference level. This soundtrack can also put to rest any naysayer of directional bass because you'll be assulted from all corners of the room. I didn’t find this bass necessary; the only good thing about it is that it helped me identify a few more vibration points in my room. This mix was clearly intended for movie theaters rather than home theaters because it was just too overwhelming and tiring.
All channels seem to have plenty of activity throughout. The surrounds were almost always active but varied in volume level. This made the soundtrack effective in terms of creating space around the listener, but depth and detail is wanting. The music score is the best part of the mix; it creates an ambiance that suits the film and engages the viewer more. It’s also the best-recorded item as well. Dialogue is clear but inconsistent in tonality for each actor over the course of the film. Overall, the audio just seemed too thick and heavy on systems capable of very high resolution. Smaller systems may not be able to reproduce this effect, which is blessed trade off. The audio is encoded in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio and rare for Fox, English Dolby Digital 5.1.
TACTILE FUN!! /
TACTILE TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON
Deep, sustained bass in the LFE. Even more if you set your main channels to “small” and redirect the bass to the LFE!!
SPECIAL FEATURES: 3/5
IN THE END...
The Blu-ray disc of the science fiction film Sunshine is a welcomed addition to my collection. While I criticized the film and the A/V quality, I still enjoyed the movie experience in general. I’d watch it again and because of that, I’d recommend checking out this disc.
January 12, 2008.