Roy Scheider is the police helicopter pilot and Vietnam war vet (cue flashbacks) who is tapped to test Blue Thunder, a new helicopter equipped with every conceivable weapon and means of surveillance. He discovers that the machine is at the heart of a conspiracy to undermine all that is good and free, and chief bad guy here is Malcolm McDowell, for whom Scheider has a more than cordial dislike thanks to what happened back in ‘Nam. The stage is set for high-tech showdown in the skies over LA…./p>
But before we get that showdown, there is all sorts of rather flat nonsense to wade through. And even once the nicely staged air battles arrive, the film, as has been pointed out elsewhere, fatally divided between two impulses: condemning the invasion of privacy the helicopter represents, and revelling in the technoporn of the cool machine.
The audio isn’t bad, but is clearly that of a film almost a quarter of a century old (has it been that long already?). The score (a very 80’s synth job) sounds fine, and there are some decent sound effects (such as a voice over a PA echoing from the back). There is also some good placement going on, with voices and vehicles clearly coming from one side of the room or the other. But the explosions could certainly have a bigger surround presence, and the dialogue has some rather unfortunate sibilance.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen picture looks, for the most part, very good indeed. The image is extremely sharp, and there is no grain or visible edge enhancement. As a rule the colours, flesh tones, contrasts and blacks are all very strong also. There are a couple of scenes, however, where the blacks and contrasts are a bit bleached out, which does hurt the (frequent) night scenes a little bit.
The divided nature of the film with regard to its helicopter is reflected in the (very technical) commentary by director John Badham, editor Frank Morriss, and motion control supervisor Hoyt Yeatman). More techno worship is included in “The Special: Building Blue Thunder,” a featurette about how the helicopter was created. “Ride with the Angels” is a solid, 45-minute, multi-part retrospective featurette. The promo featurette from 1983 is included, along with the original theatrical trailers (plus some other previews). There are storyboard galleries from three sequences (“Macy Street Bridge,” “Montoya Attack” and “SWAT Attack”). The menu’s main screen is scored, and the intro is animated and scored.
The ideas are good and still relevant, but the execution is rather ho-hum. Nice machines, though.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- “Ride with the Angels: Making Blue Thunder” Multi-Part Featurette
- “The Special: Building Blue Thunder” Featurette
- Storyboard Galleries
- 1983 Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer