Comments on the supplemental material on this edition have been ported over from Brendan Surpless’ excellent (and recent) review of the Blu-Ray disc, which also can be enjoyed on this site.
Now onto the review…
I was listening to a “mini” commentary track from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone the other day as they were talking about the overall silliness of a film like The Day After Tomorrow and that basically the film was done by a bunch of “hacks”. So follow me for a second, Roland Emmerich was involved with that film, and he is a frequent producing partner with Dean Devlin, who helped put together Flyboys, a film written by Blake T. Evans (who was more known as a cinematographer), among others, and directed by Tony Bill (Untamed Heart).
The film follows a group of American kids who have made the trek across the pond to France in World War I to help the French air squadrons against the German air army. The supporting players aren’t too important, all you really need to know is that the main face of the group is Blaine (James Franco, Spider Man 2), a kid from Texas who volunteers after the ranch he lived on was foreclosed. When they get to France, they meet up with the Captain of the unit (Jean Reno, Leon), along with the other members of the group, including the grizzled veteran. Then you get the requisite training montages as well.
Flyboys simply could have been executed better than it was. You’re meant to really sympathize with the gradual loss of those that Blaine trained with initially, but there’s so little time given to their exposition that it’s not really that huge of a deal when they’re shot down. The grizzled veteran is a loner named Reed (Martin Henderson, The Ring), but he’s a clichÃ© of a lot of other war films that his toughness is almost done in comic book like fashion. And of course, the main character is stuck with a love interest, and here it’s the French local Lucienne (Jennifer Decker, Cobb), who magically learns American in the span of a couple of “dates” that Franco takes her on (one may involve flying or something), even though he’s a little too stupid or pigheaded to learn French. This was a subplot that I saw coming like a punch from my dad. You could telegraph it week’s in advance, and it still takes forever to accomplish from beginning to end.
The real question you’re probably asking is are the computer generated aerial dogfights any good? Well, visually they do look good, there’s no question in that, but the problem is that the film takes its sweet time in getting to them, and the pace of the film is real slow (combined with the excessive 140 minute runtime made it feel like an eternity before they got in the air), so their effect is greatly diminished from the film. Much as I’m a sucker for a good war film, Flyboys was not good, and barely a war film.
Well, there’s a DTS option to go with a Dolby Digital 5.1 option and it sounds great in the action scenes, with a lot of surround activity and lots of thuds and whaps from the bullet hits. The thing is that the dialogue sounds like it was mixed in too low or something, as it sounds erratic on playback. I can understand why this would be a damn good sounding Blu-Ray disc though.
Flyboys has a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that isn’t too shabby, however it’s another film that I’ve seen lately that suffers from slightly blown whites. I may have to get a re-calibration going again, because this is frustrating.
- Audio Commentary by Director Tony Bill and Producer Dean Devlin: One thing I will mention about this commentary track is that Devlin and Bill certainly seem sincere about this. Bill and Devlin give us tons of detail including the CGI effects used and varying casting decisions. Obviously recorded before the film was released (as most are), I’m sure Bill and Devlin were disappointed with the performance of this one as it seemed that they really enjoyed making this film.
- Deleted Scenes: The collection of scenes was honestly the only real disappointing feature here. None of these scenes really added anything substantial to the film.
- Historical Feature: This 62 minute feature is broken into six different parts that all cover aspects of the film
- Real Heroes: The Lafayette Escadrille: Running about 26 minutes, this one covers the amount of research that went into creating the film’s basic premise. I enjoyed how much effort Bill and Devlin put into this one as they studied making sure everything looked perfect.
- The Diary of a Miniature Stunt Pilot: This one runs 8 minutes and covers the amount of training the cast went through to prepare for the airplane sequences.
- Whiskey and Soda: The Lion Mascots: Running 5 minutes, this short feature covers the different mascots the squadron had.
- The Real Planes of Flyboys: This one runs 9 minutes and looks into the different types of planes the cast and crew used during the making of the film.
- Taking Flight: The Making of the Aerial Battle Sequences: Running 11 minutes, this was one of the better features as it showed us exactly how the big air sequences were created.
- The Flyboys Ride with the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels: This final part runs 5 minutes and covers the experiences the cast had training with two different squadrons.
If you’re looking for an action packed movie about war, not only is Flyboys not it, but it’s barely passable in the “popcorn action film that just happens to be set in wartime” category. The packaging of this two-disc collector’s edition is actually kind of cool and reminiscent of the Vista version of Pearl Harbor a little, but I’d wait to see this for free before making your decision to find one of the copies out for sale.