1998 marked an interesting time for the career of Robin Williams. The previous year he stared in his Oscar Winning Role via Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting, which was a somewhat rare role for Williams as it showcased his dramatic side. Obviously hoping for similar success, Williams followed that excellent role with another role that, at some points, finds itself just as good as his performance in Hunting.
Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) has just endured the part of life that any parent fears. Both of his children have been killed in a car accident. His wife Annie (Annabella Sciorra) is extremely distraught by this as is Chris. She falls into a suicidal state seemingly blaming herself for her the passing of her children. Events don’t improve when suddenly Chris is killed in a car crash. Upon his death, Chris wonders around the planet witnessing his funeral. Soon he finds out that his wife is dead, making him think that they might be reunited in heaven as perfect ‘soul-mates’. The only problem in this equation is that Annie has committed suicide, thus sending her to Hell (where all those who commit suicide go). Determined to bring his wife back from eternal torment, we (as the audience) are invited in a visual masterpiece from director Vincent Ward that includes almost 3-Dimensional glances into an Impressionist world of suffering that channels Dante’s Inferno in a splendid, visually stunning manner.
Imagine a life similar to Chris. We have lost everything dear to us (including our own life) and wanted nothing more than to be reunited with our lost ones. As I just mentioned, the world that director Vincent Ward paints is sometimes such a splendid world that I found myself looking at the film’s image, closing my eyes, and finding myself almost involved in that world. The use of colors helps to bring this film to a new level, a level that we find ourselves connecting with on so many levels.
A majority of the images that Ward and company shot and composed felt like something we’d only see inside of a fanciful dream or an art gallery. And that’s what makes this film so special. Even though the film’s script can sometimes seem a bit wishy washy and seem a bit out of place, the powerful images accompanied by the excellent acting by Williams and Gooding Jr. (see he CAN make good films), help to catapult this film into realms that it normally would never touch. Some hate this film and some love it. I’m more one of those people who appreciates the film for the messages it conveys. And that message is that that true special someone is worth traveling and sacrificing anything for.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 2:35:1 Widescreen Aspect Ratio, What Dreams May Come boasts a fairly pleasant transfer for a film 9 years old.
Obviously this film has its fair share of unique imagery with many sequences containing rather impressive shots. When it comes to this HD transfer, Universal has improved the image from its SD counterpart a bit. The film’s print is still somewhat soft looking containing a few sequences where the detail was good, but then somewhat questionable. Now this may be the chose of direction style by Ward, but as a critic, one must point out this possible negative. Color usage was impressive for myself as a majority of the film’s eye-opening sequences looked great. Grain was present, but never in a really annoying manner. Overall, despite some issues that may be more director choice than actual fault, this is a good effort from the folks at Universal.
Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, I found myself having similar thoughts about the audio that I had with the film’s video. Sure the audio is good, but it never approached anything overly impressive.
We all know this is a pretty big dialogue driven film and luckily the film’s dialogue is intelligible reproduced via the center channel. Surround usage goes from pretty active (the first scene I think of is the trip to Hell. Wow what an aurally impressive scene) to somewhat active throughout the film. The film’s bass, minus the aforementioned Hell sequence, felt rather flat never giving us more than a slight oomph. This definitely isn’t the first film you’d pull out for a demo, but it does contain a good enough track.
- Audio Commentary with director Vincent Ward: This was an interesting commentary here as director Ward offers up comments that seem like comments he made many times before. I’m not sure if Ward has the same comments about his film, but this one felt rather recycled. Still interesting in its own right as Ward offers us a bit of insight into the film, but I wanted more here as I know Ward had an interesting train of thought during the filmmaking process. It’s just a shame none of it is shown here.
- The Making of ‘What Dreams May Come’: Another missed opportunity here as this making of was boring and rather flat. Even though the standard stuff is shown (visual effects, behind-the-scenes shots), none of it ever felt interesting.
- Alternate Ending: Now this finally was a good feature. Even though I prefer the original ending, the alternate ending shown here was still worth a watch (even though it did felt too ‘PC’).
- Visual Effects: Another great, albeit short, feature here. Visual Effects Supervisor Joel Hynek and Art Director Josh Rosen sit down for a brief interview informing us what they hoped the 19th Century paintings used in the film would accomplish.
- Photo Gallery: The standard photo gallery here with Production Art, Earth, Paradise, Hell, and Heaven each showcasing a few images from the film.
I can’t deny that What Dreams May Come deserves all the accolades the film has received. Even though the film’s script did seem a bit loose in places, the powerful acting helps us quickly forget any major problems. As an HD DVD release, Universal has given this one good enough video and audio, but the big disappointment here is that a majority of the features felt too recycled. Still, if you’re a fan of this one, you’ll want to pick it up as the film’s quality is good enough to warrant a purchase.