I have absolutely no doubt that Hilary Swank meant well, but we all know what wise men say about good intentions. It is likely that Amelia Earhart has been a hero and inspiration to the young actress as I know she’s been to women of all professions throughout the years. There’s no question that she is an influential historical figure and deserving of attention. Of course, she’s had plenty over the years. There have actually been quite a few films and television shows dedicated to the heroine since her disappearance so many years ago. Like any subject, there have been some great efforts and some forgettable ones. Recently the character showed up in a much more frivolous and fictional way in the latest Night At The Museum film. From Star Trek to A&E documentaries, there is little danger that she will be forgotten in the world of entertainment. I suspect, from what I’ve seen from news reels, that she was a passionate and spirited woman full of life and heart. Unfortunately Amelia, the film, has none of that.
From the film’s promotional campaign one is left with the definite idea that this is less about the aviatrix and more about the love story between Earhart and George Putnam, played by Richard Gere. At least that’s the film I was most prepared to see. I suppose one piece of good news, at least for me, was that this love affair is played quite flatly. Who could have expected that from a Gere romantic film? If that really was the focus, someone forgot to tell the leads that they were in love. The portrayals are so matter-of-fact and dispassionate that you could debate whether there was indeed any love there at all. Perhaps that was the way the relationship was in reality. If that’s true, it’s a poor choice for a romantic film.
Once you’ve exhausted the romance angle, the woman herself is what you have left. Again, that sounds like plenty to drive a dramatic film. Yet the events of her life are also played with little passion. If this movie is to be believed, Earhart blundered her way into the history books with only a pop star public persona to make her worthy of even the slightest note. There should be a remarkable sense of adventure here that, like the aviatrix herself, is missing in action. The film moves from event to event with little to mark them as important or worth the smallest rise out of the participants. Swank discusses her groundbreaking accomplishments as if talking about a swirling newspaper in the street. Instead of lifting this character into our consciousness, Swank feels that it’s enough to merely mention her existence. Either Earhart is exposed as undeserving the acclaim her memory evokes, or she deserved a much better, much more passionate telling of her story.
The only area this film does excel at is in the production values. The period sets and locations are wonderfully researched and reproduced here. You’ll certainly get a sense of the times and places put on display. The reproductions both in and out of the computer of the vintage aircraft display a remarkable feat of engineering and imagination. This is a solid production from that standpoint. The $40 million budget is all up on the screen, and the film looks like it could have and perhaps should have cost much more. Sadly, the inability of the filmmakers to match the playground with the game itself cost the studio a bundle. The film barely pulled in $14 million at the box, leaving someone holding a $25 million bag.
Amelia is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average 35 mbps. I can’t find fault with this high definition video presentation. Colors are exceptional, particularly with some of the more brightly painted aircraft. Reds I found most impressive here. Black levels were about as good as it gets, offering inky darks and wonderfully defined shadows. The sharpness and detail make this a film to at least be admired visually. The aerial shots of Earhart’s flights offer some breathtaking scenery preserved in breathtaking splendor. There are moments when the lighting gets too stylish and takes us out of an otherwise very realistic environment.
The DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio is just as impressive. The surrounds really open up the wide spaces of flight and put you squarely in the cockpit. From the subtle sounds of moving air and propellers to the swoosh of the planes themselves as they bank over oceans or African plains, this is a solid audio presentation. Dialog is fine, although somewhat hidden on a couple of rare occasions. If only the film had been half as good as the audio and video specs here.
Deleted Scenes: (13:53) HD There are 10 scenes available here with a handy play all option. Of significance is the presence of an entire subplot featuring Putnam’s current wife as he begins his relationship with Amelia.
Making Amelia: (23:06) HD Typical cast and crew talker providing more character profile and synopsis than anything else. It makes a great Reader’s Digest version of the film and will save you over an hour and a half of your time.
The Power Of Amelia Earhart: (10:45) HD A feature dealing with the influence of the character on women throughout history.
The Plane Behind The Legend: (4:33) HD If you’re interested in the aircraft reproduced on the film, this and Re-Constructing The Planes Of Amelia Earhart (6:37) also in HD will be of the most interest to you. You’ll get a very close look at the planes and watch the design and construction.
Movietone News: (6:41) SD 7 original newsreels with a handy play all. Most of this footage is also incorporated within the film itself.
Part of me was ecstatic that the film never delivered on the romantic movie goods it appeared to promise. If this is Hollywood’s current idea of a whirlwind romance, boy are you ladies in for a rough ride. The end result appears to be an exercise in self indulgence on Hilary Swank’s part. I hope it was worth the tab someone got stuck with. The aviatrix is certainly deserving of a big budget feature film, and maybe one day she’ll get one. In the meantime, walk, run, even fly away from this release if you can. And “Don’t let anyone turn you around”.