MGM Studios DVD presents
"We do not expect you to win the war, only to do what your conscience commands and your courage allows."- Captain Thenault (Jean Reno)
Stars: James Franco, Abdul Salis, Martin Henderson, Jennifer Decker
Other Stars: Jean Reno, Michael Jibson, Tyler Labine, David Ellison, Philip Winchester, Augustin Legrand, Pip Pickering, Christien Anholt, Barry McGee, Gunnar Winbergh, Ian Rose, Lex Shrapnel
Director: Tony Bill
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for war action violence and some sexual content.
Run Time: 02h:18m:33s
Release Date: 2007-01-30
DVD ReviewThese days usually a visual effects-heavy film will take place in modern day or the future, so all the whiz-bang CG work can conjure up all sorts of trippy cool set pieces for popcorn munchers like me to enjoy. With Flyboys, it's forward into the past, this time heading back to the rarely traveled era of 1916 and World War I for the setting. And it's really just an excuse for all kinds of adventurous CG dogfights between the cocky, ragtag Lafayette Escadrille—a French squadron consisting mostly of American fliers—and the film's villains, in this case the cold-hearted Germans in tri-winged Fokkers.
This one's at its best when it's in the air, but director Tony Bill (My Bodyguard) has to make do with a story so slathered in clichés that it's almost comical at times, as we're introduced to the scrappy Americans from all different walks of life who end up under Jean Reno's command. There's the brash Texan, the chubby rich kid, the black boxer, the religious guy, the gangly nerd, the loudmouth, the mysterious loner (he has a lion for a pet!), all of whom operate as expected, having standard issue conflicts that are supposed to draw us in and make us care. But that attempt at drama is just filler in between the air battles, which are handled with a nice sense of dizzying CG-induced freneticism that is fun to watch, even if it's extremely difficult to tell one character from another when their faces are all dirty and they're wearing goggles.
Aside from the stock character diversity of the main American pilots, my imaginary cliché checklist had all of the expected elements marked off (swelling score, panoramic shots of the countryside, ridiculously cute French girl, evil Germans), and these come in regular doses throughout the overlong runtime that almost hits the 02h:19m mark. That's a lot of predictability, and even the film's main heavy (his nickname is The Black Falcon) exists as a boogeyman, picking off lesser characters until the well-telegraphed final confrontation occurs.
So what we really have here is a film that's too long and too corny, but one that does its best to make up for the hokum with plenty of generally exciting dogfight action, though in one case there's a weird on-the-ground frontline encounter that seems to really defy logic. The battle sequences are technically very well done, and I suppose that's the porn equivalent of a money shot, so on that level Flyboys delivers what it seems to want to promise. It won't take a rocket scientist to figure out who will live and who will die once all the characters are introduced, and the various dramatic interludes on the ground are just spacers until the planes take off again.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: It's tough to compare screener quality (thanks Fox) with the final street version of a DVD, so take the video portion of this review with a modicum of caution. Not that there's anything inherently awful about this one, in fact it generally looks quite strong. The color palette carries a lot of deep golds and browns, and image quality—especially during the aerial battles—shows off decent levels of detail. A few grainy moments here and there, mostly night shots at the base, seem to stand out as variances from the typical clarity of the rest of the transfer, causing me to question whether the street version will correct this or not.
Image Transfer Grade: B
|DS 2.0||French, Spanish||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: A pair of big and boisterous audio mixes make the battle scenes quite fun, with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS options available here. The nerd in me wants to naturally give the edge to the DTS mix, but in all honesty both deliver extremely immersive experiences on all levels, and the differences seem negligible. Rears get used often, and during the dogfights there's a great sense of movement from all channels. Voice clarity is strong, the main theme rises up to good dramatic often, and the presentation is well done from just about any direction.
French and Spanish 2.0 surround dubs are also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Van Wilder 2, Bandidas, The Marine, Copying Beethoven, The Illusionist, Last King of Scotland, Home of the Brave
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Tony Bill, Dean Devlin
Extras Review: My screener copy doesn't have any extras other than some trailers and a commentary from director Tony Bill and producer Dean Devlin. It appears the formal single-disc version is supposed to include a few deleted scenes and a short featurette or two, while the two-disc set understandably would have even more bonus materials.
The commentary track from Bill and Devlin understandably spends a lot of time talking up the effects, where a scene might have a mix of digital extensions or even animatronics (the lion mascot, for example) and the odd mention of how certain characters were theoretically based on real people. Not a jaw dropper by any means, but perhaps effects nuts will appreciate some of the chatter.
The disc is cut into 32 chapters, with optional subtitles in English and Spanish.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsIt runs a little too long, and it's chock full of clichés, but the dogfight scenes do look nice. I wasn't particularly concerned with what might happen to any of characters, nor did I feel any great sense of loss when one of them bought it during an aerial battle.
From a storytelling angle, the wheel is certainly not reinvented here, but the visual effects try to make up the difference, and it almost works.
Rich Rosell 2007-01-29