Sunshine on Blu-ray Disc
Danny Boyle's sci-fi epic is ambitious, and looks and sounds great, but it ultimately falls apart by trying too hard to make a compelling story out of a situation that fails the most basic tests of common sense.
It's a little bit 2001/2010, a bit of Alien, some Silent Running, all put through a plot blender to create a dog's breakfast of a film. It has its moments, but they're too few and far between. Heck, we found ourselves looking at our watches only about a half hour in.
In Sunshine, the earth's sun is dying and the Icarus II and its eight person crew are sent to launch a big nuclear device into it, hoping it'll act like jumper cables and restart the nuclear fusion reactors that "Person Nature" has neglected to keep outputting at their optimal levels.
It's probably George Bush's fault.
Being the Icarus 2, there was obviously an Icarus I, in this case a similar mission some seven years earlier that was never heard from again.
You'd think they'd learn....
And here's the first plot hole big enough to drive a space ship through: why send a manned ship at all, when a robotic ship would do the job as well or - since it wouldn't require all the life support and shielding - even better?
Of course then we wouldn't have a movie. Or not this movie, anyway - and that may not have been a bad thing.
But we do have this 2007 movie, so we need a multi-racial multi-cultural cast (which, to be fair, is made up of good actors giving good performances) who seem to be there because they're multi-racial and multi-cultural rather than competent, and enough stuff for them to do that couldn't be done better by a robot. So we have accidents, we have skullduggery, we have fights, we have heroics, we have villainy. We have a metaphysical ending that tries to outdo 2001 without having the mind of a Kubrick or Clarke behind it.
If the movie didn't take itself so seriously it might have been more enjoyable. When the cast of Airplane II started approaching the sun we knew it was for laughs, but here, approaching a dying ball of gas is symbolic of the screenplay - lots of form but thin on substance.
Too bad; we're big sci-fi fans (whether it's serious or silly, as long as it's well done) and so went into this movie hoping to enjoy it. But by the end, our eyes were tired from all their rolling and a lovely Blu-ray transfer couldn't save it. It made us want to read Ray Bradbury's "The Golden Apples of the Sun" again.
Speaking of Blu-ray, we were pleased with Fox's transfer. The 1080p widescreen picture is sharp and clean, with excellent blacks (the latter of which particularly comes in handy in a space movie). The special effects are excellent and look great.
Audio is dts HD 5.1 master lossless, and it's also very good, with nice surround and delicious use of the low frequency effects channel. When the ship's metal is expanding and contracting it sounds very good, reminiscent of the parts of Titanic when that gigantic ship is undergoing its death rattles.
Extras abound, including some interactive ones that'll only work if your Blu-ray player is compliant. Ours is, so we took a look at the "enhanced viewing mode," which gives you picture-in-picture access to some behind the scenes stuff as the movie unfolds. In a better movie it would be distracting, but here it was a welcome break.
There's also a director's commentary and another one by Dr. Brian Cox of the University of Manchester. We didn't listen, 'cause we'd had our fill by then, but we certainly hope the good doctor lampoons the movie's science as befits it.
There are also some deleted scenes with optional commentary, web production diaries, the trailer (in HD) and two unrelated short films ("Dad's Dead" and "Mole Hill").
Sunshine, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.