It's not just another day at the office.
An average sort of documentary about military aviation, The Challenge of Flight (Volume 2) collects footage and insight from a wide variety of sources with modest video and audio quality. For good or for ill, this is a disc that feels very much like a cable TV documentary ported over to the DVD format.
The Challenge of Flight is a bare-bones disc that contains two approximately 45 minute films. "Eject Eject!" covers the evolution and practical use of the jet pilot's friend, the ejection seat, while "Canopies Up!" is an overview of military aviation from the perspective of the pilots themselves (and entirely in their own words), showing training operations, air-to-air refueling, night carrier flights, and the like.
It is hard to get up the enthusiasm to review the content, because it is so, well, vanilla. There is nothing too amazing, or too boring, too awesome, or too hum-drum. Perhaps I have seen too many programs of a similar nature, but The Challenge of Flight does not stand out among them. There are some nice in-flight "action shots" of all manner of military aircraft flying about and doing their tasks, and it was mildly interesting to learn about the evolution and use of the ejection seat. However, there are a number of passages in "Eject! Eject!" where the narration ceases during rather irrelevant collections of aviation footage.
The video varies from adequate cable-TV quality to poor, though this is due to the original source materials more than the actual DVD transfer. Color saturation is okay but nothing special, sharpness is so-so, and most of the film is noticeably grainy.
There's not much to be said for the audio. The dialogue is clearly understood, but none of the sounds of airplanes in flight or expending ordnance is going to be impressive to anyone. Again, given some of the source material, this is only to be expected. Give everybody but your center channel the night off.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There is no extra content, which is a shame. Photo galleries, text information on military aviation in the U.S. Armed Forces, trailers for other Focusfilm products, or something else would have been very welcome.
The keepcase is another oddity, with a circular sort-of flower petal arrangement of stubby plastic tabs holding the disc. It makes disc extraction needlessly difficult, and causes me to think fondly of even the Alpha keepcase.
In all honesty, I cannot recommend The Challenge of Flight for any more than a rental. There is just not enough of the "wow" factor or of top-class history to justify a place on your shelf. If by chance you find The Challenge of Flight for rental and are in the mood for a modest documentary of this sort, then give it a try, just don't go too far out of your way to find it.
The Challenge of Flight and its creators are guilty of a number of DVD infractions, but on balance, only fines and a stern reprimand are warranted. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: FocusFilm Entertainment
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