So Judge Ryan Keefer first reviewed Little Miss Sunshine, now he's reviewing Sunshine. If he has to review something called "Little Miss," we're going to have to shut him down.
If the sun dies, so do we.
Sunshine is unlike other science fiction films in the sense that it makes you think about the science behind it. Featuring some recognizable faces and capable direction, the film was released to decent critical praise, but never seemed to find an audience. So now that it's on Blu-ray and on DVD, what are the results?
Facts of the Case
Written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later) and directed by Danny Boyle (Millions), Sunshine is set fifty years in the future. The sun in our solar system is dying, and a crew has been dispatched to space to dispense a nuclear payload into the sun and revive it, in a matter of speaking. Among the crew of the spaceship Icarus is the captain (Hiroyuki Sanada, Rush Hour 3), his second in command (Troy Garity, Bandits), the navigator (Rose Byrne, Damages), the physics officer (Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins) and several others. Things become complicated when they discover the radio signal of the first Icarus flight, and the ship as well, so the debate becomes whether to become a rescue team, which goes against what they're there to do.
Like Judge Joel Pearce, I liked where the first couple of acts in Sunshine were going, and like him, I seemed to be disappointed in how the last act seemed to unfold. There's a lot going on in Acts One and Two, with Murphy sending heartfelt messages to home, the principles behind the mission, the prolonged discussion between both sides of the crew as to get to the first Icarus ship, that kind of thing. There seemed to be a lot of possibility going through these plots and where they would lead. Another story about the medical officer (Cliff Curtis, The Fountain) and his infatuation with the nature and evolution of the sun's power was among the most interesting, to tell you the truth. But the film seemed to turn on one event that was a little bit on the 2010 side of things, and then the appearance of someone else seemed to devalue what occurred in the first hour and change.
It's not really the fault of those who appear in the film either, as I can't recall an ensemble that seemed to be so eclectic in terms of background. They all perform rather admirably, and not being too familiar with Sanada, I've now got an urge to seek out more of his work. The pleasant surprise is Chris Evans, who many would be familiar with from his work in the two Fantastic Four films. He's quite the respectable character here, thinking of the mission first, not hesitating to sacrifice himself if he has to in order to preserve the goals of the flight. Normally I think Evans is a walking turd but I was really surprised by his performance here.
Technically Sunshine comes to life in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation with the MPEG-4 codec. There's a lot of detail to be had in the image most of the time, to the point where you can make out individual facial hairs on the male cast members. The problem is that same type of detail and clarity isn't as visible throughout the whole picture. It's a quality high definition release, though not a reference quality disc. The DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 surround track is a much more pleasant surprise. The dialogue seems to be a little unbalanced or on the soft side, but nevertheless there's a lot of low end and surround usage that makes the experience worthwhile.
From an extras point of view, this has everything from the standard definition copy, with one new inclusion, a picture-in-picture track that can be played with the film, the first from Fox on a Blu-ray disc. In case your Blu-ray player isn't up to speed, you can watch the footage as a standalone piece in the supplemental material; the footage totals about twenty minutes. The footage covers the production design and the preparation, and there are some effects discussions and some thoughts on the project by the cast. It's an average first effort into high definition by Fox. From there, you've got separate commentaries, one by Boyle that covers the production, and one by Dr. Brian Cox, who covers the scientific aspects. They're both pretty solid tracks. Deleted scenes with optional commentary are next, some of which are decent, and they include optional commentary by Boyle. Two dozen web documentaries on a wide variety of topics about the film follow, from cast to crew, makeup to previs, a lot of stuff that serves as a making of featurette of sorts. Two short films unrelated to the feature are next, and Boyle says it's a chance to include some new things on a DVD, which is to his credit. One of the films, named "Dad's Dead," isn't bad for that matter. An eight minute look at surround sound for the film is next, and the teaser and trailer (in high definition to boot) round out the disc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
At times, the film might seem to come off as a testament to Boyle's direction and visual style, but it's with good reason. Despite that conclusion, it's still not too bad at first, until you realize how drawn out it becomes. His vision of how the film and antagonist should be are also quite imaginative, and the way he tells the story helps buttress his skill. His last three features have been a sci-fi film, a zombie pic, a family/kids film, and he's quietly proving that he can take on anything thrown at him.
Sunshine starts as interesting, maintains that pace to some degree, but ultimately fades in the last fifteen or twenty minutes. The performances are fine, the direction is polished, but it's that part of storytelling I mentioned before that put me off how it all panned out. Having said that, if you liked the film and have a Blu-ray player, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it for the additional extra and the really nice soundtrack.
I understand that the lawyers for both sides agreed to a plea deal before the case went to trial anyway, so let's bring in the next case.
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