The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Sony Pictures - 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 121 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): Japanese/English/Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Portuguese, Spanish, French
Starring: Rinko Kikuchi, Chiaki Kuriyama
Directed by: Mamoru Oshii
Music by: Kenji Kawai
Written by: Chihiro Ito based on Mori Hiroshi's The Sky Crawlers novel series
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: May 26, 2009
"Every day could be your last"
A group of eternally young fighter pilots known as Kildren experience the sudden loss of innocence as they battle the enemy in astonishing dogfights above the clouds.
From MAMORU OSHII, the world-acclaimed director of Ghost in the Shell comes an award-winning story of an exciting but endless war with heroes too young to understand the meaning of their battles. A group of eternally young fighter pilots known as Kildren experience the sudden loss of innocence as they battle the enemy in astonishing dogfights above the clouds. With his only childhood memory consisting of intense flight training, the fearless teenage pilot Yuichi's dogfights coexist with his struggle to find his missing past. When his beautiful, young female commander Suito is reluctant to discuss the fate of the pilot that Yuichi is replacing - or the strangely perfect condition of that pilot's former aircraft - Yuichi's curiosity becomes heightened.
Not being familiar with the novel series I couldn't help but feel as though I had been dropped into the middle of a story where everyone seemed to understand what was happening but me. Little explanation is given until later in the film and at 2 hours the majority of it is spent slowly trying to determine the background behind Kannami and his relationship to Suito. The story takes place in a futuristic/alternate plane where forever young pilots known as Kildren fly for Rostock Corporation. They are used to fight in an aerial war against The Lautern Corporation (no further explanation) and their ace pilot who is known as The Teacher. When the film opens Kannami arrives at his new assignment at Rostock. He meets a few of his fellow pilots as well as his supervisor Suito Kusanagi who also appears to be a kildren. His assigned airplane appears to be like new and he immediately inquires about the pilot he is replacing. He is told his name was Jinroh and practically nothing more which leads him to think that perhaps there is more going on than meets the eye. He feels a connection to Suito but can't understand why and when he questions her about her past her responses are similarly vague. On his first mission he displays superb combat skills but can't recall where he learned them or if he had ever been in battle before. The shadowy storyline plays out slowly as Kannami tries to unravel the mystery behind his past. The explanation comes in small doses that culminate during the last quarter of the film. I didn't find the ending to be very satisfying which seemed apropos when compared to the rest of the film. I didn't find this movie to be very entertaining. Its equivocal story, shallow characters and slow pacing were unfulfilling. I suspect that The Sky Crawlers will more than likely appeal more to those who are fans of the book series.
The rating is for violence, some sexual content and smoking.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The Sky Crawlers comes to Blu-ray from Sony featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 23 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 1.4 mbps.
This high definition animated presentation features visually enticing imagery that uses a two stage style that is interesting. Objects and backgrounds are three dimensional with almost lifelike texture while the characters are two dimensional and decidedly animated in appearance. To be honest I found the combination a little distracting as the characters always seemed to be in the foreground within the frame. Shots that didn't contain any characters (like the aerial battle sequences) looked stunning. The shading and lighting used resulted in a soft glowing outline during many segments. This was intentional and helped to provide the video with variable depth that was scene dependent. Colors are skewed a bit which again appeared intentional. The blue of the sky was noticeably faded and reds were rich and overflowing which make their presence a bit too dominant. Sepia tones make up the majority of color base and gray is used in various stages in both objects and backgrounds. The gradational stages in the white and gray tones that make up the wide angle shots of the cloudy sky look incredibly realistic. I loved the metallic appearance/styling of the fuselage on the airplanes and hangars. Strong contrast provides punchy blacks and crisp, bright whites. Detail during low lit sequences like those that take place outside and within the guesthouse visited by Kannami and Suito, have appreciable depth and dimension. Images are lucid, sharp and discernibly detailed which results in a refined presentation that looks great in high definition.
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack makes great use of the entire soundstage to create an enveloping atmosphere that is highlighted by the film's aerial encounters. The surrounds are actively used as the sounds of the propeller fitted aircraft whiz around the room in tight, discrete patterns that frequently switch vantage points but never miss a beat. Machine gun fire emanates from the rear and hits its mark on the planes fuselage as you are seated in the cockpit. The front and rear channels are seamlessly integrated which generates a stable and detail rich soundfield. Aside from the battle sequences there are plenty of discrete and ambient sound effects that simulate off camera cues such as opening/closing doors, barking dogs or rain falling that plinks as it lands on the metal roof of a plane hangar. The latter had a very realistic and detailed quality. I occasionally felt that the former may have been mixed a bit too loud rather than remaining more within the background as it often drew my attention away from the screen. Dialogue was clearly intelligible and suitably proportionate within the front soundstage's elements. Dynamics were excellent and bass response was authoritative, with a rich, punchy low end that added appreciable weight to the action based sequences in the film.
- (HD) Animation research for The Sky Crawlers - 30 minute documentary
- (HD) The sound design & animation of The Sky Crawlers - 32 minute featurette
- (HD) Blu-ray Disc Exclusive - Sky's the limit: An interview with Director Mamoru Oshii - 15 minutes
- (HD) 4 BD previews
- BD-Live enabled
The Sky Crawlers is an interesting film from a conceptual standpoint and I could certainly appreciate the potential inherent in its story. I just found that that vague manner in which it is told in this film left too many questions unanswered for too long. When the truth was revealed it was hard to really care at that point as little was invested in the characters. There are entertaining aspects to it though and I would surmise that someone familiar with the novels would get more out of it. Its interesting visual design and crystal clear lossless audio from Sony looks/sounds wonderful on Blu-ray Disc. While I can't recommend this as a blind buy to everyone I can say that fans are sure to be delighted with it. If you're curious give it a rent and see if its to your liking.
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