The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Warner - 1987
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 153 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French/Spanish Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, Nigel Havers, Christian Bale
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Music by: John Williams
Written by: Tom Stoppard based on the novel by J.G. Ballard
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 13, 2012
Based on J. G. Ballard's autobiographical novel, tells the story of a boy, James Graham, whose privileged life is upturned by the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, December 8, 1941. Separated from his parents, he is eventually captured, and taken to Soo Chow confinement camp, next to a captured Chinese airfield. Amidst the sickness and food shortages in the camp, Jim attempts to reconstruct his former life, all the while bringing spirit and dignity to those around him.
The story is focused on the 11 year old, self assured and privileged Jamie (Jim) Graham. He leads a sheltered life with his parents, in the British section of Shanghai during the Japanese occupation of China at the start of World War II. Being a big fan of modern aviation, Jamie imagines soaring into the blue and would much rather spend time with his model plane collection than sing the lead in the school choir.
When the Japanese begin their push further into China it becomes evident to Jamie’s parents that perhaps it is time to leave China. Before they can make their escape, they are caught in the chaos of the invasion. Fleeing through the crowded streets, Jamie is separated from his parents and finds himself alone.
Jamie spends weeks struggling to survive as the invasion leaves many in the streets and desperate. By happenstance Jamie encounters two American seaman Basie and Frank, who take him in. Basie is clever, an opportunist and well versed in what it takes to survive and prosper under the circumstances. Inevitably the three of them are captured by the Japanese and interned at the Soochow Creek Prison Camp. There “Jim” as he is now called, runs errands for Basie while learning about the brutal world of survival. Jim also learns how best to cope with their captors by displaying both humility and courage which earns their unspoken respect as well as the endearing fondness of those around him.
When the war ends Jim once again finds that he is alone and forced to look at the world through the eyes of an adult rather than a child. What he sees is betrayal, death and disappointment. For him this has become the norm or has it? Perhaps all is not lost for Jim. Perhaps hope and perseverance will guide him to a place where he can once again feel the warmth of love and the solace of youth.
Empire of the sun is based on the autobiographical novel by J.G Ballard. It was nominated for six Academy Awards and is a gripping and emotive coming of age story about loss of innocence. I saw it when it was released back in the day and found it to be one of those films that stay with you after you leave the theater. I was blown away by the performance of the little boy who played Jamie (Jim). I predicted great things for him and as it turned out Christian Bale has become one of the premiere actors of his generation. I have that Empire of the sun is one of those films that doesn’t generally come up in discussions of top notch films from the time period. That is unfortunate because it truly is a gem that holds up very well under repeat viewings.
I have owned it on DVD since it became available and am thrilled that it has finally been released in high definition. It appears reinvigorated in this Blu-ray offering that features newly restored video (see below) and a fan friendly package that comes housed in a stylish hardcover Digibook that includes photos, cast/filmmaker profiles and a bonus DVD “Warner at War”.
The rating is for thematic material and war violence.
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:
Empire of the sun comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Home Video featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 23 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4 Mbps.
I have little recollection of its theatrical presentation but have probably seen Empire of the sun half a dozen times at home. It comes to high definition framed in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and features image quality that is clearly a step above any previous home video release. It offers an appreciable level of refinement and defining resolution that results in a pleasing high definition experience. Close ups generally offer plenty of textural nuance which makes it easy to discern the subtle complexional structure in the faces of the actors as well as visible delineation in the clothing and objects within the frame. The superb cinematography with its beautiful vista views of the open expanses as supported by the natural light of day offer varying levels of delineation and depth that predominantly look great.
Clarity and sharpness during low level sequences or in uneven light hold up quite well. Colors appear natural with a limited range that is primarily consists of earth tones combined with various shades of blue and red that are rendered beautifully in high definition. Flesh tones are warm with supple texture and lifelike quality. Contrast is spot on and consistent throughout the presentation. Black levels are slightly elevated but stable which results in good not great looking scenes that contain mixed light/dark content. Grain is intact and rendered in fine, even layers. There is no question that this high definition presentation offers fans the opportunity to see this wonderful film looking better than ever.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio presentation does a nice job rendering the film’s soundtrack. Dialogue has discernible intonation, with distinctive clarity and above average room penetration. This is a more or less front heavy presentation that makes excellent use of the left, right and center channels to deliver seamlessly integrated panning sequences. Dynamic range is quite good but limited by the dated elements present in the recording. Sounds and effects emanating from the front channels have copious expression that extends well into the room. Surround activity isn’t frequent but when applied comes in the form of discernible spatial ambience with some discrete sounds that fill in front to rear directional pans. The LFE channel is similarly used to add impact to the lower bass frequencies associated with the film’s active elements and John Williams’ music score. I thought that this sound mix was not only well done but seemed very appropriate for this film.
- The China Odyssey: Empire of the sun – 49 minute film documentary narrated by Martin Sheen
- Theatrical trailer
- Blu-ray Digibook
- Bonus DVD – “Warner at war” – 47 minute documentary
Empire of the sun is based on the autobiographical novel by J.G Ballard. It was nominated for six Academy Awards and is a gripping and emotive coming of age story about the loss of innocence. It is among my favorite films from the nineteen eighties and I am thrilled that it has finally come to high definition. Its debut on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video is a good one that features beautifully restored video, gratifying lossless sound quality, a limited but worthwhile supplemental package and Digibook packaging. This release is a must have for fans and well worth considering for those experiencing Empire of the sun for the first time.
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