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Blu-ray Picks for the Week of May 26 – The Sky Crawlers (Review)


I would never count myself among the legion of Mamoru Oshii fans. In fact, I find Ghost in the Shell a hard slog, tough to sit through. Like watching water boil.

All right, I’m exaggerating here. Oshii never fails to deliver beautiful moments and thrilling action in his films but in order to uncover the candy he forces you to suffer the interminable plastic wrapping of verbose philosophical monologues, pretentious classical quotations and ham-fisted expository detail. I’m happy to say that his latest animated film, The Sky Crawlers manages to side step these complications. For the most part.

The Sky Crawlers paints itself as a story about war. It leads you to believe you’re in for one hell of an airplane ride but while director Oshii delivers the occasional immaculately rendered, viscerally engaging dogfight – single and dual propellor CGI vehicles tearing through the computer-rendered sky and each other with dizzying speed and intensity – he’s less interested in action and more keen on theme and concepts. Adapted from Hiroshi Mori‘s novels of the same name, The Sky Crawlers follows a group of eternally adolescent pilots into the skies as they struggle to understand the meaning of the corporate war they wage. The mysteries of the other-dimensional Europe of the film are revealed through the eyes of Yuichi, a ‘Kildren’ pilot with a missing past and a deepening relationship with the girl who holds the key to it – his self-destructive young airbase commander, Suito. As is par for the course with Oshii, we come to know the characters less through action or dialogue and more through their expression of the thematic concepts at hand – in this case, broadly, youth and war. But for once, this doesn’t get in the way of the film. Though moving at the pace of fanciful poetry, The Sky Crawlers remains inventive and engaging throughout, punctuating long stretches of haunting silence or ponderous exchanges with breathtaking images, lightning flashes of action and stirring music by Kenji Kawai.

The Blu-ray disc looks and sounds tremendous. I can’t heap enough praise on Sony for their work with animated features. These guys really seem to know what they’re doing. The transfer is immaculate, three-dimensional and electric on the screen, with the 2-D, cell animated scenes on the ground as clean and vibrant as the CGI aerial dogfights. The intense audio work by Skywalker Sound is some of the most realistic and present I’ve ever experienced in an animated film and immaculately represented here in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

The Sky Crawlers Blu-ray disc includes three documentary shorts, each a candid look at the creation of the film and each worth your time. “Animation Research for The Sky Crawlers” (30:52) follows Oshii and his team all over the world as they photoggraph, sketch and record all the visual details required to build the alternate-universe European setting of the film. “The Sound Design and Animation of the Sky Crawlers” (32:16) takes Oshii to San Francisco and Skywalker Sound, giving insight into the critical nature of the film’s sound effects and music to the overall experience. Exclusive to the Blu-ray disc is the 15 minute featurette, “Sky’s the Limit: An Interview with Director Mamoru Oshii”, a sit-down conversation with the director that reveals his intentions for the film and the thought process that ushered the book to script and finally to screen.

The Sky Crawlers is available for $22.99 on Amazon.com – 34% off the MSRP of $34.95

Clicking an image will take you to Amazon.com where you can learn more about the Blu-ray:

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