Amelia is a movie trying too hard. Everything about it screams, “Oscar grab,” tainting a story that is certainly worthy of being told. At times the effect is cringe inducing, those wide camera pans over the clouds, suddenly revealing land like it is a revelation, all set to the “supposed to be but it’s not” inspirational Gabirel Yared score.
Hilary Swank carries an uncanny resemblance to the famed female pilot in a film that pushes the audience into the story with hardly an introduction. There is no sense of Earheart’s motivations. There is one scene showing her as a little girl, watching a plane go over a cornfield, and then she is off on the infamous flight around the world.
She becomes a celebrity, flaunting products from waffle makers to luggage, mostly against her will. There is more sense of her celebrity during this depression era than her eagerness to prove what woman are capable of. You can see the sense of wonder on Swank’s face as she continues to accomplish one goal after another, but it is forced and canned, attempting to deliver some emotion when the script contains none. Certain sub-plots about an affair and her sexuality are dropped as quickly as they are introduced.
Canada sits in for most of the locales, beautifully photographed by director of photography Stuart Dryburgh. Shots from the sky are gorgeous, utilizing real planes, not visual effects, in all but the dangerous situations. It adds some sense of authenticity when the actors are not around, attempting to flaunt their abilities for the Academy.
Nothing is more painful than the MovieTone announcer (Kerin McCue), perfect for a movie trying for comedy or parody of the era, but here is completely out of place. Discussing Earhart’s accomplishments, he sounds in the right period, just the wrong genre. There is a level of enthusiasm at work that seems unnatural, much like the forced drama and generally uninteresting plot developments elsewhere.
You’ll have to wait a while for this AVC encode to impress. The film looks soft, the grain barely even noticeable. You can pick countless scenes to focus on the lack of texture or fine detail. The majority of the film would suffice, after all. A dinner scene at 32:14 works as an example, Richard Gere and Swank terribly out of focus, lacking definition, and resolving little, if any, detail. All of the shots from the air showcasing those wonderful landscapes, are massive disappointments, and do little to treat the source material with the respect it deserves. It maintains its beauty, if not the eye candy. A montage of sights at 1:23:45 are not as powerful as they should be.
Environments on the ground suffer the same fate, Gere’s home at 1:05:38 lacking definition. A wedding in a garden at 37:53 showing some light definition, although still limited and slightly noisy. A grassy field Earhart lands near at 47:54 also moves into the realm of acceptable, if not much else. Clarity is fine. You will find no imperfections on the source for sure beyond the footage of the real Earhart, the first sequence occurring at 11:57. At times, the actual Amelia footage is digitally degraded to match as the movie moves into the modern footage. A shot at 1:28:45 looks like the grain has oddly been heightened, certainly the only time this happens, and Swank seems swallowed by the noisy nature of the scene.
Colors carry a generally warm hue, giving the film an inviting atmosphere, generating powerful primaries such as reds. Flesh tones are likewise a bit on the orange side, although still within the realm of being considered natural. The final moments before Earheart disappears finally renders facial detail remarkably well, beginning near 1:38:08. The Navy members on the ground trying to guide her also exhibit exceptional detail. Black levels, sightly inconsistent elsewhere, catch hold here and generate superlative depth. It’s a shame everything can’t match up.
Fox delivers a clean DTS-HD track for Amelia, one that works wonders when called upon. Plane engines always generate a bit of a jolt in the sub, not too aggressive as to be overpowering, but just enough to make the subwoofer a presence. The highlight is a botched take-off at 1:16:40, loaded with notable surround presence and hefty bass as the plane skids on the ground due to faulty landing gear.
Dialogue is rendered a bit low, requiring some minor adjustments in spots, but is consistent otherwise. Surrounds remain active for much of the film, kicking off early during Earhart’s first major flight at 19:46. A door swings open and the air whipping about creates a strong level of immersion. A thunderstorm late at 1:24:54 is a slight downer, the heavy rain moving through all channels convincingly, while the thunder remains absent from the low-end.
A small musical number at 57:21 is loaded with excellent fidelity, as is the score itself. Highs are clear and the bass satisfactory. Certain dialogue is notably higher pitched, undoubtedly ADR’ed, but these moments are rare.
Making Amelia is the first extra, a well-made making-of that chronicles Earhart herself and Swank getting into the character. The Power of Amelia Earhart is nearly 11-minutes, focusing on the legacy she left behind, but oddly shifts into more making-of material by the end. The Plane Behind the Legend looks at the aircraft, and how the film used a later model. Reconstructing the Plane looks at the process of making the aircrafts (in full mind you) for the shoot, followed by a collection of the real MovieTone news clips and and some deleted scenes (14-minutes worth).