Blu-ray Review: ‘Empire of the Sun’ 25th Anniversary Edition

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The 1987 World War II epic "Empire of the Sun" releases on a DigiBook package consisting of a Blu-ray disc and a DVD. This two-disc set serves as the film's 25th Anniversary Edition offering. A powerful portrait of lost innocence in a foreign land, this tale becomes a compelling adaptation of J.G. Ballard's best-selling, semi-autobiographical novel of the same title. The narrative reflects his own coming-of-age story about living as a prisoner in an internment camp at a young age.

This cinematic opus helmed by Steven Spielberg features a very young Christian Bale on the lead role. It also stars a good number of established actors from the 1980s including John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, Nigel Havers, Joe Pantoliano, Leslie Phillips, and Ben Stiller. The story revolves around the life of a privileged English boy separated from his family during the war. This forces him to grow up fast in order to survive the chaos of his times.

Visuals

This beautifully shot motion picture delivers a striking, near-perfect catalog presentation. The majestic cinematography generally promotes a dreamlike atmosphere with a good number of eye-popping widescreen vistas. Shots often showcase a faint veneer of pleasant grain. There are no signs of detrimental wear or significant artifacting, ringing, banding, aliasing, errant noise, and other troubling anomalies to note anywhere in the picture.

Even as a dated piece, the presentation boasts accurate colors, nicely resolved textures, and exquisite details. Skintones are beautifully saturated and exceptionally lifelike. Contrast remains consistent throughout. Shadows always exhibit satisfying depth and darkness.

Audio

The audio presentation features a five-channel lossless track with alternative stereo options in Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Italian. As a 1980s picture, the film understandably lacks the power and punch of a modern top-tier war film. Yet, the surround mix, which is mostly utilized for atmospheric effects, still offers a reasonably immersive sonic experience. No crucial audio problems plague the mix.

This digital incarnation of the film provides decent directionality, smooth pans, and satisfying fidelity and dynamic range that really help envelope the audience, especially in crucial scenes. Speaking lines are always clear and intelligible. Many scenes host ample rear speaker activity. The emotional score often soars high in the track.

Supplements

This release comes with a very attractive DigiBook package, along with the two worthwhile documentaries "The China Odyssey" and "Warner at War" and the film's theatrical trailer. All videos are presented in SD format. Subtitles options are available in English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German SDH, Italian SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.

Final Thoughts

"Empire of the Sun" is a moving masterwork that reveals the inner life of a child struggling against the horrors of war. Christian Bale delivers a startlingly mature performance for a new child star in this film. Rich and haunting for the sheer size of its story and Spielberg's brilliantly grappling storytelling, this wartime epic creates a truly authentic backdrop for its characters. For its target market, its impact can further grow on its audience on repeated viewings.

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