Superfire (2002)

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Sell-Through Release Status Unknown
Available for Rent

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Disaster Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 83:53
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Steven Quale
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Jay Bunyan
Gedeon Burkhard
Chad Donella
Diane Farr
Katrina Hobbs
Craig McLachlan
Ellen Muth
John Noble
Kate Raison
Wes Studi
Case ?
RPI Rental Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Superfire is a fairly standard American disaster film, in the same vein as Earthquake, or any of the volcano movies, or The Perfect Storm, or...the list goes on. It differs only in the details of its storyline and in some other small ways from this genre. Despite this, the storyline is in some respects surprisingly topical given the recent unprecedented fires in Canberra. These fires rewrote all the rule books on size, intensity and ability to cause trouble far from the base of the fire. It also reflected the attitude of complacency that may have made the Canberra fires worse: the powers that be did not think that a fire could get that big and travel that fast, and thus did not evacuate until far too late.

    The Americans fight fires in some ways differently than we do, in particular the initial attack deep inside their forested areas. They have a group of people known as smoke jumpers. These chaps strap on a fire suit, a special metal grille-faced helmet, and a parachute and drop in near the fire. From there, usually with air support dropping loads of fire retardant, they fight the fire with hand tools. This involves using axes, rakes and special heavy rakes called McCloud tools to cut a manual fire break. This process is called dry fire fighting. Personally, I think these guys are nuts! Jumping out of a perfectly working aircraft, into a fire zone, through the trees to work all day/week at dry fire-fighting - no way! Despite this, there is a waiting list a mile long to join their illustrious ranks.

    The fire jumpers and their support aircrew are central to this story. The story concentrates on them and their interactions with one another. There is of course some tension between certain members due to a previous encounter and there is a new guy, a rookie, who takes some flack. Just to liven things up a little there is a group of wayward teenagers that are off playing hooky, and of course they decide to play hooky right in front of the biggest fire in history. Other threads include the parents of the teenagers and the back story of one of the pilots. We jump from thread to thread as the fire and story build to the usual climax. There are some twists that I won't spoil, although none of these really lift the story out of the humdrum.

    Of course, the other main character is the fire. There are some moments that are not too bad and are portrayed fairly realistically, but the majority just doesn't ring true, nor do the characters' reactions to the fire seem real. A fire this big puts out a lot of heat - if you were anywhere near it you would be in very serious trouble. The characters here don't seem to be in trouble until the actual fire runs right over them. The premise of the story is surprisingly similar to The Perfect Storm in that we have two fires that are going to run together and create a Superfire. This actually doesn't need to happen - superfires are a combination of temperature, lack of rain over a long period, high fuel loads and low humidity. Once a fire gets to a certain point it actually starts to create its own weather patterns, its own wind and can head in any direction. There is some quite good fire footage in this film, mostly I think stock footage from real fires.

    Those are all the good points, but now we come to the ending. Up until this point, we were at most times at least near the bounds of reality. Unfortunately, the ending of this film was just plain wrong. It is a shame that they could not have come up with a better ending, although I suppose that the tail end of most big fires would not make a movie type ending. Over days, even weeks, the fire is slowly contained, back burns are put in place, and eventually the fire burns itself out.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     This is obviously a filmed-for-TV release presented at 1.33:1 and with appropriate scene changes just for the commercials. Overall, this is a very nice transfer despite these failings.

    The transfer is sharp and the shadow detail is good. There is no low level noise. Some of the night scenes are a little high in contrast but this is probably intentional as the lighting is a small camp fire.

    The colours are good, particularly the fire footage, with plenty of saturation and no noise.

    There are no noticeable MPEG artefacts in the transfer. This includes scenes such as the shaky camera work in the aircraft cockpits where the whole image moves and in fast pan scenes. The only slight problem I noticed was near the start where some guys are practising their parachute landings. They are coming down quite quickly and the camera is panning across and there is some smearing.

    There are no subtitles present on this single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is a little disappointing. Present is a single English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with the surround flag set.

    The dialogue quality is good for most of the film. There are a couple of scenes where the roar of the fire and the fact that they are talking over hand-held radios does obscure things a little, but I suspect this might be intentional to add drama to the scene.

    There are no problems with the audio sync.

    The music works well within the context of the film but is nothing particularly memorable.

    The surrounds and the subwoofer are the most disappointing aspect of this film, with merely a standard ambience and music matrix feed to the rears and the subwoofer. Both of these should have been having a great time with this movie, but in fact had little to do.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    Presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, the menus are a montage of scenes from the film with fire animated over the top. Quite nice overall.

Theatrical Trailer (1:23)

    Also presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, this trailer actually represents the film quite well. Many trailers for these types of films go right over the top and both reveal the ending and completely mislead the viewer. This one thankfully doesn't.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Other than the inclusion of closed captions on the R1 version, the discs seem to be identical. There is a European version with a claimed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in Italian. I see no reason to prefer one version over the other apart from your own preferences in the NTSC/PAL debate.

Summary

    There is one thing that I have to get off my chest. When the disc is first inserted, an anti-pirate message from the people at FACT is presented. This is the worst piece of drivel that I have ever been forced to watch. Don't get me wrong - I am against piracy (it's stealing, and no more need be said), but this is just insulting. Linking video piracy to terrorism is just ridiculous and the entire message would insult the intelligence of a five year old.

    It's great to see Wes Studi in a role that almost breaks his typecasting. He is a great actor and is one of the most believable characters in this film. If you are after a little bit of tension, a couple of laughs (both with and at the film) and have a night spare then this film is not too bad, you will just have to ignore the ending.

    The video is very good.

    The audio is a little disappointing.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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