Heaven and Hell has always been a huge topic of discussion. There are so many different versions of what one person thinks Heaven is and the same also goes for what Hell is like. Director Vincent Ward takes this topic upon himself in this beautiful description of Heaven, and why we want to be there instead of Hell.
Chris (Robin Williams) and Annie (Annabella Sciorra) are soul mates, from the day that they met each other there was always something special between the two. As their lives progress they have two kids, who are tragically taken away from them in a fatal car accident. Clinging to one another they make it through the toughest times in their lives, but tragedy strikes again. On his way home from work, Chris is killed while trying to help another car accident victim. Suddenly Annie is left completely alone, vulnerable, scared, and without her soul mate. Chris wakes up from the accident watching his life and the people he loved with his "guardian angel" Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.). He goes to his own funeral and sees the deep pain Annie is experiencing by still feeling his presence around her. So he makes his way to "his" heaven...a beautiful world in mind, created from his Annie's pantings. It is a perfect world...the only thing missing is Annie. When Chris learns of his wife's suicide he is actually happy...he gets to be with her again. Upon learning that suicides do not make it to Heaven but actually end up in Hell, Chris knows that the only thing he can do is go find her and bring her back.
You know, it is always entertaining to see Robin Williams spread himself out and do other genres besides comedies. But that isn't to say that I enjoy all of his attempts...especially recently as he as brought himself back into comedies with things like "R.V." and "License to Wed." I do however think he did a fantastic job in "What Dreams May Come" as someone absolutely in love with and devoted to his wife. He won me over, and made me believe that he was truly in love, and that nothing could separate him from his soul mate. Cuba Gooding Jr. on the other hand just didn't seem to fit in...his role was small and didn't seem to work right. It was almost rushed, and felt like..."Oh, we should go get a big name actor for this part." Overall, Robin Williams easily held onto his role and kept us believing in the entire film throughout.
"What Dreams May Come" is not just a movie, but a piece of art. It is supposed to be that way, from a very stylized Heaven and Hell, to the beautiful love story between Chris and Annie. Heaven is such a beautiful place and they way they portray it as a painting, with Chris actually in the painting, is gorgeous. Hell on the other hand is extremely dark, and truly shows off suffering and agony. Heaven and Hell are filled with fantastic visual effects. From the beautiful blue leaf trees to the mountains with waterfalls tumbling down, each scene is perfectly crafted together to make a wonderfully artistic piece.
"What Dreams May Come" may not be accurate to what you believe in, but it is truly a gripping story and visually leads us to believe in the story they are telling. There are many hints to religion, as you can tell they pulled from many different forms of Christianity and even Hinduism. It is merely one artist painting a picture of what he believes Heaven and Hell look like...it is not forceful and at it's core is a beautiful love story.
"What Dreams May Come" could have looked a lot better. It isn't a bad transfer by any means, but you can definitely feel the "age" of the film. Although it is almost 10 years old now, I just didn't feel like the colors popped like they could have. Especially in the amazing Heaven scenes. The colors are good, reds and blues stand out, but the detail is average, and other colors just feel like colors and not a perfect piece of artwork. Skin tones are very nice and warm, and are even throughout. The dark areas are good and black, but detail tends to be lost in these areas. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the way that "What Dreams May Come" looks and feels. I just had high hopes that each color would pop and the world, already very visual and compelling, could be even more impressive with a wonderful transfer.
Here we get a 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus track. This is another just average track, it never stood out to me and got me into the film. It was good, but just not great. The surrounds were definitely what was lacking the most, with just a little filler here and there. I can just image Heaven and Hell really coming alive with the use of the surrounds. The dialogue is actually quite strong and even throughout. Really my only complaint is the surrounds...everything else is good, even, and fits the film...but the surrounds just didn't stand out and make it great.
Featurette: What Dreams May Come: This is just an okay feature, pretty generic, cast and crew interviews, making of, story line, and lots of clips from the film itself. Not a lot to see here.
Alternate Ending: Starts really good, I actually enjoyed it, until the end and it just got weird.
The Visual Effects: Notes from Joel Hynek Visual Effects Supervisor and Josh Rosen Art Director: Here we actually get two interviews in which we are brought through the process of bringing to life a painting. They both tell their stories of how they created it in real life, and then added CG elements, or how they created the painting and made the lighting change. It is okay, again nothing special.
Photo Gallery: These galleries are broken into Production Art, Earth, Paradise, and Hell. The pictures are actually nice, and are fun to look at.
Director Vincent Ward Commentary: Ward is very dry in his commentary, almost as if he was reading from a script that was written so that it would last the entire movie. He pauses, reads, pauses and forgets to put hardly any emotion into it. He does touch on characters, casting, technical details, but it is not an easy listening commentary.
"What Dreams May Come" is not for everyone. I watched it with my wife, and we both highly enjoyed it's visual presentation. Robin Williams did it for us, he clicked and we both believed in him. I think that Director Vincent Ward wanted us to double check ourselves with this artistic piece. After watching, I actually thought of Heaven and Hell, and it led me to think about life and death and what I believe in. I really think that this was the intention of Ward...to visually and emotionally capture us and question what we believe in...not to force us to believe, but to get us thinking again. The audio is good, and same goes for the video, with some pretty standard features...I still have to Recommend you to see this one. It is a good flick that I will definitely go back and watch again.