Legends of Flight may as well be called Brief Overview of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, since that's about all you get in this disappointing documentary. Created for IMAX, Legends of Flight hardly delivers on its promise to spotlight the best in aviation, and instead presents only a superficial look at Boeing's new luxury airliner. Better aviation documentaries air daily on the History Channel, and Legends of Flight barely gets off the runway.
Legends of Flight briefly mentions several other planes, including a Boeing-Stearman Biplane and Airbus's giant A380, but generally focuses on Boeing's newest creation, the 787 Dreamliner, which should be flying by the end of 2011. The documentary follows engineers inside Boeing's Everett, Washington, plant as they hash out the details of the 787, the focus of which is efficiency and not seating capacity. Scenes of the aircraft's maiden flight at the 2007 Paris Air Show are also included and are the best part of the film.
At only 42 minutes, Legends of Flight suffers from the same lack of depth that plagues many IMAX productions. I'm sure it's difficult to exhaust a subject in three quarters of an hour, but Legends of Flight feels like a movie constantly searching for a protagonist. The Dreamliner is its focus, but even that gets slighted. It's like the documentary team shot bits and pieces of footage without having any special access to the locations and then attempted to splice them together to make a coherent film. A digital simulation of some guy moving drawings around on a screen isn't particularly enlightening or entertaining. And the few brief glimpses of the plane in production only left me wanting more.
I can forgive a meager story if the IMAX visuals are outstanding, but Legends of Flight fails to impress in this category, too. Although there are some excellent shots of the Paris Air Show, nothing else really stands out. To make matters worse, the filmmakers decided to use CGI aircrafts for much of the film. Nothing kills the mood like a poorly rendered jet unconvincingly cutting through the clouds, and it's obvious that most in-cockpit scenes were shot on the ground.
I went into Legends of Flight looking forward to an informative aviation history lesson. What I got was a disjointed, unfocused and mistitled documentary lacking in both story and visuals. Aviation buffs will likely be disappointed, as Legends of Flight provides little more on the Dreamliner than what is already available on YouTube or Wikipedia.
Image Entertainment presents Legends of Flight on Blu-ray with 3D and 2D transfers. I cannot yet review 3D Blu-rays, but the 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded 2D transfer is strong. Detail is abundant, and the image is very deep, especially during scenes of simulated flight. Colors are strong and do not bleed, and skin tones appear natural. Contrast is occasionally overblown, but black levels are good. I noticed no compression artifacts, but there is a minimum amount of aliasing and shimmering during a handful of scenes.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is also impressive, and it provides an excellent surround-sound experience. The film uses a lot of directional sounds, and effects pan throughout the sound field. Narration is clear and robust from the center channel, and the score is nicely incorporated into the mix. French and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks also are available, but there are no subtitle options.
The longest extra, a Making-Of (24:20), is more interesting than the film itself. This piece provides a detailed look at the production of the documentary. It includes interviews championing the magic of flight, as well as raw aircraft footage that the final film lacks. Also included are some text-based information on the planes featured in the film and some bonus trailers.
With a title like Legends of Flight, I couldn't help but be disappointed when this documentary turned out to be nothing more than a publicity piece for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Noticeably lacking any "legends" of aviation, Legends of Flight is disjointed and shallow. Even the visuals fail to impress, as the filmmakers rely on CGI for many shots. Image Entertainment's Blu-ray features solid picture and sound and a nice making-of, but the film is a dud. Skip It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.