In Short: Fine DVD quality from New Line, but an awful movie.
"The Astronaut's Wife" certainly seemed like a worthwhile project for all involved; it carried a fine cast in Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron, and was headed by first time writer/director Rand Ravich. While the marketing push by New Line was not exactly forceful, I was still curious to how a picture with these elements could be a failure the first week out in theaters. Viewing it on this DVD release for the first time reveals an interesting, if seriously flawed debut for the director.
The film stars Charlize Theron as Jillian Armacost, the wife of an astronaut who is lost in orbit for a matter of minutes during a shuttle mission. While Spencer(Johnny Depp) comes back seemingly unharmed, there is something not quite right about the way he acts. His personality changes in a subtle fashion, and then certainly takes a turn for the worse as Jillian is expecting twins. The director gets the ominous tone right, but there doesn't seem to be an idea of how long is too long to keep an audience waiting - there's a boundary where, after a point, the audience begins to simply give up. Occasionally, the movie drifts into unexpectedly cheesy waters without warning, stopping what little pace there is completely. There's no really well-defined bad guy - Depp tries to play evil as the character goes through the movie, but really doesn't succeed.
It's a movie that contains a rather fascinating lack of balance. The screenplay is certainly lacking, and sometimes the dialogue is a little laughable. The performances by Depp and Theron are fine, but certainly not some of their best moments. Pacing is awkward and almost incredibly slow - there were moments during the early parts of the film where I wanted to reach for the remote. Amazingly, all of this is wrapped up in a high-gloss package full of elaborate and gorgeous sets and a few scenes that have highly impressive cinematography. The entire movie is wrapped up in an elegant, icy gloom that, while pretty to look at, doesn't help the audience become involved. I enjoyed an aspect or two of this picture, but that was pretty much overshadowed by how bored I was doing this movie and I must say, I haven't been this bored by a movie in quite some time. Nor have I seen such a lame, silly ending.
In the universe of work that New Line home video has done, this is a very strong effort, but not their most impressive. Images are sharp, clear and reveal very good detail throughout the picture. Colors are impressive as well - there are many instances where the film displays rich, deep colors and they are vibrant and well-saturated throughout, never bleeding. Flesh tones are accurate and black level is strong as well. There are a few slight traces of pixelation, but nothing that's distracting. The print used is also an excellent condition. Still, a good presentation of what I consider to be impressive cinematography from Allen Daviau ("E.T", "The Color Purple"). There's the choice of a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen edition of the movie or the full frame version from the main menu.
SOUND: When this film really gets going (when it finally gets going, I should say) the audio begins to get more effective, with fine use of the surrounds. Between the handful of intense scenes though, the movie doesn't have too much to offer in the audio department. The score, by George S. Clinton, is nicely chilling, and sounds crystal clear. Dialogue is free of problems and sounds natural throughout.
MENUS:: Definitely cool menu work from New Line - a clip from the movie leads into a nicely animated main menu - there is also animation when choices are made from the main menu.
Final Thoughts Not even worth a rental - although the audio/video quality is the usual great work from New Line, that doesn't make this movie any easier to sit through.
The Film 50/F = (250/500 possible points)
FILM QUALITY: F/50%
Video 89/B+ = (356/400 possible points)
Audio: 90/A- = (360/400 possible points)
Extras: 65/D = (195/300 possible points)
Menus 80/B- = (160/200 possible points)
Value: 75/C = (225/300 possible points)
DVD QUALITY: B-/81%
FILM GRADE: F
DVD QUALITY GRADE: B-