Flight of the Navigator: Limited Edition (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Sep 03, 2019
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Flight of the Navigator: Limited Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Randal Kleiser

Release Date(s)

1986 (August 19, 2019)

Studio(s)

Walt Disney Pictures/Buena Vista Pictures (Second Sight Films)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A

Flight of the Navigator: Limited Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

[Editor’s Note: This is a Region Free release.]

A seminal movie memory for folks of a certain age group, 1986’s Flight of the Navigator wasn’t a box office smash the way its creators were hoping it would be upon its initial release, yet it managed to recoup its costs and find a much larger audience later on home video and through repeated TV airings on The Disney Channel. In the film, 12-year-old David (Joey Cramer) wakes up after a fall in the woods and discovers that the world has aged eight years around him. His parents (Veronica Cartwright and Cliff DeYoung) are elated about his return, but a NASA scientist (Howard Hessman) wants to know more about what happened to him and what his connection is to a mysterious and impenetrable alien spacecraft that has made its way to Earth.

Quantifying my love for Flight of the Navigator is difficult to put into words. For a lot of folks my age and perhaps slightly older, it was a cornerstone of our childhoods, along with movies like The Monster Squad, Ghostbusters, and The Goonies. It’s not a particularly groundbreaking film by any means, but it both touched us and allowed us to live out our childhood whimsies of going on adventures, flying around in an alien spaceship (with who is essentially Pee-Wee Herman), and finding our way home. Not to mention the design of the spaceship itself which, for my money, is still one of the coolest and most original alien spacecrafts ever put on film.

Today, many look back at Flight of the Navigator as an ancient Disney film. Indeed, people of recent generations have likely never even heard of it, along with many of Disney’s live action films since they’ve never been directly available in high definition (subscribers to the Disney Movie Club obviously know better). However, one might underestimate how well the film endures since it’s so well-executed with authentic emotion behind it. It may not hold up technically, but the story is charming and the performances, particularly from Joey Cramer, are strong.

As of this writing, Flight of the Navigator has never made it to Blu-ray in the United States, though I wouldn’t be surprised if an exclusive release was put together for the aforementioned Disney Movie Club. Most don’t realize that the film was actually a negative pickup for Disney, and was developed and produced by Producers Sales Organization. As such, the film has been released elsewhere in the world on disc without Disney’s involvement, which brings us to the new Flight of the Navigator: Limited Edition package from Second Sight Films out of the U.K.

Second Sight’s second Blu-ray incarnation of Flight of the Navigator comes armed with a new 4K scan and restoration from an interpositive element of the film, which has been supervised by director Randal Kleiser (complete with the vintage 1980s/1990s Walt Disney Pictures logo at the start). It’s a vast improvement over the previous Blu-ray release, which was already great to begin with. Detail is more refined and grain levels are solid with a very high encode, getting an incredible amount of depth out of each individual frame. Optical shots are obviously softer, but everything surrounding them is distinct. Color is also improved, particularly blues and greens which are much more natural in appearance, as are skin tones. Blacks are not totally solid because of the grain, but there is no apparent crush on display. Contrast levels are superior as well, and everything appears bright and stable with no instances of dirt, debris, or other types of leftover damage. Overall, a flawless transfer and the finest presentation of the film to date.

The audio is included in English 2.0 LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s quite a potent stereo presentation with plenty of dimensionality. Clarity is outstanding with perfectly discernable dialogue exchanges and a score that fills out the speakers nicely. Sound effects are also muscular, particularly when it comes to panning and ambience. An enveloping stereo presentation for sure, there’s little worth of complaining about. Some might wonder why a 5.1 presentation wasn’t sourced from this track, but it’s more than ample to handle the job on its own.

This release also features a number of extras, including a vintage audio commentary with director Randal Kleiser and executive producer Jonathan Sanger, as well as a new set of interviews: Directing the Navigator, a 7-minute interview with director Randal Kleiser; Producing the Navigator, a 14-minute interview with producer Dimitri Villard; Playing the Navigator, a 22-minute interview with actor Joey Cramer; Mother of the Navigator, a 12-minute interview with actress Veronica Cartwright; Brother of the Navigator, a 10-minute interview with actor Matt Adler; From Concept to Creation: The Special Effects of Flight of the Navigator, an 18-minute featurette with Randal Kleiser, digital effects artist Jeff Kleiser, and conceptual artist Edward Eyth; a 2-sided poster with the original theatrical art on one side and the new artwork for the cover art on the other; and a 98-page booklet containing cast and crew information, The Making of Flight of the Navigator by Kevin Lyons, the original production notes, The Development and Production by producer Dimitri Villard, and all of the original storyboards for the film. The plastic case housing the Blu-ray disc itself features reversible artwork with new art on one side and the original poster art on the other. All of this material is housed within sturdy cardboard packaging.

The new interviews are all excellent and feature a lot of great information about the film’s genesis and production, including the fact that John G. Avildsen (Rocky) almost directed the film, and that both Brian De Palma and James Cameron were approached about it (and were actually interested). Interspersed throughout the interviews are snippets from trailers, TV spots, and production featurettes made for the film, as well as behind-the-scenes photos and screen tests – including one with a very young Chris O’Donnell, who was among the kids being looked at for the lead. Perhaps the most interesting interview of all is with Joey Cramer, who worked consistently throughout the 1980s but subsequently fell off the radar and had personal problems that I don’t feel the need to get into here. Getting the chance to see him alive and well, and happy to be talking about his memories of making the film is a real treat.

A film that I’ve personally wanted a more deluxe release of since the earliest days of DVD, Second Sight’s Limited Edition Blu-ray of Flight of the Navigator exceeds my expectations. A dynamite A/V presentation mixed with substantial and satisfying extras, it’s the only release of the film to own in high definition. For newcomers and old fans alike, it comes highly recommended!

– Tim Salmons

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