Many were hoping that 'Diana' would be the story about the Princess of Wales. However, the movie turns out to be just a story about Lady Diana Spencer (played here by Naomi Watts), as it covers only the last couple of years of her life, and focuses primarily on a love affair most of us knew very little about. With a life full of such interesting events and encounters, one can't help but feel disappointed by the story that is presented here.
The movie is bookended by scenes of Diana and Dodi Fayed leaving a hotel on that fateful night in Paris when both would be killed in a horrific car accident. Thankfully, the film doesn't attempt to recreate that scene. Viewers may assume that the story is going to focus on Diana's relationship with Dodi, but instead we learn about a man who Diana met before Mr. Fayed, and one the filmmakers imply was Lady Spencer's one true love.
Diana meets Dr. Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) during a visit to a London hospital, and immediately the two start flirting with one another. Not in a believable way, but in a 'Lifetime movie' sort of way. Their first date is even more laughable, as Diana cooks Hasnat dinner, only to ask her if she can make him a hamburger. She winds up getting him takeout from Burger King. Well, at least someone got their product placement in.
Even though the romance between Diana and Hasnat is too sappy to believe their romance actually developed this way, credit has to go to both actors for making all of this somewhat believable. Andrews, in particular, gives the movie's best performance and it's because of his portrayal as Dr. Khan that 'Diana' is even watchable at all. However, while Watts does just fine as Diana, she's not given very much to work with outside of the typical boy meets girl, girl loses boy scenario we've seen in hundreds of other films. It's only the fact that the movie is about Diana and we already know her tragic end that the events of her romance with Hasnat holds any weight at all.
Although the movie does spend some time detailing Diana's humanitarian efforts – particularly those to bring an end to the use of landmines in places like Angola – most viewers, particularly younger ones who may not have much of a background in either British history or the Royal family, will leave this movie thinking the Princess was a rather inconsequential rich girl who divorced a Prince and fell in love with a commoner. While that's a great idea for a Disney flick, someone as important as Lady Diana deserves a story with a little more depth and a lot more insight into what made her tick.
With all that said, the movie does deserve credit for not diving into areas of exploitation and tabloid fodder. It would have been just as easy to sensationalize Diana's romantic entanglements, and the film at least deserves points for treating its subject with the respect her memory deserves. While 'Diana' does feel very much like a 'lost opportunity', it's not a horrible film – it's just a very average and underwhelming one.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Diana' arrives on Blu-ray in a standard keepcase that houses the 50GB dual-layer disc plus a 14-page color booklet that discusses (and shows photos of) the fashion design in the movie. A slipcover matching the keepcase's slick slides overtop. The Blu-ray is front loaded with a trailer for 'Twice Born'. The main menu consists of a video montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections running along the bottom of the screen.
'Diana' was shot on 35mm film using the Arricam LT, and the transfer here looks decent, although not stunning. Film grain is present, but it has been nicely pushed in the background, so it's hardly obtrusive. Keen eyes will occasionally spot a brief flick of white or black 'dirt' on the print, but they're so rare and few and far between, it's not really an issue. Colors and skin tones often lean on the warm side, but never to the point of oversaturation. As far as details go, it's kind of a mixed bag. Some scenes capture the background well and details can be made out, but there are a ton of scenes where backgrounds are blurred and details are on the flat/soft side. As with many movies on Blu-ray, it's the outdoor scenes that provide the most 'pop', while indoor/set scenes have much less. Black levels are also not as deep as I'd like, leading to some occasional murkiness.
Still, this is a pretty solid presentation, with no noticeable instances of aliasing, banding, artifacting or other problematic issues.
'Diana's main track is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one that is more than enough for a film that focuses primarily on dialogue and has a soundtrack that consists mainly of a lone piano playing (classical in nature). Dialogue is crisp and clear, with no noticeable drop-outs or other glitches. The majority of the spoken word is front and center, with the rear speakers used mainly for ambient sounds and for parts of the musical score. Directionality doesn't play a big factor here, so there's no real feeling of immersiveness, leading to a decent, but unspectacular audio presentation overall.
In addition to the lossless 5.1 track, the Blu-ray also contains a English 2.0 track, plus and English Audio Description Track. Subtitles are offered in English SDH.
The bonus features on this release consist of eight separate interviews with members of the cast and crew. These are the types of interviews where you never hear the interviewer ask the question, but rather text comes up on screen before each answer telling viewers what the person is about to discuss. These interviews cannot be watched together and must be viewed individually.
There haven't been kind words about 'Diana' from the majority of critics out there, the general consensus being that the movie doesn't offer any insight into what Diana was really like, or even cover the more important aspects of her life. All that may be true, but at least the movie doesn't dive into exploitation either, and it actually has a nice (if familiar) message about the pitfalls of fame. 'Diana' is far from the definitive biopic on the Princess of Wales, but it's also far from the disaster you've heard. Rent it.