Originally produced for IMAX viewing in 2000, 'Ultimate G's: Zac's Flying Dream' is definitely the most unique IMAX feature I've had the pleasure of seeing. There isn't some all knowing narrator guiding us through a journey of the evolution of flight, or the flying dreams of one young boy. Instead, we have a trial by error look at a boy's attempts to fly, his father's educational expertise on the subject, and then the realization of said dream when the young lad has grown up. It's an interesting, albeit truncated and cheesy, journey, one that surprised me as much as it let me down. Heck, it even taught me a thing or two.
For example, I never knew Michael Cera could play anything other than that awkward teenaged kid. Here, he's the young version of Zac...an awkard pre-teen kid. Consider me shocked that the goofy looking guy actually has acting range...even if only to play what he looks like.
Back on topic, 'Ultimate G's' is a very two toned flick. Not only do we have a young and an old version of all three main characters, we have a film that's divided in half for more reason than to show a progression of time. The entire atmosphere of the film changes. It goes from dreams, to reality, from unbridled hope and enthusiasm and love of planes to the big payoff of one's dreams as a child, a conceit few of us can truly say we've experienced. Honestly, this narrative change may be the one thing that prevents 'Ultimate G's' from being truly special and magical.
Simply put, we didn't need to see Zac (Cera) grow up to be Zac (Joel McNichol), and the same can be said about Laura (Emma Taylor-Isherwood/Emma Campbell) or Carl (Tod Fennell/Frayne McCarthy). The fact that we see the big bully with the fancy, expensive toys, rivaling Zac's homemade contraptions that help him learn the principles of flight firsthand, all grown up, again with the fancier background and experience, is forced. Seriously, it's tough to believe that one encounter in the park (that is definitely the low point of the film, as a wheel that isn't even secured gets "broken," only to be repaired by Laura, who, get this, puts it back on the straight piece of metal it was attached to previously) leads to a lifetime rivalry, over Laura and the skies themselves, even if it helps the brisk runtime get the point across that people don't change.
The first half of this IMAX feature is a real treat, as we see the failures, yet unbroken spirit and determination, of a young boy obsessed with flight, to the point where he doesn't want to read and learn how to do it, as he would rather try to reinvent the wheel himself, even if it leaves him bloodied and bruised. It's honestly sweet and realistic how young Zac tries to make planes out of everything, with each shortsighted idea leading to the child learning what does and doesn't work. Of course, the fact that he isn't seriously maimed, considering how amazingly dangerous one of his inventions was (one that involved a number of motors and fans, some facing upwards, that would easily cut through his features like butter), is a tough stretch of reality to swallow, but it's worth it to see Zac reach that one special moment, where, if even only for a few seconds, he realizes his dreams in the air, that he can romanticize the rest of his life. The father character (Steve Adams) is also a real treat, even if it's too 'Brady Bunch' for most tastes, as he's the perfect film father, ready to let his child fail in order to learn, ready to help at a moment's notice, but also right around the corner, to make sure his child doesn't get injured.
'Ultimate G's' features plenty of actual flight, as well, in the second half of the film, as a pair of prop planes perform a number of tricks, trying to tell a story through the skies rather than words. It works in that it does tell a story...it's just not a good one. The idea of the childhood rivals racing, due to their shared interest in Laura, is a bit cliche and sitcom-like. The characters are more ideals than they are people, once they've grown up, and we have no way to care about them, the same way we did when they were young, ambitious, and interesting. Flight fans will get plenty of kicks out of this feature, and parents should consider this for the children in the house, as it is a fun little way to spend an hour some weekend afternoon. I do question the replay value of 'Ultimate G's,' as well as how much it would appeal to adult audiences, but I still found it interesting, even if it is too two-tone for its own good.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Image Entertainment brings 'Ultimate G's: Zac's Flying Dream' to Blu-ray on a Region A/B/C BD50 Dual Layer Disc, housed in an eco-vortex non-cut-out keep case. There are no annoying pre-menu trailers, just a few company credit screens. While the disc will recognize whether or not it is being played on a 2D or 3D set up, with a main menu that will correspond, the pre-menu screens do not do this, unlike a few other 3D titles.
Since there is no 2D only release of 'Ultimate G's,' the main menu puts the 2D version as the default play button, but beneath it there is the 3D option. Much like Image's previous IMAX Blu-ray 3D features, the MSRP for this release matches what it would be for a 2D only release, so consumers only wanting to pay for the 2D version don't get dinged.
While this release contains both the 2D and 3D versions of the film, and is the only Blu-ray release for either (in other words, there are no standalone editions), the video presentation portion of this review will focus on the 3D edition of the film.
The 1.78:1 framed 1080p picture has its ups and its downs. Detail levels are good, but hardly great, though the blame for that may go on this film's age and camera equipment used, rather than anything caused by the disc itself. Depth isn't infinite, as the picture does have a limit that it can go, meaning the 3D effects aren't overly amazing. Still, deep backgrounds maintain a level of clarity not found in some of the earlier 3D releases.
The killer on this release is ghosting, ye olde crosstalk. I've noticed it in all of Image's 3D titles, and this one is no exception. In fact, it goes from faint and minor to incredibly hefty, and back again throughout the film, with numerous odd faint shadows and outlines remaining, including some that are dangerously thick. I never knew Michael Cera had a third ear, but there it is, clear as day in a few shots, hidden under his hair. The PVC pipes that make up his early flying contraptions overextend dramatically, and the scene following the pool game is definitely the worst, as almost every part of the picture has a phantom lying nearby. There are numerous sequences that don't have this problem, and those are where the picture is its most impressive, including a few shots in the Grand Canyon that made me squirm significantly...from that nasty sinking feeling, not from the 3D presentation. For a budget title, 'Ultimate G's' isn't bad, by any stretch of the imagination. It just cannot ever compete with the other titles we have on this format.
The most impressive component isn't the video. It isn't the aerial stunt work, either. Instead, Image's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix takes the cake as being the real highlight of this Blu-ray 3D release.
Dialogue never falters, and always comes through crystal clear. Rear speakers are engaged perfectly, with superb, regularly used localization, as well as plenty of movement as the flying vessels swoop past the cameras. Dialogue and other ambient noises localize, and shift channels to match changed camera angles, as well. Bass levels get after it, and are hardly anemic, while the range on this release is quite superb, with the symphonic elements really testing the high ends, while also giving great variance in volume.
It's not knock-you-out-of-your-seat audio, as the bass doesn't get truly thumping and vicious, but this is one release that will make consumers with a high end surround sound system quite pleased, while those playing the film through television speakers will miss out on a good portion of the experience.
The lone feature here is a big bundle of Trailers. You get 'The Alps', 'Grand Canyon Adventure - River at Risk', 'Hurricane on the Bayou', 'Journey into Amazing Caves', 'Volcanoes of the Deep Sea', 'Dinosaurs - Giants of Patagonia' (in 3D), and 'Adrenaline Rush'. Strangely, no trailer for the film itself.
'Ultimate G's: Zac's Flying Dream' is an interesting IMAX film, one of the most unique educational tools I've seen in some time. Sure, it has a young Michael Cera in it, but we can forgive that since that's when the feature is at its strongest. This Blu-ray 3D release has mediocre video, very, very good audio, and nothing in the way of extras besides a pile of trailers for other films. If it weren't for the latter half of the movie, I'd give this one a hearty recommendation, but as is, it's still worth a watch.