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Terminator 2 - Judgment Day
Though making a sequel to a successful film is very common place in Hollywood, the number of sequels that are just as good or better than the original film can be counted on your fingers. Most of these secondary movies totally fail to understand what made the original movie so popular, mine territory that has already been exhausted by the first movie, or are just rushed into production hoping to cash in before everyone forgets the original movie. One of these rare quality sequels is Terminator 2: Judgement Day. This sequel to James Cameron's 1984 hit was released six years after the original and manages to capture lightning in a bottle for a second time. The film has been well represented on DVD, being released three times, in addition to all the other releases on VHS and Laser disc. So it's no surprise that Lions Gate has decided to make this one of its first Blu-Ray DVDs. This HD version of the film looks very good, and is one of the few Blu-Ray discs to do so.
I'm not a gambling man, but I'd be willing to bet everyone who is reading this review is familiar with the plot to this movie. So I'll make the recap brief.
Having failed to kill Sara Connor (Linda Hamilton) before she could give birth to her son and future resistance leader John Connor (Edward Furlong), the machines from the future send back another Terminator, a T-1000 model made out of liquid metal that can shape itself into nearly any form, to kill the boy before while he's still young and vulnerable. To protect humanity's savior, the good guys send something back through time also, a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) Terminator. Together the three of them have to keep John alive while trying to destroy Skynet, the computer system that will eventually declare war on humanity.
With this film Cameron was able to give fans of the original exactly what they were hoping for, a movie that was exactly like the first one, only different. The plots of the two films are pretty much the same, but the added character of John Connor and the fact that Arnold is now on the good guy's side changes things up enough to make the movie feel new and fresh.
Filled with a fun plot, plenty of action and some unexpected surprises, this is a great film. The action scenes are exciting, the story is easy to get caught up in, and it's just fun to see what happened after the first film. Everything might not have turned out as you thought it would, but the plot for this film grows realistically from the first. Not just a great sequel, but a great movie altogether.
This disc includes the theatrical 137 minute cut of this film. The other versions are not present unfortunately.
Note: The only Blu-Ray DVD player on the market at the time of this review is the Samsung BD-P1000. Apparently an error crept into the design, and a noise reduction algorithm on one of the chips was turned on which creates a softer picture. As yet there is no fix for this, or even an official announcement from Samsung.
The widescreen 2.35:1 image actually looks very good. I've seen so many Blu-Ray transfers that look like very good SD DVDs that when I see one that actually looks HD for the entire film I'm pretty surprised. Just about all of the movie has that three dimensional feeling that HD is known for. The explosions look very impressive, and the initial chase with John Connor and the T-1000 sets not only the tone for the movie, but how this disc will look.
The level of detail is very good, and is improved over the SD Extreme release. Items in the background are more strongly defined and the sand and dirt of the desert has more structure and texture to it.
Of course, there is the grain issue. All of the Blu-Ray discs that I've seen have a good amount of grain and digital noise, and this release is no different. At least this film has an excuse. It was shot of Super 35 film which offers more flexibility when it comes to editing, and director James Cameron prefers the format. Unfortunately the format has inherently more grain than other formats, and that is evident watching this disc. That's where the big disadvantage of HD comes into play; with higher resolution minor defects like grain that weren't very noticeable at 480i are rather easy to spot. Digital noise also creeps in too, and parts in a few parts of the movie it can be a bit distracting.
The colors were good, a little sedated and not overly bright as the director intended, and they were solid throughout and appeared even. The black levels were right on also, with inky black dark areas and a good amount of contrast.
The one thing that was rather troubling was the stutter effect that plagues a lot of the initial Lions Gate Blu-Ray releases. If you watch the film with the DTS audio option (which is the default) some action sequences involving fast movement aren't smooth like they should be. It looks like frames are dropped and the action appears to stutter. This defect can be eliminated by selecting the DD 5.1 audio track. It's a shame that early adopters have to choose between superior sound and acceptable video though.
This release offers viewers the choice between a 5.1 DTS-ES mix and a 5.1 DD-EX mix. There is no uncompressed PCM audio track for this film, which is a good thing. With only single layer discs being released right now, the PCM gobbles up too much room. I'd rather have the room on the disc be used to give a superior picture and include some extras than to include PCM audio track that will gives slightly better sound.
As stated in the video section, the DTS track causes the image to stutter during playback which really makes it useless. Whether this is a problem with the Samsung player (the only Blu-Ray deck on the market at this time) or the disc is hard to say.
This movie has always had an impressive soundtrack, and it is reproduced very well on this disc. The DD 5.1-EX track is very good, giving a lot of bass to rattle your windows as well as clearly reproducing the dialog. The entire soundstage is used, enveloping the viewer in sound that really accents the action on screen. All of the speakers get quite a workout during this film, with the rears effectively used for music and effects. Even the lower level sounds were solid and didn't get lost in the mix. While this doesn't improve a lot on the audio tracks that are currently available, it does sound good.
Bucking the trend for Blu-Ray discs, there are actual some significant extras on this disc. While all of the material on the Ultimate and Extreme editions aren't included, there is more here than I would have thought.
The bonus material consists of two commentary tracks, both culled from the Ultimate and Extreme editions. The first is a 1993 compilation of interviews with 26 members of the cast and crew. All of the major players are here, and though the track doesn't address what's happening on the screen, it does give a lot of interesting information.
The next commentary track is provided by James Cameron and co-writer William Wisher. This is one of the better commentary tracks out there. Cameron and Wisher are entertaining and discuss all aspects of the production and filming. This is one of those tracks that once you start it you can't quite tear yourself away to turn it off. An excellent bonus feature.
This is one of the better Blu-Ray discs that have been released. The image is much better than the SD releases, the sound is solid, and the two commentary tracks are significant bonus features. While I really wish they had included all of the bonus features from the various releases on a double layer Blu-ray "Extremely Ultimate" edition, I'm sure that will come out someday. Until then, this is the best this film has looked. The only thing that keeps me from giving this release a 'highly recommended' rating is the lack of alternative cuts of the movie and minimal extras. With the history of multiple releases that this film has, it doesn't take a great leap of faith to think that another version will be released before too long. It's still the best looking Blu-Ray disc I've seen to date, and for that reason it is recommended.