“3 billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines. The computer which controlled the machines, Skynet, sent two Terminators back through time. Their mission: to destroy the leader of the human resistance, John Connor, my son. The first Terminator was programmed to strike at me in the year 1984, before John was born. It failed. The second was set to strike at John himself when he was still a child. As before, the resistance was able to send a lone warrior, a protector for John. It was just a question of which one of them would reach him first.”
When Arnie told us that he’d be back, he wasn’t kidding. Not only has this film been through three cuts of the film itself, but this is at least the 9th home video release of the movie and the second on the young Blu-ray high definition format. Lionsgate is doing everything it can to squeeze as much out of us as possible. I don’t blame them, really. But, is it too soon to release a second Blu-ray of the same movie? Yes, I think that it is. I might not feel quite so bad about the whole thing if I didn’t suspect that there will be another one within the year. With the theatrical release of Terminator: Salvation and the inevitable home video versions of that film, likely by Christmas, my crystal ball predicts a third T2 Blu-ray by the end of this year or the first quarter of the next.
We all know the story by now. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the Terminator model T-800. Sarah Conner (Hamilton) and her son John (Furlong) have reason to be afraid of the T-800. It was the same model that was sent back in time to kill Sarah so that John won’t be born in the last movie. You see, John is fated to lead the resistance to the all powerful Skynet computer system which will eventually destroy mankind. So Skynet has been sending terminators back in time to nip the rebellion in the bud, so to speak. But this T-800 was actually sent back by John himself to protect them. That doesn’t mean, however, that Skynet’s not up to their old tricks. This time they’ve sent back the improved T-1000 model (Patrick) to take out Sarah and John. This terminator is made of a liquid metal that can reform itself, making it nearly impervious to attack.
We all know what happened. T2 is one of the best film sequels ever made. It’s far better than the original Terminator film. The action is incredible. The cast is great. The story is blow your mind stuff. We all know how good the film is. That’s not going to be the question for this review. Is it worth a double dip in the Blu-ray fund to have it?
The new video image is a little bit of a mixed bag here. Lionsgate claims there has been no DNR cleaning done on the print, but I can tell you that it looks much softer and contains less grain than the first edition. I’m told by someone in the industry that what DNR effect I’m seeing is a matter of the encode and not the mastering itself. This one contains a VC-1 encode which I have found to be inferior to the AVC/MPEG-4 codec work I’ve seen. Understand that opinion is not based on any superior technical knowledge of the formats. It is based solely on my observations of the releases I’ve seen. The bit rate plays an important role here as well. The Skynet Edition has an average bit rate somewhere around 29 mbps. My original disc appears to be closer to 35 mbps. There’s more at play here than just the codec. As I’ll discuss in the Special Features portion of my review, there is the presence of all three cuts of the film arrived at through seamless branching technology. That means that only the added material has to be put on the disc here. The film is not encoded three times taking three times as much space. The redundant material is reused for all three versions. That’s a good thing, but it does take up some more room on the disc. Overall the image is sharp and at times does look better than the first, but I really like the first release better. It appears to be closer to the theatrical film I remember seeing than does this one. This version is softer and, in my opinion, not as sharp. The truth is that none of this matters all that much. Whatever differences I can see here are negligible compared to the variation you’ll encounter using different monitors to watch it on. So let’s call the Video a wash.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 is an obvious upgrade from the earlier DTS-ES 5.1 presentation. The surrounds are nearly exactly the same. What is changed is the dynamic range and the sub response. There is absolutely no question that the sound is fuller and more vibrant. The clarity and placement is nearly identical. Skynet Edition gets clear edge in sound.
The Audio Commentaries are exactly the same.
The most obvious upgrade here is the inclusion of all three cuts of the film. Just like the old DVD release you’ll need to input 82997 to get to the Extended Special edition.
Interactive Options: While watching the Special Edition you can access some PiP features that will provide you with a ton of material to watch. It’s great stuff, but man, I hate having to watch it this way.
Extra Scenes: Most of this stuff is part of either the Special Edition or the Extended Special editions and works better inside of the film.
In my opinion, the fact that all of the new good stuff is available only as an interactive film experience decreases their value. You also only get them if you’re watching 1 of the 3 versions.
BDLive: This, of course, is the wild card here. Depending on the kind of materials that become available here, this might seal the deal for getting this version. Of course, you’ll need a 2.0 compliant Blu-ray player to enjoy them.
But, with almost no extras on the first Blu-ray, Skynet Edition takes this round.
From that information it appears that the Skynet Edition is enough of an upgrade for fans to have it. Ordinarily I’d suggest that you rent either, but outlets like Blockbuster often don’t get re-issue editions, so that is not likely a viable option. I would be more comfortable recommending the disc, if I wasn’t convinced that this is not the ultimate version we’re going to see. If Lionsgate has its way you’ll be saying goodbye to even more of your money soon. “Hasta la vista, baby.”
05/23/2009 @ 12:31 am
In this case, the softening has nothing to do with VC-1… The bit-rate is high enough where we wouldn’t expect it.
There are plenty of sharper looking VC-1 titles out there that do not have this problem: Baraka, Domino, Shoot em’ Up.. King Kong. If you compare this version to the UK version, you’ll see there has been “something” going on. It has nothing to do with the codec…. perhaps the encoder. Call it whatever you want. I call it a crappy BD.
05/23/2009 @ 1:27 am
Thanks for the input, Joe.
As I said I’m not 100% sure why the soft image and grain reduction. I agree something’s not quite right here.