Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (UK - BD RB)
Chris Gould takes a quick look at this most non-heinous Blu-ray release...
Bill and Ted (Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) are high school no-hopers who dream of forming a rock band, but unless Ted can pass a history exam, he will be shipped off to military school. When a figure from the future arrives with a time-travelling telephone booth, Bill and Ted use it to leap in and out of history, meeting such people as Napoleon, Socrates and Billy the Kid on the way. (Taken from the official synopsis.)
From what I can tell this is a fairly straight port of the US release, which means a 2.35:1 (1080/24p AVC) transfer, albeit presented on a BD50 disc to accommodate the extras. Thinking about it, this is probably the first time I've seen Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure in its original theatrical ratio, as I first viewed it on VHS back in the nineties and subsequently on television broadcasts long before widescreen was commonplace. The overall quality isn't up there with the best catalogue titles, but it's not too bad all things considered. Grain is present throughout, and there’s a reasonable level of detail, especially when compared to the standard definition DVD release (based on screen captures of the latter). What little softness there is would appear to result from the original photography, rather than any digital filtering. Colours are nicely saturated without looking cartoonish, and contrast is natural, neither crushing dark areas of the screen nor blowing out the highlights. I didn't spot any digital artefacts of note, and while there are a few film artefacts to be seen here and there they don't detract from the filmic nature of the presentation. This isn’t quite an 'A grade' presentation, but it's a solid 'B'.
The disc includes both lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 Stereo tracks. I went with the former for the purposes of the review and it marked the first time I'd ever heard the film in anything other than stereo. Most of the action occurs up front, with strong dialogue (save for one or two isolated incidents) and reasonable separation, but the surround channels do get a look in from time to time. Of particular note are the sequences in which the phone booth travels through the time vortex, during which the crackle of energy can be heard from behind, but other than that the rears are used most to provide the soundtrack with a little more presence. There’s very little in the way of low frequency effects, but the subwoofer occasionally springs to life during some of the music numbers. In short, this is pretty much what I was expecting from a low-budget, twenty-five-year-old movie.
This is one area where the UK release would appear to have an advantage over the US one, as it includes quite a bit more in the way of bonus material. Having said that, a fair bit of it pertains to the sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, and few of the extras are on any real worth or interest. I'm guessing these extras were culled from the DVD releases of both films (they’re presented in standard-definition). Here’s what you can expect to find:
- The Original Bill’s Ted: In Conversation with Ed & Chris: Bill & Ted's creators site down to discuss the genesis of the characters and the film.
- Score! An Interview with Guitarist Steve Vai’: The guitarist provides an overview of his involvement with the film.
- Air Guitar Tutorial with Bjorn Turoque & the Rockness Monster: At first I thought this was a spoof piece, but a quick Internet search reveals that these people really do compete in competitions...
- The Hysterical Personages of Bill & Ted: Short biographies of some of the historical characters featured in the film and its sequel.
- One Sweet and Sour Chinese Adventure to-Go: The first episode of the Bill & Ted animated TV show.
- The Linguistic Stylings of Bill & Ted: This short piece translates some of the duo's more popular sayings, such as 'bogus', 'heinous' and 'bodacious'.
- Radio Spots: Pretty self-explanatory this one.
- Stills Gallery: As is this.
- From Scribble to Script: Almost twelve minutes of barely-legible handwritten notes and early script revisions.
I hadn’t seen the film in years, but watching it again brought back memories of that first sight unseen rental and the subsequent Bill & Ted craze that swept my school. Truth be told I’m a bigger fan of the more polished sequel, but I still have a lot of love for the original film. As for the Blu-ray? Well, it’s not quite 'excellent', but thankfully it's far from 'bogus'. It offers up a surprisingly good video transfer coupled with a respectable audio track, and while the extras are simply recycled from old DVD releases they’re reasonably plentiful if not particularly 'triumphant'.
Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 17th March 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 English
Extras: Interviews, Featurettes, Animated Episode, Radio Spots, Stills Gallery, Script
Easter Egg: No
Director: Stephen Herek
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin
Length: 90 minutes