Predator (UK - BD RB)
Chris Gould checks out another of Fox's bare-bones old school Blu-ray releases
Predator stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Major 'Dutch' Schaefer, leader of an elite mercenary unit hired by the CIA to rescue a cabinet minister who is being held somewhere in Central America by a group of guerillas. The team are accompanied on the mission by Dutch's old friend Dillon (Carl Weathers), but things get off to a bad start with the discovery of the mutilated bodies of a group of Green Berets. Upon further investigation Dutch realises that he knew the dead men and quizzes Dillon about their presence. Dillon denies all knowledge of the Green Berets' mission, blaming the guerrillas for the atrocities.
The team tracks the guerillas down and a bloody battle ensues, but when the fighting has subsided it becomes apparent that there was no cabinet minister and that Dillon and the CIA used the team to stop a potential security threat to the United States. Angered by his friend's deception, Dutch orders his team to retreat to the evacuation point, taking the only surviving guerilla along with them for the intelligence she can provide. Shortly afterwards the prisoner tries to escape and is pursued by one of Dutch’s team. Just as he catches up to the woman, a mysterious, almost invisible shape emerges from the jungle, cuts him down and carries the corpse off into the trees.
It soon becomes apparent that the guerrillas were not responsible for what happened to the Green Berets and that someone, or something, else is stalking the commandos through the jungle. They are being tracked by an implacable alien creature, capable of blending into the surrounding environment and possessed of superior technology. This unseen assassin picks the commandos off one by one until only the girl and Dutch remain. He alone must face the hunter with whatever primitive weaponry he can muster in the ultimate battle for survival.
As with RoboCop before it, Predator arrives with an MPEG-2 encoded 1.85:1 transfer (1080p). My first thought as the opening Fox logo appeared on-screen was 'oh my God'—the word grainy doesn't do it justice. As the film progressed my initial suspicion that the this Blu-ray release came from the same master as the older DVD releases was pretty much confirmed. Thankfully it seems to be the master used for the most recent 'Definitive Editions', as most of the nicks and scratches that plagued the earlier releases have been eliminated. Excessive grain is also less of an issue this time around, but there is still a disturbing amount of telecine wobble early on. The quality of the image is probably best described as variable, switching from sharp and clean to a grain-filled blur-fest, then back again. Thankfully we get the sharp and clean version for most of the running time.
While this isn't the full-blown restoration I'd hoped for, there are a number of obvious positives. The enhanced resolution makes for the sharpest looking version of the film yet seen on a home format, making it possible to pick out individual beads of sweat on the actors' faces (for example). Colour rendition is also improved over the various DVD releases, with the lush greens of the jungle looking especially impressive. As an aside, I was also impressed by how well the special effects stood up to scrutiny under the high-definition microscope. Not bad for a film fast approaching its twenty-first birthday.
Fox provides us with another DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, but once again I was unable to hear anything beyond the DTS Core track thanks to hardware limitations. To be honest with you I don't think I was really missing much, because the track hasn't undergone any significant remastering. In fact, it doesn't sound significantly different from the DVD release to my ears. The rears still sound like Mono rather than discrete channels, which is most disappointing. Fidelity is also lacking throughout, dialogue levels are inconsistent and the whole thing sounds a bit flat. Blaine firing off his minigun is an event that should shake the room, but the track never really provides the necessary 'oomph' in the bass department. It does pack a little more punch than the equivalent DTS track on DVD, but it's not night and day by any means. I don't want to be unnecessarily harsh, but on reflection I felt that the lack of discrete surround action warranted the deduction of a point from my original score.
This is yet another bare-bones Fox release. The only bonus material on offer comes in the form of a series of trailers, for Predator itself, Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes remake and Eragon. It's hardly much to excited about. There are plenty of extras that could have been ported over from the standard definition releases of the film, so the lack of any worthy material really is shocking.
Predator is one of the ultimate 'pizza night' films; full of guts, guns and pithy one-liners. I really enjoy the film for what it is, although it's not on the same level as Ridley Scott's Alien or Jim Cameron's Aliens. Still, now that the xenomorphs from both franchises have been reduced to appearing in Paul W.S. Anderson movies, Predator serves as a welcome reminder of the good old days before bullet-time face-huggers.
Unfortunately Fox again fails to treat an iconic film with the respect it deserves. This is one of the biggest action films of the 80s starring one of the biggest names in Hollywood—a bare-bones disc really isn't good enough. While this is currently the best looking and sounding version of Predator available—purely by virtue of the fact that it is a high-definition release—it still falls considerably short of my expectations for the format. Predator should have been completely remastered and given a full compliment of bonus material to really show off the capabilities of the Blu-ray format. Die hard fans might want to pick this one up to tide them over, but it's over-priced, under-specced, and I can't see it shifting many Blu-ray players.
* Note: The above images 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
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 12th May 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 Italian, DTS 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English HoH, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish
Easter Egg: No
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, R.G. Armstrong, Shane Black, Kevin Peter Hall
Genre: Action and Sci-Fi
Length: 107 minutes
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