Terminator 2: Judgment Day Skynet Edition (UK - BD RB)
Chris Gould examines Optimum's new release of the lastest Terminator 2 BD
Set roughly ten years after the events of the original The Terminator, T2 jumps forward to a time when Sarah Connor has given birth to her son, John. Skynet, the supercomputer that controls the machine armies of the future, has sent another Terminator back through time in an attempt to kill John. However, this is no ordinary machine, but an advanced prototype: the T1000. Composed of a mimetic-poly-alloy, or liquid metal, the T1000 can imitate anything it samples by physical contact, making it an ideal assassin. The future resistance learns of the plan to assassinate John, and manages to capture and reprogram an old T800 series Terminator, assigning it one mission: to protect the life of John Connor at all costs. The race is on to see which machine will find the adolescent Connor first, with the fate of the human race hanging in the balance.
Having given Optimum's previous featureless Blu-ray release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day the once-over fairly recently, I'm not going to bother with a lengthy analysis of a film everyone's already seen countless times. If you really want to read my thoughts on the feature you can do so by heading to the related content option at the bottom of the page, which links to my earlier review. The only thing I will mention here is that this new release improves upon the previous effort by offering not only the Special Edition of the film, but the original theatrical cut and the Extended Special Edition not seen since the original Ultimate Edition DVD release way back in 2000 (and the Korean Ultimate Edition, but I've no idea when that was released). Regardless of which you prefer, it's great to have all three cuts in one set.
Like the previous release of Terminator 2, the Skynet Edition arrives with a 2.35:1 (1080/24p VC-1) widescreen theatrical ratio transfer. Although there didn't seem to be much between the two presentations at first glance, closer inspection revealed a number of improvements over the previous Optimum BD. While it was never the sharpest looking transfer going (something that is also true of this version), the old disc was a solid presentation and I still rate it quite highly after taking the age and shooting style of the film into consideration. However, when I compared it to this newly minted transfer some of its weaknesses become apparent. For one thing, the contrast on this new edition is a marked improvement, being as it is less 'washed out' than the older transfer. Colour rendition also appears to be slightly better than the previous edition, with stronger, bolder hues and more natural skin tones. Black levels seem to be about equal between the two, which is to say that they are suitably deep and retain a decent amount of detail.
Grain is less prevalent than the previous release and the minor edge ringing from the older Optimum disc wasn’t apparent on the Skynet Blu-ray (at least not during normal viewing on a 42" set), but film artefacts appears to be consistent across both releases. There are numerous white/black specks on the print, but they are small enough so as not to be particularly noticeable unless you have a very large screen. Even with the presence of artefacts this is still a great presentation that more than does justice to the source material. While the differences between the two releases aren't astounding, they are noticeable enough to recommend this Skynet Edition over the older disc in terms of video quality.
Edit (June 2010): I wouldn't normally revisit a review so long after originally publishing it, but recently I've been studying the two Optimum releases of Terminator 2 in greater detail and I'm afraid I'm going to have to re-evaluate my assessment of the Skynet version's video quality. I'm a little more familiar with the look of films that have been digitally scrubbed than I used to be, and my methodology for capturing images has improved over time. Haven taken a closer look it seems that, while not perfect, the original Optimum Blu-ray is slightly more detailed than the Skynet disc. It also appears that the colour variations I observed were due in part to inaccurate captures in the original BD review (there is a noticeable red push that isn't present with my current workflow). For these reasons I'm going to have to backtrack and give the original Optimum BD the edge in the visual department, but the rest of the review stands. Apologies for any inconvenience caused, but no one's perfect.
Once again, this Skynet Edition improves on the previous Blu-ray release by offering a DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 soundtrack (the old disc was only 5.1). Unfortunately the layout of my living room prohibits anything more than a 5.1 set-up, so the additional discrete channel was lost on me, although if I understand things correctly my player should automatically be down-mixing the 6.1 track to match my speaker configuration without actually losing any of the information. In any event, my player only reported a 5.1 track, which is odd as it reports other 6.1/7.1 tracks as such.
As to the quality, well it's easily a match for the track on Optimum’s previous release. It's incredibly active right from the get-go, with almost constant use of all of the channels to create a fully immersive world. There's plenty of directionality, be it panning across the front of the sound stage, or clever transitions from the front to the rears. The opening scenes of battle in Los Angeles circa 2029 are incredibly atmospheric, filled with the sounds of Hunker Killers whooshing overhead and plasma rifles blasting away. Bass is extremely ferocious, with each gunshot packing a satisfying punch and some of the larger explosions resulting in ornament displacement. The track also delivers on the subtleties, be it the sound of footsteps echoing in empty corridors, the wind whistling across the desert, or the hum of the T-800’s ‘Terminator Vision’.
Brad Feidel's score sits nicely alongside the rest of the mix, never overwhelming the effects and never becoming buried under the action. My only issue with this release is that there are numerous scenes where the lip-sync drifts in an out to the point that it becomes distracting. To rule out compatibility issues I checked the disc using both my BDP-S550 and my PS3 (using both multi-channel analogue and coaxial digital) and the lip-sync issues remained. However, they were not present when playing back in my PC's BD drive, so I am forced to conclude that the issue lies with my hardware. As with the video the differences between the two releases aren’t night and day, but this is still a technical upgrade due to the presence of an additional channel and a damn fine track to boot.
This is the one area where the gulf between the previous Optimum release and this new Skynet Edition is massive. The older disc had no bonus features to speak of (video and audio calibration tests don't count), so pretty much anything would have been an improvement, but this new release actually contains some fairly decent supplements. The disc takes an eternity to load (it's easily the slowest disc in my collection), but as usual the PS3 is quicker than a standalone player. As you'd expect from a disc produced by Van Ling, the menus are very nice and offer some pretty decent animation (although I believe this may be dependant on the profile of your BD player).
To reiterate my earlier comments, the disc includes three versions of the film. Alongside the original theatrical release (previously unavailable on Blu-ray in the UK) we get the 1993 Special Edition of the film and a hidden 'Extended Special Edition'. The third version of the film is only accessible after entering a secret code on the main menu via your remote control (see the Easter Eggs section of the site for more details).
Audio Commentary by James Cameron and William Wisher: The director and writer are on hand to provide a relatively interesting commentary track that delivers a lot of insider information. As far as I can tell, this track has only previously been available on the American Blu-ray and as part of Extreme Edition DVD set, so it's great to finally have it on a UK Blu-ray release.
Audio Commentary by Cast and Crew: This is the twenty six participant strong 1993 commentary track that was included with the majority of the previous releases of the film. Chances are that you've probably already heard it if you own one of the older copies of the film on DVD.
Visual Implants (Special Edition Only): This is a fancy name for the picture-in-picture elements of the release. From what I can tell, some of the footage is taken from the databank sections of the old Ultimate Edition DVD release and spliced into the feature. We get interview footage, behind-the-scenes material and much more. However, I'm still not entirely convinced by PiP features, and I think that they're best suited to visual commentary tracks, but so far there haven't been too many of those on Blu-ray.
Trivia Data Overlay (Special Edition Only): Select this option if you wish to view text commentary and trivia information while watching the film. Choosing this option will automatically activate the 'Production Data Overlay' and 'Linked Data Modules' options.
Production Data Overlay (Special Edition Only): Select this option if you wish to view specific shot methodologies during the film independently of the other features.
Linked Data Modules (Special Edition Only): This option branches out from the film at various intervals to show short behind the scenes sequences independently of the other features.
Source Code (Special Edition Only): Select this to display the original script in time with the film. This option automatically engages the 'Schematics' feature.
Schematics (Special Edition Only): Select this option to view original storyboard sequences in time with the film independently of the other features.
Query Mode (Special Edition Only): This is a text-based quiz that runs along with the film and asks you to answer multiple choice questions about on-screen events. It's slightly annoying that the film pauses every time a question pops up, but at least it saves your progress between sessions (a function that I assume requires a Profile 2.0 player).
Processor Tests (Special Edition Only): This mode allows you to play Terminator-themed minigames. These take the form of sliding puzzles, timed combinations and the like. You can skip through the film to the next puzzle if you don't want to wait, and your score is saved at the end of each session should you wish to take a break.
Visual Campaigns (08:16 HD): The disc includes the teaser trailer, two theatrical trailers, a trailer for the Special Edition DVD release and the THX trailer, all presented in 1080p with optional subtitles.
Terminated Data (03:17 HD): There are two deleted scenes, both of which appear in the hidden extended edition of the film. The first, 'T-1000's Search', comes with optional commentary from James Cameron and Robert Patrick, while the second, 'Future Coda', includes commentary by Stan Winston, Linda Hamilton and James Cameron.
Dyson Protocol List (01:48 HD): This is really nothing to get excited about, just the credits for the Blu-ray Disc production team (show them some love).
BD-Live: At the time of writing, no BD-Live features are currently available for Terminator 2: Judgment Day, at least in the UK.
Some might question the validity of yet another release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and with good cause. It's one of those films that distributors wheel out every now and then as a guaranteed earner, and it must be up there with Army of Darkness and Night of the Living Dead as one of the most over-exposed titles in history. However, there's clearly still a demand for the film and no one forces us to buy these re-releases, so can you really blame the distributors for releasing it over and over when obsessive collectors keep buying it (especially when there's a new Terminator film on the horizon)?
If you don't already own the film on Blu-ray this is definitely the version to get for the enhanced audio-visual elements, generous bonus material and multiple versions of the feature, but if you're not a particularly huge fan and are unconcerned with extras I'd seriously consider saving you cash until it drops in price. I also have a sneaking suspicion that we'll see a fully remastered release in the next couple of years (2011 is the film's twentieth anniversary). With that said, this is a very good disc so I have no qualms about recommending it. Now all we need is the Blu-ray release of The Terminator, complete with the original mono track in some sort of lossless format (pretty please).
* 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.er.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 1st June 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 English, Dolby Headphone 2.0 English, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio 5.1 French, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 German, Dolby Headphone 2.0 German
Subtitles: English, French, German, Turkish
Extras: Audio Commentaries, BonusView PiP, Deleted Scenes, Trailers, BD-Live
Easter Egg: Yes
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Earl Boen, Joe Morton, Castulo Guerra, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley
Genre: Action and Sci-Fi
Length: 156 minutes
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