12 Monkeys: Collector's Edition DVD Review
PictureTwelve Monkeys is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer that has many more problems than you would normally expect in a film that is just ten years old, but I think that you have to put a great deal of it down to Gilliam's style of filming because his movies commonly have a blurry dreamy look. Unfortunately, from a technical standpoint, the transfer often does not stand up to critical appraisal - even if it is supposedly re-mastered and better than that on the original release. Many scenes exhibit softness, some to a high degree, whilst others are extremely accurate with excellent detail and others still have notable edge enhancement. Luckily there is very little grain apparent over the duration and the shadow and black levels are normally noteworthy. The colour scheme is wide and varied but often the colours seem slightly muted and faded, although not to such a degree that you find it affects your viewing pleasure. Overall, it is a decent transfer considering the original material, but you have to be prepared to handle Gilliam's particular style of cinematography.
SoundThe main track is a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort that is definitely biased towards the front and centre channels. The vocals are always at the forefront, never less than clear and sometimes used to show some excellent track directionality (particularly in the second 'future' scene). The score rumbles out around you, again mainly emanating from the frontal array, and some of the more prominent music tracks, particularly when the radio is on, really make the audio stand out on this release. There isn't a great deal of bass but there are a few neat effects that get to burst out into your living room. It is a fairly solid effort - although perhaps not quite up to the standard of some of the best DTS tracks out there.
ExtrasThe DVD plays a bunch of trailers on start-up, including the 10th Anniversary edition of the exceptional Scorsese/DeNiro collaboration, Casino, and the new Michael Keaton mystery White Noise. The first of the main features is a commentary with the director Terry Gilliam and the writer Producer Charles Roven. They talk about everything from the title card and sequence to the script and the audience reactions on release, often explaining their reasoning behind the ideas and concepts. They also spend a great deal talking about the two leads: getting Bruce away from Die Hard roles, Brad and Bruce in their role reversal and what Brad did as research - checking into a psychiatric ward etc. They discuss set design (or lack thereof) and the story itself, including the dream sequence. It is a very interesting, fun and informative commentary with some nice anecdotes.
The meat of the special features comes in the form of a ninety-minute making-of documentary Hamster Factor and Other Tales of 12 Monkeys. It follows the start of the production back in 1994 and takes an in-depth look at the evolution of the project. We get plenty of Gilliam's fantastic animations, used to trace the path of his own film career, snippets of behind the scenes footage featuring Bruce, Brad and Madeleine in action. They discuss how the budget was capped by the studios to a mere $29 Million and how they had to use improvisation and adaptation to get around this issue. They talk about the original concept - from La Jetée - and the changes that had to be made to realise the vision. Towards the end you can see just how close to walking out Gilliam is, becoming ever frustrated at not being able to achieve what he can imagine. It is an interesting, honest and informative documentary that is more in the style of the Apocalypse Now documentary Hearts of Darkness or The Shining's making-of than your usual Hollywood promotional fluff.
The 12 Monkeys Archives provide a 138-photo slideshow of concept art and promotional material from the movie, including logo designs, costume designs, location and set photos, storyboards (probably the most interesting) and photos of the cast and crew.
There are also extensive production notes that detail the concept, and how the movie came to life, featuring several quotes from the cast and crew. There is a great deal about the sets and locations used, along with the foraging for props - but almost all of it has been covered verbally and visually in the other featurettes.
Finally we get two theatrical trailers for the main feature.
Verdict12 Monkeys is a rare find - a Hollywood funded independent production with a visionary director and a stellar cast. The script and story are top-notch and all of these features are well-represented by this new release of the movie. Although difficult to judge because of the very style of the film, it seems apparent that some work has gone into the re-mastering of the video transfer and with an excellent audio track and a wealth of informative extras, what more could you want? (I hear somebody cry 'DTS') If you haven't already got a copy then this is still a no-brainer, but if you have it is probably not worthy of an upgrade.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £9.29
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