PictureThe anamorphic presentation of 12 Monkeys can be summed up in two words: very good. I was slightly concerned at the start, as the Universal logo looked a little worn, but as soon as the actual film started, I could see I was in for a visual treat.
The film contains many shades of black and grey and these are presented very well with the blacks being deep and rich and not showing any signs of artefacting. The grey buildings of the virus-ridden city are clear and look strangely beautiful in a nightmare-ish way. Skin tones, particularly on Willis' face as, are clear and realistic, especially considering that it is bloody, with many cuts, for most of the film. I saw no signs of bleeding in some of the more colourful moments in the film such as Plummer's mansion, indeed these were all displayed with a superb vibrancy. All in all, a superb transfer I am impressed.
Sound12 Monkeys at the time of its release had not only a Dolby soundtrack but also a DTS one. Wisely putting both soundtracks on the disc, 12 Monkeys was watched with the DTS soundtrack and then a couple of selected scenes with the 5.1 soundtrack.
This is one lively soundtrack. Dialogue is clear and throughout the film the speakers surrounding you come to life with ramblings from a mysterious tramp who gives Willis warnings and instructions for his mission. His dialogue travels through both the rear surrounds and becomes disorientating adding a creepy atmosphere to the proceedings. The carefully constructed sound effects come from behind you and then in he front left and right speakers, again creating a good atmosphere and improving what is already excellent film making.. A lot of care and attention went into the creation of the sound in the editing process and it is a pleasure to see the DVD presentation loses nothing from the cinema experience. The DTS soundtrack as per usual adds a bit more bass and is slightly louder, but from what my ears could tell, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is equally effective.
ExtrasThe extras for 12 Monkeys are presented on both discs, on disc one the only extra is 'The Future is History' timeline. This is a sort of alternative chapter index where you select a year and text written in Japanese tells you about that year and events in the film's timeline. It also allows you to jump to that particular scene. The year is in numerals so this can be used effectively but it's a shame it's only written in Japanese and not English as well. It is however fairly easy by the small screen grabs to work out what part of the film the time line covers.
Disc two is where the majority of the extras are housed. Firstly, we have some on screen text biographies of the three main stars and director again written in Japanese only along with brief interviews (around two minutes). The interviews are recorded in English and have Japanese subtitles. There is also a very brief featurette of around 5 minutes long which contains brief interviews and clips from the film. This featurette is possibly part of the electronic press kit issued around the time of the film's cinema release. Thirdly, we have the standard theatrical trailer that played cinemas. The final extra is 'The Hamster Factor' which is a full length documentary by Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton. The film chronicles the whole film making process of the film from the beginning right through to the night of the film's Premiere. What is unique about this documentary is that we get to all aspects of the film making process from beginning to end. What I liked most of the documentary is that the post production process was covered which includes the editing and even the preview audience scorings. This is unusual for a majority of DVD extras and makes a pleasant change from hastily constructed 'featurettes' which tend to turn up on most releases these days. The film is totally honest in all of the areas covered and leaves no stones unturned. 'The Hamster Factor' is an innovative example of documentary film making and I can see why it played Festivals across the world, because it is simply that good. It is this documentary alone that impressed me the most of the extras package and my scoring below reflects this.
Verdict12 Monkeys is a serious science fiction thriller with possibly the best performance of Bruce Willis' career. Along with The Fisher King and Time Bandits, Terry Gilliam's finest hour(s) The film can be safely considered as a classic of it's genre, so if you do not already own it, pick up this excellent double disc package from Japan. Believe me, you will not regret it.
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