So does Warner’s region-free US release of Demolition Man bring us joy-joy on Blu-ray?
They encode the 2.40:1 print via AVC and the resulting image is very nice indeed. Although I doubt that much in the way of restoration has taken place, the source is in great nick and, for a catalogue title, this provides a bright, lively and wonderfully satisfying picture that looks nice and film-like and has not been betrayed by much in the way of digital tinkering.
Brambilla and DOP Alex Thompson used a style of “liquid lighting” to depict their future cityscape – smoothing grain via slow film-stock and utilising filters to soften the image even further. He wanted a cleansed and sterilised look that appeared bright and sunny and cheerful, yet didn’t lose any of its depth or contrast, or even any detail in the process. Many scenes, as a result, look somewhat soft and dreamy, yet this is how the film has been intended to come across in its visual futuristic code. There are also a number of lens-flares present, with lots of shiny metal surfaces sending out dazzling clouds of shimmering reflections during the brighter or day-lit scenes. The spectrum is very well rendered despite this deliberate aesthetic. Colours are excellently reproduced. Flames, costumes, set-décor, and the odd spattering of blood are keenly displayed. The palette looks cleaner and more vivid than I've seen it before.
The disc copes admirably with the darker elements of the image. Black levels are superb – deep, solid and well defined shadows that do not exhibit any evidence of crushing. Although the film often seems visually light, vibrant and comic-book, much of it is actually set in darker environs. On some earlier versions, the action depicted in such places appeared quite muddy and indistinct. Not so here. I had no trouble discerning the mock 20th Century street design in the lower level of the museum, or the sundry faces of the “Scrapes” down in the sewers. Contrast, therefore, is very good. Whites tend to look diffused and ethereal, such as the police cars, but, once again, this is down to how Brambilla wanted the film to appear.
Texture is well-defined. The healthy sheen of our future denizens is not a result of any DNR, it is down to the photography and the desired makeup, and it serves to provide a witty contrast to the more lived-in faces of our time-displaced rivals. This is another element of the filmmakers' deliberate aesthetic choice. Clothing reveals its texture, as well, such as the black patterned kimono that Spartan wears or the children's TV presenter apparel that Phoenix sports for a while, although the gemstone-dress that Huxley almost wears to dinner at Taco Bell seems to enjoy its shimmery quality a little bit too much. Delineation in hair is also quite surprisingly keen, especially for Snipes' blonde afro.
I didn’t notice any obvious elements of aliasing, and there is no edge enhancement or banding or smearing going on. Overall, I’m very impressed with this. The colours are punchy, the blacks are solid, the grain is natural and the fast-action is supremely well-handled. Demolition Man looks terrific on BD, folks.
Marco Brambilla delivers an aggressive and bombastic film that deserves something with a bit of a kick. We are in the land of hi-octane thrills and spills, gunfire, explosions, ferocious body-blows, vehicular mayhem and lots of assorted SF paraphernalia, and we need a track that can provide power, dynamics and wraparound support.
Well, whilst this DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is not going to challenge more modern fare, it is still modestly rich and detailed, and capable of supplying full-bodied responses from the numerous action scenes that dominate the film. Right from the word go, we get to experience all-channel involvement in the onscreen chaos. Bullets, rotor-blades and explosions give us the kind of introduction that qualifies itself with the term oomph. Stuff like tracer-rounds flash past our ears and there is more solid gunfire once Spartan hits the ground. It's hugely showy, but it still sounds pretty good. We can enjoy some fairly decent sub material that is given appropriate weight and resonance for a film of this vintage. Lots of things get blown up and even more things seem to collapse around our ears. The mix ensures that we get the message loud and clear, though not necessarily packed with a lot of subtlety.
Listen to the spangly electronic bo-yoing of the tazer-like glow-rod when Spartan randomly tests it out on a passerby – the effect is brief but cool in how it spreads out across the soundscape. Phoenix's newfangled laser(ish) gun provides some interesting sizzles that envelope the frontal array with some vibrant pizazz. A few stray ricochets bounce around through the rears, as does the scattering of rubble and debris. The best example of all-round immersion, I feel, comes during the car-chase. There's the whipping past, front-to-rear and vice-versa of speeding vehicles, the shattering of glass, the roaring of engines and, yep, more gunfire. The scrap that Spartan and Huxley have in the corridor with a couple of goons is full of dense impacts, ball-squashing groin-kicks and solid thumping body-blows and slam-downs, all helpfully accompanied by Goldenthal's playful score mickey-mousing the action. All of the various encounters between Spartan and Phoenix contain plenty of meaty, though somewhat dated gun-blasts. Weapons roar out – handguns, shotguns, machine-guns – but there isn't too much clarity and clout within them. As a result, the gunplay, as exciting as it is, doesn't a patch on more modern ballistic presentations. Still, I don't think you'll find much to complain about.
A fine audio mix that won't exactly blow you away, but offers plenty to enjoy, just the same.
All we get here, besides the theatrical trailer, is a rather perfunctory chat-track with director Marco Brambilla and producer Joel Silver. Brambilla offers a few insights into the making of the film and how the original version would have played had certain scenes not been dropped. Silver disappears after a while, leaving Brambilla to carry on with the anecdotes and rather vague reminiscences.
It's not a good track, to be honest. We needed someone like Stallone to liven this up.
A disappointing show for extras on a real SF/action cult favourite.
After returning to form with Cliffhanger, Demolition Man seemed to cement Stallone as being the top action-hero on the screen for a brief but glorious time in the nineties. Very similar in tone and look and style to his subsquent guilty pleasure of Judge Dredd, Stallone's witty and exciting foray into the field of future law enforcement is a riot from start to finish. It is a shame that some material from the script never made it into the finished cut, and things do feel a little rushed and too easily wrapped-up during the final act, but Demolition Man is wonderful entertainment that pokes fun at the whole po-faced future-shock society genre ... and throws in enough crash, bang and wallop to satisfy even the most jaded of action fans.
Sly showed that he could happily lampoon himself and still play the iconic hero with testosterone to spare. This newer, more lighthearted persona was the right way to go, although he would come unstuck again with the likes of The Specialist and Assassins, which would then bounce him into some hideously lower-calibre outings and critical missteps.
Warner defrost John Spartan with a very nice transfer that shows definite improvements in colour, detail and contrast. The film has a distinctive look and the disc handles it faithfully without any unwanted assistance from the digital gremlins. The audio is solid and enjoyable, but still slightly dated. There are certainly some nice moments courtesy of the lossless mix. Extras are in very short supply, and the commentary, really speaking, isn't worth your time.
But Demolition Man comes highly recommended. It is loud, colourful, brash and marvellously entertaining. And also extremely funny. No Stallone fan can afford to be without it.
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