PictureComparing the picture quality on this 25gig single layer disc to the 30gig dual layered HD DVD shows that the same source material was used for both editions - but for some reason, Universal has chosen to code the Blu-ray in MPEG4 AVC rather than the VC-1 codec that was used for the HD DVD version. No matter - the results are the same and the picture isn't half bad.
Theatrically correct at 2.35:1 and coded at 1080P, the first thing you'll notice is that the disc appears to have avoided the DNR monster that seems to be going around at the moment. There's a massive amount of grain on show - but it doesn't interfere with the picture one iota. In fact, if anything, it adds to the atmosphere and gives the picture a more filmic look.
Secondly, you'll notice just how dark this film is (in every sense of the word...). But again, that doesn't matter. Cleverly filmed so that the backgrounds are actually lighter than the characters onscreen, detail levels are immense. Look into every dark corner and there's something to see - the shadow detail is some of the best I have seen on any disc. You will need to ensure that you have used some kind of set up disc beforehand so that you can actually see the detail though. One notch to low on the brightness, and it all disappears.
Flesh tones are pretty much spot on throughout. Arnies character sports a stubbled chin throughout the film and each and every bristle is visible even in the darkest of rooms.
Be aware though - this disc doesn't shine like other Blu-ray discs might do. Yes - the detail is there. Yes - the colours are bright and solid (though orange seemed a tad bright...) - but peter Hyams has shot this film so that it's not supposed to sparkle.
Every outdoor shot is set in gloom and really look no different to those shot indoors. The sun never shines in December 1999 in New York.
The good news is that this disc doesn't suffer for it. It's not the best of the Universal re-issues...but it's certainly better than some other discs I have seen recently from other studios.
SoundContinuing with their trend of providing a lossless track for each of their Blu-ray releases, Universal have included a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track on this disc.
The HD DVD release of this movie was one of the few Universal discs that sported a lossless track - a Dolby True HD version in that instance. It was good to be able to carry out a direct comparison - and, unsurprisingly, there's not much between them.
The Blu-ray version was decoded by my PS3 and piped to my Yamaha RX-V2700 reference amp via HDMI as LPCM - and the first difference was the volume.
It's long been said by many people that the only difference between Dolby digital and DTS is that the latter is louder - and if more proof were needed, it's here. At least 8db louder on every channel, the soundtrack for this disc will pick you up by the scruff of the neck, bang your head against your speakers, tumble you around your subwoofer a couple of times and throw you back in your viewing seat with a force that you won't forget in a hurry.
Aggression is the order of the day. The scene where Satan appears from the sewer system in New York City will give you bassbox a severe going over. Sure, it's there in the HD DVD version - but again, here it's louder. After I had adjusted (i.e. turned down) the Blu-ray version, there's very little between them.
The surround speakers are used to add to the eeriness of the situation. Split effects are spot on and will have you looking over your shoulder from time to time.
The good news continues with the dialogue. It's clear and audible all the way through and anchored to the front centre channel. You will soon tire of Arnies grunting and yelping though. Obviously added in postproduction, it does for this movie what Elmer Thudd does for Bugs Bunny - gives him a headache. And annoys the hell out of him.
So, while the actual soundtrack isn't as well engineered as say U571, it still isn't half-bad and is probably the best element of this Blu-ray disc.
ExtrasWhere this disc does lose out to the HD DVD version is in this extras department. For whatever reason, Universal has seen fit to drop all the video based material. Oh well. Lets look at what we do have...which is
Directors Commentary by Peter Hyams. It's the same commentary found on both SD and HD previous releases.
The good thing is is that he actually agrees with most film critics...it seems that the director doesn't actually his own film. Whilst he stops short of actually running it down, he does say that most of it was done rather tongue in cheek. Hats off to the guy - who happens to be quite funny with It.
That's about it on the extras side - unless you count the totally pointless My Scenes which allows you to bookmark your favourite chapter so you can go back to them later...needless to say, that particular function stayed un-used throughout this review.
I have been a long term critic of the way that Fox has treated early adopters by removing some very good extras on their back catalogue - notably From Hell, A Bridge Too Far - the list goes on.
I'm really hoping that Universal don't follow that trend - please note Universal. We adopt early because we want the best possible version of a disc - which doesn't entail removing all the extras - some of us actually like them.
VerdictEnd Of Days is not a good film - though it so oh could have been. Never has a movie been spoilt by a miscasting since Batman And Robin. Why directors like to go for quantity over quality when they choose Arnold Schwarzenegger as their leading man defies belief. If you want the big man in your movie, don't give him any scenes where he actually has to act - simple. Give him a role that doesn't involve emotion (or comedy) and your guaranteed a box office hit.
This Blu-ray package is almost identical to the previous HD DVD release - except it's been stripped of all but one of it's extra features - a reasonably good commentary. I hope Universal can up the trend in releasing discs with high quality and sound. But some of us actually like the extra features so please leave them on in future.
You can probably fathom out that it would be hard for me to recommend this as an upgrade for those of you that have the HD DVD version. Those of you that waited for the dust to settle in the HD war may want to rent before committing your hard earned to a purchase.
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