Heroes: Season 2 Blu-ray Review
PictureThe discs present a broadcast correct widescreen 1.78:1 1080p transfer using the VC-1 encode. Whatever shortfalls in terms of picture quality that plagued the first season HD DVD have been addresses fully with this second season Blu-ray offering with a solid picture high on detail and colour. Of course this is still a TV show and as such has a TV budget so the frame is noticeably shorter in depth than a cinematic counterpart, however there is still plenty to be gained and still plenty to feed the eye, particularly with Hiro's adventures where the frame really opens up and you get some terrific HD material.
Detail is sharp and clear showing of skin detail, clothing weaves, blades of grass and leaves. Different directors choose to shoot differently however each episode still maintains a clear and detailed image even when focusing between characters.
Colours are bold and solid, rich and lush. Take a look (again) at the greens in Hiro's adventures, such vibrancy and grading. The washed blues of the future also come across with solidity offering no posterization. The reds and oranges juxtaposed with the blues in the 'now' time period are thick and defiant much like the comic books upon which the series represents. Although flesh tones can be a little rosy at times I never found it distracting.
Brightness is set to give some terrific blacks stretching deep into the frame and still containing plenty of shadow detail. Contrast is set to give some blisteringly clear whites, and although it is boosted a little in places this is intentional and any detail lost is again meant to be there, so whilst it is seen it must be marked as such.
Digitally there are no compression problems and only the very faintest whiff of edge enhancement, so little in fact I feel ashamed even mentioning it. The original print is absolutely pristine and whilst there is a little grain seen, particularly against the skies or darker areas this was added and, again, is meant to be there. In all this is a terrific picture and shows how good a TV show can look when it gets it right.
SoundOnly the one track to choose from English DTS-HD Master 5.1 but at least it's a good one. Again an improvement over the first season HD DVD this lossless track really makes the most of the bitrate. The stage is really opened up is far clearer and really concise with its steerage. However that steerage is still rather limited to the front three, the surrounds rarely coming into any significant degree, when they do, however, during ambient effects (thunder, horses, battle scenes) then the stage really opens up. Surrounds are used well for the score though which fills the room and does place you in the centre.
Dialogue is natural sounding and clear and precise. There is a good range with decent bass to ground everything nice and low. LF effects, though, are rather limited so whilst the sub gets some usage it never really plumbs the depths or rocks the foundations. In all I was very pleased with this sound track, by no means reference material but certainly a step up from the typical TV sound track.
- A New Beginning - 0.14.38
A rather tame and by the numbers making of featurette which introduces the premise and takes us through the second season. Think of it as an extended EPK advert for the season and you've got it in one. Redeeming features? None.
- Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint - 0.23.49
This short mock up featurette tells the story of the legendary Takezo Kensei as told by the likes of various scholars and historians in short sound bites that include his deeds, tasks and life. Is all very light and fluffy and would be of greater value if it were not for all the material being constantly being repeated, as it is the story holds some merit but probably only as a one off watch. Clever enough to fool the unwary though.
- Genetics of a Scene - 0.23.14
Takes four scenes from the season that can be played individually or all together and goes into an in depth discussion in to the making/directing/special effects work of each. There are cast and crew interviews, plenty of behind the scenes filming, effects shots and more; this is a particularly well put together feature and there is much information given in the relatively short run time.
- The Drucker Files - 0.08.32
A slightly curious feature this one since Richard Drucker is not a character that appears in the second season but was only seen in the online graphic novels; however it is presented well in a mock news fashion and tell the story of this evolved human that works for the company.
- Tim Sale Gallery - 0.02.01
A montage of the future-predicting paintings used throughout the show.
- Generations Alternate Ending - 0.17.58
An alternate ending filmed for the show before the advent of the writers strike, one which I am not going to spoil here. It's debatable whether or not it is better but does show a different direction to where the series was heading.
- Inside the Alternate Ending - 0.10.85
Don't let the short run time fool you, this is an extremely interesting discussion by Kring and some of his team into their thought process at the time and where they think the series/story would have gone had this ending been used; candid and raw.
- Untold Stories - 0.12.13
Much like the alternate ending, these are short filmed sequences that would have been in the season had there been no strike, though there is nothing particularly revolutionary they provide a tantalising glimpse into what might have been.
- Deleted Scenes - 0.23.47
Each disc plays host to a number of deleted scenes which run for a few minutes or a few seconds, are entirely new or just extensions. Nothing particularly thrilling here but as always it's good to see what could have been, no reasons are given for their excise.
- NBC featurettes - 0.03.46
Three very short shorts that can be played individually or all together and show 'home video' footage of scenes from the show.
Blu-ray Exclusive U-control
Included in this are picture in picture commentaries for all the episodes with a variety of people. Recorded during the post production of the episodes none are really sure where the series was quite heading, particularly the actors, and it is very entertaining to see their reaction to what is happening and where the arcs are going. This makes for a very interesting watch as well as a very interesting listen. A full list of participants and the episode they comment on is listed below:
Four Months Later: Creator/Executive Producer Tim Kring, Co-Executive Producer Jeph Loeb and actor Jack Coleman
Lizards: Executive Producer Allan Arkush, actor Greg Grunberg and Co-Executive Producer Michael Green
Kindred: Episode Director Paul Edwards, Co-Executive Producer JJ Philbin and actor Zachary Quinto
The Kindness of Strangers: Kring and actors Dana Davis & Adrian Pasdar
Fight or Flight: Grunberg and Executive Producer Greg Beeman
The Line: Co-Executive Producers Adam Armus & Kay Foster and Coleman
Out of Time: Director Daniel Attias and actor Masi Oka
Four Months Ago... : actor Milo Ventimiglia and Beeman
Cautionary Tales: Director Greg Yaitanes and actors Kristen Bell & Ashley Crow
Truth & Consequences: Director Adam Kane and actor Stephen Tobolowsky
Powerless: Arkush and composers Lisa Coleman & Wendy Melvoin
Also here is the Heroes connections which is a pop up picture that tries to explain the interconnection between the characters with a little bit about their individual powers, in practice it doesn't really tell you anything you don't already know.
So, plenty to get your teeth into. One oddity that I find at a loss to explain is why all these features are not in 1080 HD, the last four features listed above are MPEG-2 and look awful compared to the mastered material above. However, if you can over look this rather crass mistake the extras package certainly has some entertainment value, the behind the scenes material and the alternate ending being of particular interest. The picture in picture commentaries goes into much detail and are well worth a listen too, if only for the reactions.
VerdictHeroes season two had its problems and unfortunately not all can be blamed on the writers strike. However, it is still one of the best shows on TV so when a series producer has gone on record as saying things didn't quite go according to plan, but it still turns out to be better then much of the dross that pollutes our screens that that can only be a good thing right? Whilst the season may have taken a while to get going, the links were somewhat tenuous and there were the odd contrivance and unexplained plot thread once the train was rolling it never slowed. The season closed with enough momentum to leave you hungry for more and right now, I'm starving.
As a Blu-ray package Universal have put together very worthwhile set; with excellent picture and sound and a fantastic (if annoying with the whole not all in HD) extras package, it seems they have embraced the Blu and that is terrific.
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- A New Beginning - 0.14.38