This transfer has been approved by Guillermo Del Toro. He makes reference in his commentary to the corrected colour timings and the intensity of the black levels being exactly as they were intended.
Although this may not look like the sharpest, most dazzling hi-def image around, I was still pretty impressed by the transfer. Encoded via AVC and presented 1.85:1, Del Toro's Mimic oozes with visual atmosphere and a resolutely gothic appeal. The print is in fine shape and grain is natural and consistent throughout. Some have cried out that the image is too noisy at times but, whilst this is indeed the case on occasion, I did not find it at all distracting. The transfer does not suffer any untoward processing side-effects. Unwanted aliasing and compression defects don't rear their ugly heads. Banding is only apparent during the opening logo for Dimension Films, and edge enhancement and aberrant DNR are not issues.
Mimic, perhaps even more than most horror films, depends totally on its use of shadows. If the transfer wasn't able to convey stable, solid blacks and spot-on shadow definition, the movie's atmosphere would suffer immensely. Thankfully, then, Lionsgate's disc does an admirable job of maintaining them with vigour and consistency. I'm not saying that the blacks are completely obsidian – though I doubt you will have seen much thicker or darker – but they are perfectly balanced in integrity and often blanket huge portions of the screen to leave only the minutest of details on offer, which is exactly what Del Toro ordered. There is no element of transfer-created crushing going on either, which is something that Mimic really could have suffered from. If you find no detail in the shadows – and you probably won't - you weren't supposed to see any in them in the first place. Contrast, in such trying circumstances, is excellent and copes with all this extremely well, sporting a natural and believable balance. There are a couple of elements when whites appear hot but, again, this appears intentional.
As we have already discussed, Del Toro wanted the palette to be lit with cyan and pockmarked with amber. These elements are wonderfully adhered-to by the transfer. The push towards cyan is unmistakable, and the amber elements are suitably warm and sickly. So, Mimic is not exactly a colourful film. It spends most of its time in a gothic, almost monochromatic environment. Pockets of light illuminate only what we are meant to see in the subterranean warren, but this light is natural-looking and not artificially brightened for the transfer. There's a splash of blood, and this comes over well. There's actually a much bigger splash of white paint – which also comes over very well. The stained-glass windows offer some bright and well-saturated colours, and there are some subtle hues that decorate the innards of a bug being examined. But, overall, this is a film transfer that you will remember for its shadows.
As with so many film transfer that I'm seeing these days, the hi-def image really seems to love certain faces overs. In this we have the tremendously lived-in, character-filled faces of F. Murray Abraham and Giancarlo Giannini that truly reveal oodles of texture and nuance thanks to the greater definition. Other close-ups are nicely rendered too – most notably those of the Judas bugs, themselves. Mandibles and icky-bits? Yep, lovingly presented if that's the right word. I won't praise the detail levels too much, however. As good as they are, and they are certainly much better than I have ever seen them before, this is not an image that yields up clinical or finite detail. The film is slightly soft-looking, and there are some scene-setting shots of the streets and the city at large that actually look quite poorly resolved and of much lesser quality than the surrounding film. One or two look no better than DVD, but this must again be inherent to the source and these are, thankfully, only the briefest of shots. What does really please is the detail that we can now see in the interiors lit by only subdued or partial light. In the past, these have been flat and murky. Now there is depth and space and delineation on offer.
Overall, I think Mimic looks terrific. But then I love shadows!
We've come to expect great things from Lionsgate in the audio department. These guys have come up with some terrific 7.1 mixes in the past and it is heartening to find that Mimic gets the same configuration courtesy of DTS-HD MA. And I have to say that this is such a great and highly satisfying track, that I wouldn't hesitate in showing off with it. The transfer handles what is thrown at it with steady confidence and it certainly spreads its design across a wide soundscape, providing what is, at times, a wonderfully immersive environment that incorporates the full 7.1 set-up.
The first attack sequence, up on the roof, is excellently delivered and pretty much lets you know, right from the start, that things are going to be wild. Marco Beltrami's “aggression motif” pounds away with vigour. The rainfall cascades around us. The priest's footsteps actively splash through the puddles as he runs for his life. But the best element of all comes when the bug, still unseen save for a comic-book style shadow on the wall, begins to through its weight against the steel door. Man, this sounds good. Really deep, really loud and with a very believable sense of power and heft. It is the sort of precision sound-capture that instantly makes the heart lurch and the knees jerk. And the neighbours call the cops.
We are totally in the thrall of an expertly designed soundmix here. We have subway trains rushing past, right to left, or down the side from behind us, or even rumbling some way off in the distance, the sound convincingly hindered by the presence of walls and obstructions. There are plentiful impacts beyond that first attack. Steel grates are torn away, things topple over and crash with splintering detail and emphatic, resounding weight. The big water-filter at the sewage-plant shorts-out and blows-up with a real gut-felt and sudden shriek. A scaffold collapses with a shuddering wallop. And then we get explosions too – wacky and wild and seriously good fun. The sub is brought forcefully into all of this, and the .LFE is immensely smirk-inducing.
The mass-assault on the train carriage is the highpoint of all this, of course. Everything comes into play here in a dynamic tour de force of twisting metal, shrieking bugs, shattering glass, screaming people and buzzing wings that realistically swarms all around you. If you listen further into the cacophony, you can hear little things like rattling cans, rolling debris, scratching and all sorts of other incidental fracas going on. And don't go thinking that detail in the directionality and steerage has been neglected in any of this. Split-channel effects and positioning are frequent and spot-on. Movement around the soundfield is well handled, even the smallest clang has something of an echo to help reinforce the belief in the onscreen environment.
The more subtle elements are not jettisoned either. The track delivers a fine presentation of the chitinous clicking of the bugs' mandibles and of Chuy's mimicry of footsteps and bug-sounds with his spoons. The stealth raid on Susan's lab makes as much use of heavy silence as it does creepy rustlings and sudden stingers. Dialogue is always clear, clean and intelligible. We hear voices over phones and even the moment when Susan and Peter struggle to hear one another as trains overpower their speech over the cellular is realistically dampened and lost amid snatches of sentences. Marco Beltrami's score hits the high notes with clarity and crashes down on the lower, more emphatic ones with resolute conviction. I detected no distortion in the delivery of any of this.
Mimic kicks all shades of ass with this powerful and exciting mix that engages the full 7.1 configuration with style. Lionsgate have come up with the goods again.
Lionsgate, will you quit with the endless trailers before the main menu please! I don't know how many there were here but it felt like I was clicking ahead for ages, and on my PS3 I wasn't able to just skip to the menu straight away. It is very frustrating. They can be accessed separately anyway … so please just leave them like that. I'd prefer to have the choice of whether I view them or not, and not having them rammed down my throat.
Right, rant over.
There's an interesting looking line-up of extras here, but not too much of any real heft, I'm afraid.
The most rewarding feature is, of course, the commentary from the great Guillermo, which is fast, detailed, overloaded with opinion and honesty and goes in-depth into the production, the evolving nature of the screenplay, the things that were lost and the compromises made during endless battles with the studio. This has been recorded very recently and he makes references to Julia's Eyes (reviewed separately) and Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark (which will be reviewed in due course!). He covers the casting, the set design and the creature effects, but he clearly relishes the fact that this version is as close to his definitive cut of the film as it is possible to get, pointing up the elements and themes that are now reinstated. This is packed with good stuff and the filmmaker is unafraid to speak his mind about a project that he holds dear, and an experience that could have finished off lesser talents. A couple of incidents are only briefly alluded to and names are omitted for legal reasons, but you really get to hear about the frustrations and the lunacies of an artist dealing with money-minded idiots.
Del Toro also provides a video introduction to this cut of the film, although I found I had to access this separately, when really it would have been better to have simply had the minute-or-so-long piece simply play before the movie begins.
A trio of featurettes endeavour to scratch beneath the surface of the production, but A Leap in Evolution and Back into the Tunnels are really just puff-pastry filler, despite some great footage of the creature-fx being examined, described and then put through their paces. The best one details the troubles that the film ran into and how Del Toro has been able to come to it and retrieve something he finds much closer to his original vision in Reclaiming Mimic.
We get to see three Deleted Scenes. No extra gore, I'm afraid, but some cool stuff, just the same. The first shows Susan and Peter walking and talking in Central Park, the possible pregnancy uppermost in their minds. But nice element is the slow downward tracking shot after they leave the scene that reveals a hobo applying some finishing touches to a depiction of a mimic-bug on the wall of a tunnel. The second is an alternate take on Susan being captured and whisked-away by the bugs. This one, which contains some unfinished effects, takes place in the room on the station as opposed to the platform itself. It still provides a good jolt. The third scene is actually an alternate ending, which boasts a similar final reunion but this time it occurs, a touch less dramatically, in what looks like a very busy Grand Central Station. I'm not a fan of the ending, anyway, but the one in the finished cut is still much better than this one.
Some amusing on-set antics are picked-up in the Gag Reel and, as well as the film's theatrical trailer, we get to see some Storyboard Animatics, with atmospheric sound effects – insects, gunshots etc – for several key sequences.
This release also contains a separate disc for a Digital Copy of the movie.
I'm awarding this a 7 for its special features mainly for the Del Toro chat-track, which is awesome.
A once great but conflicted monster-flick is easily improved with this more measured and emotionally resonant Director's Cut. It has been a long time in coming, but now Mimic is restored pretty much to what Guillermo Del Toro wanted to achieve with it back in 1997. It is not perfect, of course, and many issues still remain in what was a screenplay that was already compromised by having too many writers take a turn at steering it. However, this is a fantastic modern creature-feature that boasts some skin-crawling moments and a slew of bravura set-pieces. Mira Sorvino brings some humanity to the part of a beleaguered scientist who may, inevitably, face some awkward questions once the full story comes out. And Charles S. Dutton provides a welcome strain of that gruff wisdom and doomed charisma that we saw in Alien3.
I'm tempted to say that the monsters are the star of the show, but I'm still slightly disappointed when they drop the disguise and we see them as being more agile variations on Cronenberg's Brundlefly. But their mimic-mode makes for a tremendously eerie and memorably nightmarish angle.
Lionsgate provide the Director's Cut with a wonderful transfer too. The fact that Del Toro has approved it and even commented upon the colour timing and the ferocious black levels, means that fans are in for a treat that looks and sounds sublime. The extras aren't spectacular, but there is still good stuff to be found here. Del Toro's commentary is, naturally, the cream of the crop, but the deleted scenes are interesting and the creepy storyboards are fun.
Mimic is one of the 90's most enjoyable monster-flicks. It even makes for a vigorous and atmospheric companion-piece to its one-time rival The Relic. And as the war-zone that helped shape the wunderkind of Guillermo Del Toro, it is indispensable to his devotees.
Flawed, then, but still essential. Accept no imitations and opt for the real Mimic.
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