Predator Blu-ray Review
PictureThe disc has a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer that is Mpeg-2 encoded. Remember what I said about the picture at the beginning of the synopsis? Well, in a nutshell this Blu-ray version is a better picture than I've ever seen on any other format but it's still a way form being a great picture. The biggest problem is its lack of consistency. Take for example the scouting of the jungle encampment; the reaction shots of Dutch are clear sharp, well detailed, well coloured and decent contrast, very near great HD, however his point of view shots are rather soft, lacking decent detail, good colour but contrast boosted somewhat; and this scene cuts back and forth between these two shots highlighting the inconsistency. And that is the story for the whole film, detail is pretty good in most places, the jungle is suitably detailed as are skin and clothing weaves, however there are plenty of times when it softens, almost to the point of SD.
Colour reproduction is pretty good, the greens of the foliage is strong, skin tones are well maintained if a touch pink at times, but the reds are very strong and vivid, certainly the best I've seen them look; take a look at Hopper's skinned assault team, how striking their bodies are against the green of the back ground, top stuff. Also the Predator vision is bold and striking all the primaries coming off well.
Brightness is just ok; blacks do tend to wander towards the grey at times, though during Predator vision they are suitably inky and black. The greying does tend to shorten the frame somewhat, and even distant establishing shots fail to come off as anything other than ordinary. Contrast does seem to be boosted in a few places, giving rise to some detail loss with the jungle foliage against the sky. Not major, but noticeable.
There were no compression problems and only the faintest whiff of edge enhancement to contend with, but the original print does suffer from a few blemishes, scratches and dots, though the biggest gripe would have to be the grain which can be crawling at times, the beginning helicopter landing for example.
In all the best the film has looked to my eyes in many a year, but as a Blu-ray picture is still lacking.
SoundThe disc has a number of tracks English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 4.0 surround, 2.0 stereo and 2.0 mono respectively and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 which is reviewed here. Much like the picture the sound has a lot going for it, but is somewhat inconsistent. It is pretty immersive, especially during the action sequences; taking the jungle encampment attack as an example, there is some nice layering of the sound, gun shots whistle around the room, there is some nice directionality given; listen to the truck that Dutch pushes off its stands, rumbling away to the left of the stage, matching the picture, only to swing the to the frontal array as it tumbles towards the tent then explodes around the room with a satisfying crunch. There is subtle bass underlying everything; just a way of saying its not as deep or as booming as reference material, but its not at all bad. Listen to the minigun rattling off its rounds, an undercurrent of bass topped off with some well steered top end. It's not a mess either, during the general mayhem the rotors of the helicopter are distinctly heard as it powers up and that too has a very satisfying destruction.
All sounds good huh? And it is, however once things quieten down the mix does become a little front heavy, the surrounds barely registering any ambient jungle noise. Thankfully this is rare because Alan Silvestri's score is given full reign of the speakers with some terrific stereo effect; those bongo drums are wide and separate and the Predator theme comes across as full on. Nothing wrong with the range here either, a good grounding in bass to keep everything level; the Predator 'hearing' is a nice deep heart beat too. Dialogue is clear and natural sounding and apart from some shouts and screams comes firmly from the front.
The downmixed DTS track is no slouch either, but bouncing between the two the DTS-MA has a far cleaner edge to the sound is better defined and generally a more pleasing experience, but those that can't yet reach the dizzying heights of DTS-MA should not despair the difference is not night and day, more like sirloin to fillet steak.
On the whole this is a pretty good mix, the bass doesn't reach the depths of reference material, nor does it fully immersive, but this is probably due to the source material rather than any mixing problems. A good solid 7.
ExtrasBeing Fox there is hardly anything worth mentioning despite there being a wealth of material to call on from their own special editions on SD. As it is this disc has the films theatrical trailer as well as some other Fox adverts. The HD Exclusive material is D-motion control, bit like a rumble pack for a game controller, not that I could try it out not having the equipment.
VerdictPredator is more than a big dumb action movie, even if the main actors are big and dumb. Writers Jim and John Thomas and director John McTiernan have crafted a tight and engaging story that still holds up today. The predator itself is a iconic creation easily matching that of H.R. Giger's creation in 1979, and it is in part due to this that the film becomes so successful. Whilst the majority of the cast is forgettable, even Arnie to some degree, the Predator is a force to be reckoned with. The action scenes are loud and over the top, but never laughable and keeping the film serious, free from cheese and above all constrained, Predator makes the top ten of action films from the decade that was king of the action hero.
As a Blu-ray set Fox have put together a rather lacklustre package; the picture although the best its probably ever going to look is not much more than above average and whilst the sound is very good, still falls short of reference, and once again no extras to speak of; for one of the better action flicks out there this one deserved more of a look in.
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