Terminator 2: Judgment Day Skynet Edition Steel Tin Blu-ray Review
The disc presents all three films as theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p transfers encoded with the VC-1 codec. Although I concentrate on the director's cut picture, its relevance can be transferred to all of the versions presented.
First up big thanks to Stuart Fagg (AV Junkie) for the loan of the original Optimum release from August 2008 without which this comparison would not have been possible - Cheers!
Since there is huge contention to how this picture looks, I spent a long time comparing and contrasting this, the US and the original Optimum release using a multi-region Panny BD35 and a US PS3. By freezing the same frame on two editions and bouncing between two inputs of the panel/amp it has been possible to closely examine this transfer - unfortunately I do not, at this time, have the technology to capture actual screen grabs; observations are made on an ISF calibrated Pioneer 5090.
Let me start of by saying that the new transfer is stunning in its clarity and definition; image detail, colour gradients, blackness levels are terrific. Oh it's not perfect, and it is never going to be, the shooting method of Super 35mm produces a grainy soft image and no amount of digital technical wizardry is ever going to produce the glossy, slick, pictures that Blu-ray and the latest blockbusters are capable of. However, for a film of this time and style this image is outstanding.
Comparing to the US release the UK image is slightly less robust in that there are slight (and I do mean slight) colour differences, the UK one is tinged towards the magenta. Detail is also slightly (and again I do mean slightly) lacking in the finer areas, absolute close up skin detail for example. Compare this scene: Silberman telling the orderlies he “does not like patients disrupting their rooms”. The stubble and eye lines of the orderly on the US release are slightly better defined than the UK one. Similarly the full face shot of Sarah as she watches John and the Terminator 'high five', the hair and skin discolouration of her face are slightly better seen on the US disc. But, compared to the original Optimum release, both these discs fail to reconcile the detail which is present; in the case of the former there is a clear indication of stubble and clear facial lines and in the latter clearer indication of the fine white hairs of Sarah's face along with more distinct skin discolouration. BUT the difference, although there, is incredibly fine, and watching on anything less than 50 inch and in 1080 would, I'm sure, be unnoticeable.
And before everyone goes on about how much better that means the older release is - these are two paused scenes, under intense scrutiny. Now consider this scene, John is running from the T1000 and Terminator in the corridors behind the mall; Terminator bursts through the doors, pause this frame as a little circle on the wall above his head comes into view - looking at the UK Skynet and the UK Optimum yields just how coarse the original version can be; look at the blacks of the Terminators clothing, grey with coloured blotches more like, now look at the UK version; clean blacks with excellent gradation; - look at the walls, Optimum is coarse, lumpy even, detailed yes, textured yes, but 'dirty' - UK Skynet shows a smooth transition of the painted walls still maintaining the textures - the detail on Terminators face, the three vertical wrinkles of his forehead are clearly visible in both versions - the same can be said of the detail to the background shoppers, their shoes and dresses are of equal distinction, but the Optimum losses out with over all clarity due to the haziness of the deep background inherent in the filming process, something the UK Skynet improves upon, however fractionally.
Now look to when the T1000 first pulls up to Todd and Janelle Voight's house and freeze on the 'To Protect and Serve' of the police door - the gradation of the white police door is far superior on the UK (and US) Skynet editions than the near blocky (pixelated) gradation of the Optimum. The blacks too are richer than those of the Optimum. And all editions still have the edge enhancement seen on the SD DVD releases. Moving on to the T1000's interrogation of the foster parents, the grain on this short sequence is quite phenomenal on the Optimum version, if you are sensitive to this kind of thing; it's almost like looking through a screen door, compare to the pristine clarity of the UK Skynet, that still retains the grain, but no longer looks 'dirty'. Look closely at the detail level of these scenes, in absolute terms the Optimum does pip both the UK and the US Skynet versions at the post, but neither are slouches, there is still clarity, distinct edges and fine detail, just not quite as much as the original release.
So what are we to make of all this?
Lionsgate, distributors of the US Skynet edition have gone on record as stating that no DNR has been applied to this (US) release. Well, on the back of this testing I'm not sure I agree, there is clearly grain reduction, there is also some fine detail loss, no matter how slight, that cannot be attributed to anything else. There has clearly been a contrast change as colours and black levels are that much stronger and more vivid in the latest editions compared to the Optimum release. But it is also a fact that these Skynet editions are blistering pictures and it very depends on where you fall in the DNR camp as to what you will see in the comparison pictures. In pure, absolute, terms the Optimum disc contains the finer print detail and can therefore be judged to win out over the newer editions with the US one next and the UK one bring up the rear. But, in terms of a bright, clean and clear, vivid picture with strong definition and excellent detail, the newer versions walk all over the earlier disc.
You therefore pays your money and makes your choice; luckily there is more than just picture quality when considering a purchase, as we shall see.
SoundThis edition adds in a number of additional sound tracks, English DTS-HD MA 6.1 lossless, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (simulated 5.1 headphones), French DTS-HD HR 5.1, German DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless and German Dolby Digital 2.0 (simulated 5.1 headphones). Comparing the two English lossless tracks, I could detect no discernable difference, and thus reproduce my description here:
Of the sound tracks included for the film I concentrate on the English DTS HD-MA 6.1. Terminator 2 has always had an aggressive surround mix and it is replicated faithfully here. Right from the off, the future battle scene sets the tone for the film, with deep rumblings form the sub for explosions, filling out the thump of gun shots (both laser and gunpowder), sweeping directionality, ambient effects assaulting the surrounds, covers smoothly by the score and Sarah's monologue being clearly audible over all the mayhem. This is pretty much the way of things through out the run time. Rears bring up effects and ambience when called upon, with plenty of effects, both stereo and front back when needed. Bass is solid to ground everything with plenty of LF effects, the best of which is probably the destruction of the Cyberdyne labs, a hefty rumble with debris spraying around the room.
Dialogue is always natural sounding and never lost in the action. The score is fantastic with the metallic chimes and bass keeping the neighbours up. In all a terrific action based sound track that matches well the actions going on, on screen. A shade away from reference.
It should be noted that just like the USA release this UK edition too has some issues loading up when using a PC and Total Media Theatre. Basically when the disc boots it opens to a “confidential Skynet information” pre-menu page, a map of your continent, in this case Europe, but only three locations are listed, England, France and Germany, from which you select where you are - seems the all powerful Skynet is as baffled by region coding as we are. From here, if internet enabled, loads a “full animation menu”, a big wobbly light circling in the centre of the picture. TMT crashes at this point, even if it manages to get past the first pre-menu. Patches are coming out soon but as yet, this is still an issue.
The disc extras are exactly the same as those on the US disc and as such I reproduce my original findings here. Differences lie with the BDLive section only.
- Audio Commentaries
A reprising of the two previously recorded commentaries from 2000 and 2003 respectively.
The first is with twenty six of the production crew and contains a wealth of information that never stops coming. I found it best to watch with the subtitles option since it gave you a picture of who was talking making for a far more enjoyable experience.
The second is with Cameron and co-writer William Wysher and is certainly no slouch. Cameron created these characters and this world and his passion for them is unparallel, this enthusiasm comes across as he speaks in what is a thoroughly informative and entertaining track.
- Deleted scenes (Ancillary Data)- 0.01.27 and 1.01.50 HD
The two deleted scenes (T1000's search and alternate ending) can be played with or without commentary, nothing new and can been seen incorporated in the SCE.
As the name suggests, trailers for the film, including two theatrical, teaser, special edition and the THX logo, all nicely rendered in 1080.
- Interactive features
A whole host of material here, much of it culled from previous edition DVDs, presented as overlays to the film.
Picture in Picture (Visual Implants) shows a number of behind the scenes filming, interviews and the like the pop up at during the relevant section of the film.
Trivia track (Trivia Data Overlay) provides much information, recycled or otherwise, about everything happening on screen.
Production trivia track (Production Data Overlay) details about specific shots locations etc.
Production drawings and information (Linked Data Modules) has pop up pictures with a commentary about them.
Storyboard pictures (Source Code) various storyboard pictures pop up during their relevant scenes.
Some of these can be viewed simultaneously, doesn't really clutter the screen since the overlays are in the 'black bars', and although all the info can be found on other releases it pretty good to be able to access it all during the film.
Interactive games (Query Mode and Processor Tests) answer questions and play 'minigames' during the film run - keeps a no of you score so you can come back anytime. The games are a combination of 3 puzzle types, an arrange the correct picture sequence, a shoot the target sequence and a work out the code sequence - all controlled with the remote.
Unlike the US release that is awash with extra video downloads and other goodies, the UK side is extremely disappointing, most of it does not work (the constant 'come back for new downloads soon' notices do irritate) and those which do are little more than text and pictures; however for the sake of completeness, here is what's on offer:
Star Info - text on the main cast
More Deleted Scenes - Six scenes, all text
Picture Gallery - plenty of behind the scenes pictures, navigated by the remote
More Exclusive T2 Videos - a Multilanguage trailer (0.27s) and On The Set featurette (8 minutes)
Five of the six Japanese trailers
T2 Community Live - interact with the T2 community
Ten trailers for other Optimum releases
A note about the extras menu; takes a little getting used to and not just talking about the time it takes to load them. The interactive features, annoyingly have to be activated, i.e. you pick what you want, then activate it then the film plays - luckily once running it is easy to toggle between the various streams, there is, though, no indication as to when any PiP will show, and it can be frustrating to be waiting on these short segments when it's all you want to see (may not affect non-reviewers). The interactive games remove the chapter skip and waiting on the next question or 'game' can also find you chewing your arm off (again may not affect non-reviewers), however pressing OK on your remote will, luckily, speed to the next game - don't forget to load it though, i.e. another press of OK, otherwise you miss the boat.
In all, a reasonable selection of extras, ok, most have been seen before so the lack of anything new does grate, but worse is the useless BDLive in comparison to the US release, why we are treated so badly is a mystery.
It is my opinion that the slight differences between the picture of the older Optimum disc and this new Skynet edition has been blown way, way out of proportion; - in real terms (or the real world if you like) only those but the most stringent of videophiles will balk at the differences. On any consumer un-calibrated TV of 42 inches and below, which, let's face it, make up most of the market/viewing public, there is going to be no discernable difference detectable.
The over all package of this Skynet edition which includes the three versions of the film, an improved sound track(s) and a bundle of extras features, makes it a far superior package anything that's been released on Blu-ray before; all this at a reasonably cheap price and one of the best sequels of all time! I, for all those reasons, therefore consider this to be the UK definitive version and have no qualms about putting it forward as such.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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- Audio Commentaries