Terminator Salvation: Director's Cut Blu-ray Review
PictureTerminator: Salvation comes to Blu-ray in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen, with a superlative 1080p High Definition transfer that has been touted as one of the best Blu-ray visual presentations of the year. And in a year with releases like Transformers 2 and Star Trek, that is no small statement. I have to concur with these opinions as the presentation for this movie is truly astounding. Given the amount of money spent on the movie itself, I'm glad they took the time to present it well, as it is certainly a very visual affair. Some have commented on the film's muted palette and unrealistic tones, and whilst I can't say it looks more dystopic than the style implemented for the night-dominated flash-forward post-Judgment Day scenes in the original Terminator movies, it was clearly a stylistic directorial intention to have it look this way. And it comes across extremely well on the format. Detail is excellent, literally flawless, allowing the dusty, battle-ravaged faces of the resistance to come to life with stubbles, sweat and scars. There were simply no signs of softness or digital defects, and only a mild layer of intentional grain to give the film a gritty look. The aforementioned colour scheme - dominated by browns - is rendered lovingly and the film really stands out in the industrial Terminator-factory setting of the final act, where the black levels are perfect, allowing for great interplay with everything from the bursts of explosions and sparks to the sweltering glow of molten metal. I really cannot fault this visual presentation, and it marks a superb way to show off the potency of the High Definition Blu-ray format.
SoundOn the aural front things are equally tremendous. Terminator Salvation blew me away at the cinemas with its bombastic, oppressive soundtrack, and on Blu-ray we get a potent DTS-HD mix that truly does justice to the explosive material. Right from the post-prologue opening credits, where Danny Elfman's reasonably successful variation on the classic Terminator theme invades our living room, you know you're in for an immersive ride, and as the napalm ignites and the helos touch down we are thrown into a full-on battle sequence. Machine gun fire and A10 Warthogs carpet bomb in the background and Terminator defence systems whirl and roar in retaliation as the picture ignites and your living room comes to life. This is home entertainment at its best, truly all-encompassing and pretty damn loud to boot. Even despite this aural onslaught, the dialogue - whether it be Bale's Batman-voiced Connor barking orders over the comm., or the more contemplative moments of introspection offered up by his counterpart, Marcus - is never overwhelmed and comes across clearly and coherently, consistently throughout the proceedings (which cannot be said of all in-your-face blockbusters). The highlight though, despite the decent enough score that pervades the movie, is the action, and as this seldom lets up, your ears are unlikely to get much of a rest either. With superb directionality, acute dynamics, and the best bass that I have come across on a release this year, Terminator Salvation offers up benchmark audio to match its reference-quality video.
ExtrasThis release comes with the Director's Cut (with BD-Live Functionality) on one disc, and the Theatrical Cut on a second disc, sporting all of the extras. Annoyingly the second disc has not one but THREE forced Blu-ray trailers (yes, exactly, trailers for the very format that the viewer of this disc OBVIOUSLY already knows about) on start-up. Still, once you get past them you can get into the meat of the disc.
Introduced on Zack Synder's 300: The Complete Experience, and later on his Watchmen Director's Cut, Terminator: Salvation sports the definitive home entertainment extra - Maximum Movie Mode. Combining elements of all the previously known types of extra material (Audio Commentary, Video Commentary, Stills, Trivia Tracks, Cast Interviews, On-Set Footage, VFX Comparisons etc.) and presenting it in the most accessible way yet to be invented, this is a tremendous offering, a total information overload. If you truly love a movie and want to learn everything there is about it's creation - from script to filming, effects to timeline - then it doesn't get any better than having a Maximum Movie Mode facility as an extra. Sure the bonus material offered is sometimes pretty redundant (the timeline often states things that you would know just by watching the damn movie), but the comparisons with the effects shots are amazing (they mapped it out pretty accurately) and the behind the scenes snippets are never less than interesting (I'd forgotten what Bale's normal accent really sounded like after all his American-accented performances). The insights into the story are quite good, the look at the Terminator technology they fabricated for the movie is pretty cool, and even McG acquits himself quite well (considering that this is the guy who is famously quoted as saying: "There's two elements that go into filmmaking. There's sound, and there's the picture.". Fans of the movie will love this extra.
For those who still have not accepted the excellent style of Maximum Movie Mode, we get the individual 'Focus Points' that pop up in that extra presented separately (but not chronologically) with individual playability from the extras menu. These include: Digital Destruction, Enlisting the Air Force, Molten Metal and the Science of Simulation, Building the Gas Station, Creating the VLA Attack, Exploding Serena's Lab in Miniature, Hydrobots, An Icon Returns, Terminator Factory, Stan Winston Shop and Napalm Blast. There's only about 2-3 minutes in length each, and work much better as integrated into the MMM facility but it's nice to have the option to dip in here.
Reforging The Future is a 19 Minute Featurette that looks at how the filmmakers built upon the Terminator mythology established in the past 3 movies (but ignoring the ill-fated Sarah Connor Chronicles TV Series) but also went their own way - not entirely successfully - in their vision of the future, and The Moto-Terminator gets its own 8 Minute Featurette looking at how the filmmakers collaborated with Ducati to create this two-wheeled Terminator model.
VerdictTerminator: Salvation finally comes to Region Free US Blu-ray in an outstanding package that is sure to mark one of the high points in this years' Blu-ray release schedule. Even if the Director's Cut will not sway those who didn't like the theatrical version, it is still a superior offering. And with fantastic visuals and a thumping soundtrack bringing out the best of what the format can offer, along with some decent extras - most notably the astounding Maximum Movie Mode presentation - to round off the superior package, this will mark a blind buy for many - fans and newcomers alike. The film itself has provoked many different reactions amongst viewers, but for many fans it represents a disappointing imagining of the future dystopia hinted at during the tremendous first two Terminator classics. Newcomers, however, can just go with the fact that this is not a bad movie, and watching it with relatively low expectations is a far from terrible way to spend a couple of hours of your life. In a year of lacklustre blockbusters (except for Star Trek, of course), it marks one of the more solid entries, and the fact that it does not stand up to the pinnacle that is Terminator 2 does not make it any less entertaining in its own right. That said, however vapidly entertaining it is, it is still yet another prime example of a missed opportunity.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.31
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