There are two types of Blu-ray re-release, the fully re-mastered and restored discs, where the movie is transferred to a 4K intermediate, cleaned up almost frame by frame and re colour graded and there are those where a decent negative is transferred with just a light clean-up of dust and scratches and the black levels restored. This film fits firmly into the second category. For the most part the AVC Mpeg 4 transfer is fairly clean, but noise is evident over the top of the film grain and the picture looks a little soft, almost more DVD quality than Blu-ray. The picture is however stable and blacks have been restored to a sensible level without crushing them too much. Detail is hidden in the darker areas of the picture which is a shame, as many scenes take place at night or in dimly lit alleyways and industrial settings. Some solarising was noticeable on skies but at least not too much sharpening had been applied, so edges did not appear over enhanced. Colouring is generally good throughout, although the initial grading was pretty safe anyway.
The movie used plenty of optical visual effects and they look pretty dated by modern standards. Even in 1984 the processes were hardly state of the art and there are a few issues with travelling mattes that do not quite line up leading to semi-transparent objects and also quite visible lightening around composited object. That being said, the model making on the whole is brilliant and many will not believe just how clever the forced perspective shots are until they watch the effects documentary in the extras section. High speed camera techniques to slow down explosions are becoming less popular these days, but they are well used here and look very effective.
There are much better older movies out there on Blu-ray. This is not a brilliant release and would benefit from a full re-master, such is the importance of the movie.
I was expecting to be quite disappointed with the sound track, given its age and comparatively budget nature. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 stream is punchy with a full on surround mix that some more recent movies fail to match. The only thing that belies the age of the movie is the relatively restricted dynamic range and lack of upper register sparkle. The dialogue is clean and well placed in the mix throughout, the surround channels full of realistic effects and the electronic score fits the movie perfectly, providing drive and drama to the extent that even a blind person could tell you the emotions being played out before them.
Of particular mention is the noise of the robots crunching over the skulls of the dead while a full scale laser battle rages. This is such a perfect soundtrack to one of the most iconic moments in the film and to a certain extent, it is the sound that makes it so.
A bit of a let down is the best I can say about these. All we get is a set of extras lifted from the DVD & VHS release, with a 1992 interview with Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, an interesting look at the special effects process and a few deleted scenes. These are all in SD 4:3 except the extras which are letter boxed 16:9 SD. There are all sorts of issues, including lip sync and NTSC / PAL transfer colour shifts. It is a shame, as the content is quite good.
The disc loads quickly and avoids the tiresome adverts that plague some distributer’s releases. Language support is limited to just English if you believe the box, but actually contains French, Spanish & Portuguese soundtracks as well. Subtitles are more extensive, with French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Danish, Dutch, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish.
The Terminator was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In other words, it is recognised as key landmark in the US film industry. It seems odd that neither Cameron nor Hollywood itself thought that the movie would be such a massive success, seeing it more as a niche market film, with fairly limited initial release. Considered by some to be inferior to the sequel, this film contains more violence and horror moments compared to the lighter, at times humorous second outing and still feels fresh having not really dated too badly.
This film did not break any new ground in terms of visual effects, although the end result was superior to many of the time. It now looks a little tired due to in part the average transfer. The saving grace is the sound, which can hold its own against much more recent releases. Despite all this, it is one of those films you really should have in your collection even if the quality is nothing spectacular.
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