James Cameron’s seminal Terminator film is back on Blu-ray with a remastered transfer that noticeably improves on the image on the 2006 release. There are no significant changes in the audio presentation or bonus material, but the upgrade in picture quality is so significant, it makes the title worthy of a repeat purchase, especially at the going sub-$15 street price. http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo//flags/LS The Terminator Release Date: February 19, 2013 Studio: MGM Studios Packaging/Materials: Blu-ray Eco-Box keepcase Year: 1984 Rating: R Running Time: 1:47:18 MSRP: $19.99 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video AVC: 1080p high definition 1.85:1 Standard definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: Spanish 5.1, Portuguese 2.0, Thai 2.0 / DTS: French 5.1 Dolby Digital Subtitles English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Indonesian, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish, Thai Various The Feature: 4.5/5 A killer in the Los Angeles area has been systematically targeting women named Sarah Connor. So far he’s gunned down two in their homes, with the next likely being a 20-something waitress (Linda Hamilton) bearing the same name as the now deceased. Alerted to the pattern killings by the TV news, she tries to find her way into police protection, but ultimately finds herself caught in the crossfire of two men – one massively built and armed to the teeth (Arnold Schwarzenegger); the other lanky and wild-eyed, calling himself Reese (Michael Biehn) and claiming he’s there to protect her. Though Sarah’s not sure if she can trust the second man, the first’s intentions are clear, with nothing – not even a point-blank shotgun blast – seeming to hurt him. Reese soon explains why – that the man is not a man at all, but a cybernetic organism called a Terminator, sent back in time with the express purpose of killing her, the mother of a yet-to-be-born John Connor, humanity’s last hope in a future world ruled by machines. Though it’s a story only a lunatic could conceive, it’s one that proves increasingly plausible, especially as the so-called Terminator appears as inhuman and indestructible as Reese describes. Whether Sarah eventually has a son named John hardly matters at this point in time. The most important thing right now is her survival. Director James Cameron’s seminal Terminator film would go on to spawn three sequels, a TV series, and various comic books and video games over a span of almost 30 years, but few seem to have anticipated that kind of long standing popularity when the film hit theaters in 1984. Most consider its success being due to the home video market, rather than its respectable theatrical run and generally positive critical response. Indeed, my first exposure to the film was at home thanks to the VHS format, and needless to say my 12-year old mind was thoroughly blown upon seeing it. Even now the film holds up incredibly well; it’s a model of efficient storytelling and crackerjack pacing, with visual effects that have hardly aged despite (or perhaps because of) the absence of any CGI technology. Certainly some of the composite shots and practical creature effects by Stan Winston can’t help showing their seams, but all of it still works for a film that, despite all the gripping action and sci-fi coolness, is a love story at its core. Six years later Cameron would improve on things technically with the sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” but some would argue he didn't manage to instill the same level of humanity, and ironic tragedy, that he did in the original. Video Quality: 4.5/5 Framed at 1.85:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the recently remastered transfer is a noticeable improvement on the 1080p, MPEG2 encode on the 2006 Blu-ray release. The most obvious enhancement is the picture’s detail and overall sharpness, examples of which can be found in frequent, pore-revealing close ups and a handful of spectacular wide shots. The most notable of them comes in the film’s opening nighttime view of the city from the Griffith Park Observatory. On the older transfer, the points of light in the cityscape look like tiny blobs, but now they practically twinkle with their clarity. A healthy and visible grain structure is also now quite obvious, as is the absence of dust and dirt specks that previously riddled the older transfer. Contrast can be a little on the variable side, however, with some scenes looking rather thick or heavy while others (usually those shot in full daylight) look spot on. That said, there is noticeable improvement with highlight (and probably shadow) detail with the new transfer – instances where highlights looked excessively blown out on the old transfer (e.g. when the Terminator encounters the trio of punks in the park) have now been properly brought back to a normal range. Black levels are more consistent by comparison, looking satisfyingly inky in all but the most optical effects-laden sequences. Word on the Internet is the picture’s color timing was significantly altered, giving things a noticeably teal color cast. Though the color seems to be shifted a bit warmer in some instances (which I think is a good thing), overall I see no teal or greenish cast to the picture, reminding me of the silly brouhaha that developed when the “Lord of the Rings” Extended Edition came out on Blu-ray. As with that release, prospective buyers can be assured “The Terminator” has not been made to look like “The Matrix.” Audio Quality: 3/5 Dialogue in the English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp and detailed, though the levels in the center channel sound significantly low, creating an imbalance between it and the highly aggressive surround channel effects. Raising the overall volume to hear the dialogue only results in getting blasted out by everything else, so a temporary adjustment to the center channel is in order to get the most satisfying experience. Outside of the dialogue problem (which is also present on the 2006 release, which presented things in 5.1 uncompressed PCM) the mix is reasonably well balanced, though the placement and presentation of the effects can be a bit blunt or lacking in subtlety. LFE never quite reaches the depths found in modern soundtracks, especially with the various pyrotechnic explosions, but there’s a decent fullness and range throughout the film, particularly in support of composer Brad Fiedel’s quintessential, percussive score. Special Features: 2.5/5 The bonus material is an item-for-item repeat of what was on the 2006 release, continuing to leave off the 2001 documentary “Other Voices,” which was included on the special edition DVD. Creating the Terminator: Visual Effects and Music (12:58, SD) Visual Effects Supervisor Gene Warren, Jr. and Pyrotechnician Joseph Viskocil describe the use of miniatures, models and forced perspective for the film’s various images. Composer Brad Fiedel talks about how he came to work on the film score and what he intended with its heavy use of synthesized percussion. Produced in 2001. Terminator: A Retrospective (20:30, SD) Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron sit down and reminisce about the production, from first impressions of the script to experiences on the set. Produced in 1992. Deleted Scenes [*] Wholesome Sarah (:17, SD) [*] Wrong Sarah (:38, SD) [*] Lt. Traxler’s Arc (:38, SD) [*] Sarah Fights Back (4:20, SD) [*] Making Bombs (1:44, SD) [*] Tickling Reese (:34, SD) [*] The Factory (:54, SD) [/list] Recap and Recommendation The Feature: 4.5/5 Video Quality: 4.5/5 Audio Quality: 3/5 Special Features: 2.5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4/5 MGM Studios delivers a fantastic improvement in high definition picture quality for James Cameron’s original Terminator film. The audio quality remains somewhat problematic and the bonus material continues to be limited to widely available items, but the new transfer offers such an increase in overall detail and clarity that it’s easy to overlook the longstanding shortcomings of the release as a whole. Considering the Blu-ray can be had for less than $15 (and will only further drop in price over time), the Blu-ray is one everyone should plan to pick up at some point.