Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW
Film Rating: /
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator), Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese), Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor), Paul Winfield (Lt. Ed Traxler), Lance Henriksen (Det. Vukovich)
Written by: James Cameron & Gale Anne Hurd
Directed by: James Cameron
The thing that won’t die, in the nightmare that won’t end.
Little needs to be said about this sci-fi classic that shocked audiences with relentless terror by a machine from the future that will not stop until its target is terminated. In a future that is inevitable, a cyborg is sent to the past to kill Sarah Conner – a woman who will someday bare a son and teach humans to resist the machines that have set out to destroy mankind. Following behind him is one man, Kyle Reese, whose inspiration to fight this cyborg is to meet the legend of Sarah Connor and protect her from being terminated. Of course, her strength and courage will come in the future as the Sarah in the present day is far from a leader. But throughout this film Sarah has to learn to trust Reese’s stories of the future – events yet to come – while dodging the police and the ruthless killer – The Terminator.
This is an excellent film that propelled director James Cameron into the spotlight and it allowed for one great sequel in 1991 as well as a mediocre third film (not by Cameron) in 2003. The rumour is there is to be a fourth.
I’m excited to see this film as an initial Blu-Ray title from MGM. The results are a great leap over SD-DVD.
VIDEO QUALITY 8/10
I’ve decided to rank the video quality of these discs on a 1-10 scale. A Blu-Ray score of 5 will mean that it is similar to the best-looking DVD I can think of and the remaining 5-10 will be based on the extended resolution of Blu-Ray disc. I think this is the best way to rank these titles for now so I hope this will help you to determine what a reference HD disc is. As more BDs become available and authoring improves (as was in the early DVD days) the earliest titles I’ve ranked as “10” may not appear as “reference quality” anymore. Please note that I’m currently viewing this on a 1280x720 projector and I’m not even able to see half of the 1920x1080 information on this disc. In the simplest terms, instead of seeing 6x the resolution of DVD I’m only seeing 2.6x the improvement. Our display devices have a long way to go before we can see all of the picture information contained on these discs. This disc was reviewed on the Samsung BD-P1000 on a 35-foot Monster M1000HDMI to a calibrated PT-AE700 (D6500/D5400B&W). The screen is a D110" (8-foot wide) Da-Lite Cinema Contour (w.Pro-Trim finish) and Da-Mat fabric.
I have the special edition SD-DVD on hand to compare to this new Blu-Ray release. As expected the differences are amazing. The opening credit sequence is much more defined than the SD-DVD although the depth perception of those future fight scenes isn’t much greater than say, the garbage dump truck following afterwards. You can see so much detail on the garbage truck’s forks as it lets down the load – it’s nasty looking. But these night scenes of The Terminator and Reese falling into the present day are much better looking than SD-DVD. Black levels are much deeper and contrast appears greater. The night light reflects off of their blue-tinted skin at a greater intensity on Blu-Ray. You can clearly feel Reese’s pain from travelling though time – the sweat on his body is much more noticeable as are the burn marks on his skin. I could go on and on scene by scene but I won’t – I think this is something to see for yourself in your home, not on some sales floor in less than optimal conditions.
Like other HD titles I’ve viewed, colour resolution is greater on Blu-Ray – Ginger’s robe takes on a shiny violet colour previously unseen. The colours of the palm trees in the outdoors are more vivid on Blu-Ray too. This is an older film and I am surprised of how good it looks on Blu-Ray. I was expecting a quality similar to Full Metal Jacket on HD-DVD but this title can’t even be compared to that – it is simply much better. But that doesn’t say this film is perfect; interior scenes such as Sarah and Ginger’s apartment as well as in the police station are slightly muted in colour than other scenes. Some scenes appear a little blurry but that’s the original photography because it’s apparent on both SD-DVD and Blu-Ray.
Other neat things to note is that you can finally read all of the fine text in The Terminator’s vision. It’s clear as 20/20 vision, unlike the SD-DVD where the letters and numbers are thicker in appearance and less distinct.
There are no compression artefacts to make note of and there is no edge enhancement (thank the makers!!) It’s nice to watch a film without that dreaded outline. Some film grain is noticed; surprisingly in low amounts but it can be occasionally seen such as in the orange light from the fire in the police station. Also, about 45 minutes into the film and beyond, there are a few more tiny "white dots" (most likey some kind of dirt) that appear randomly throughout, more so than in the beginning of the film. This is source-related because it happens at the same moments on SD-DVD.
The one thing that did catch me by surprise was the scrolling text at the closing credits of the film. It isn’t that clear – it’s somewhat blurry looking and bounces ever so slightly as it scrolls up the screen. The SD-DVD doesn’t have this effect and it’s actually cleaner looking than the Blu-Ray disc. It sort of reminds me of the effect when video text put over film and a video scaler has difficulties interpreting the mix. I’m not saying that’s what it is, it just reminds me of that effect. Why this is the case, I’m not sure. I just hope someone who matters reads this and makes sure it doesn’t happen on future releases.
The aspect ratio is 1.85:1 and appears more correctly framed than the SD-DVD, which seems to be framed slightly under 1.85:1.
PCM AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 7.5/10
DOLBY DIGITAL AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 7/10
For the sake of consistency with the video, I’m going to rate uncompressed PCM (and eventually the lossless audio compression formats when available), as well as lossy Dolby Digital and DTS on a scale from 1-10. This rating is based on “satisfaction” – the highest score delivering the greatest amount of satisfaction and the lowest delivering the least. When defining satisfaction, I mean both the resolution of the audio as well as the sound design for the film. I’m listening for the best experience possible.
This film has had a 5.1 remix a few years back and it was very impressive. It is still impressive on this disc compared to many new films today. Some of the effects sound dated, but many of them have good dynamic range. There never appears to be distortion in the sound.
The music mix is very wide; Brad Fiedel’s music of The Terminator theme is haunting and depressing, always suggesting that there will never be a chance to stop the evil to come. It’s mixed in all 6 channels plus the subwoofer and is directional to open up the “space” a bit more.
Sound effects are mixed very well too – there is a lot of panning of sounds from left to right, front to back and sidewall imaging is very apparent. From sizzling noises in Big Jeff’s kitchen to the grinding of HKs rolling and flying around in the futuristic battles move all around the soundstage. There is also excellent use of LFE.
It’s been a while since I’ve watched The Terminator, but I remember it’s original soundtrack was mono. This was included on the SD-DVD release but is not on this Blu-Ray release. Both the SD-DVD and Blu-Ray titles have Dolby Digital 5.1EX (uncredited on Blu-Ray) but the flag is in place. My preamp does not pick up the EX flag on the SD-DVD so this is an improvement on its own. A slightly bigger improvement is the uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio. This release seems to have both the PCM and the Dolby tracks at the same volume levels. Given the dated sound of the soundtrack, the sound effects don’t improve dramatically in PCM but do benefit from it somewhat. The music and the dialogue is where most of the differences can be found. As we know, Dolby Digital is a lossy technology that discards data to make it fit in a small space. The uncompressed PCM track does not do this and for the first time we can finally listen to movies at the sound quality of a CD (the PCM on this disc is 16bit/48kHz). When listening to PCM, voices sound more fluid than the Dolby track (that sounds chestier in comparison) and the music seems to open up a bit more…the soundstage widens just a bit more to enjoy even more.
(Note: you must have the 6-channel output of your Blu-Ray player connected to an EXT-IN on your receiver/preamp to take advantage of uncompressed PCM or with the use of HDMI and supporting devices).
TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON
There was a good amount of LFE used in this film. Gun shots from the Terminator to his victims as well as all battle scenes pulsate in the LFE giving a great kick on the sofa. It’s with films such as this that make tactile transducers worth having!
SPECIAL FEATURES: /
You’ll find both similar and different features on the SD-DVD than you will on this Blu-Ray disc. Absent on this release is the Cameron commentary on the film and the deleted scenes as well as one featurette, Cameron’s original script vision and the theatrical trailer and TV spots. Keep your SD-DVD if you want these.
What is included on this Blu-Ray release is a new featurette titled Creating the Terminator: Visual Effects and Music (12m58s). It comprises of footage that the missing featurette included (and then some) and focuses on the miniatures, the truck blow-up scene, and Brad Fiedel’s music.
Terminator: A Retrospective – The Making of the Terminator (20.31) is included on this release – the old Live Home Video VHS quality interview of Cameron and Schwarzenegger reminiscing on the past (20m31s).
The seven terminated (deleted) scenes are still included in standard definition and not enhanced for widescreen. There is no play-all option (grrr) so you’ll have to let the player go back to the cool animated menu before you make your next selection. The scenes total to just over 10 minutes.
Lastly, you can enjoy previews of other Blu-Ray titles available: S.W.A.T., Underworld: Evolution and XXX.
IN THE END...
If you have a Blu-Ray player, I’d be very surprised if The Terminator isn’t at the top of your wish list. This was one title I couldn’t wait to get to – and the wait was 100% worth it.
July 21, 2006.