Studio: 20th Century Fox
Film Year: 1996
Film Length: 108 min
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
BD Resolution: 1080/24p
BD Video Codec: MPEG-2
BD Disc Size: 25GB
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Lossless Surround
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean
Film Rating: R
Release Date: February 13, 2007
Film Rating: /
Starring: John Travolta (Maj. Vic ‘Deak’ Deakins), Christian Slater (Capt. Riley Hale), Samantha Mathis (Terry Carmichael)
Written by: Graham Yost
Directed by: John Woo
My, how tastes change. At the end of my teenage years, Broken Arrow was a great action flick that was high up on my list. Now I’m older wiser; my DTS laserdisc of this title sits dormant on my shelf and I haven’t spun it in years. I skipped the DVD release mainly for this reason but I also swore that with some titles I’d just wait for the high-def release before I revisited it. Well, here I am seven years later fulfilling that sworn promise and am thankful of it.
Some say age brings wisdom; and even though that is the case to a degree, it’s easy to continue with old habits that are not so wise and have a guilty pleasure for doing it. I feel this way when watching Broken Arrow. To me this movie is no longer high up on my list of favourites – in fact I think it’s a rather silly film. But that’s not to say that I don’t get any enjoyment from watching it. It has its fun moments of action, adventure, and things blowing up, and I dare say it - Travolta’s stale humour. His desire to play God is probably what keeps the film interesting despite how absurd it really is. Regardless, it’s a bit of a slow film with speedy wit.
The film’s story is about two Air Force Pilots with very different personalities. After a test flight of a Stealth aircraft over a National Park in Utah’s desert, pilot Deakins manages to steal two nuclear warheads (broken arrow is the term used to describe stolen nukes) and tries to have them exported out of this canyon-filled landscape. His co-pilot Hale was unable to stop the theft, was thought to be dead until he, with the help of a park ranger, tries what he can to prevent Deakins an his thugs from being successful at their mission – to hold major U.S. cities ransom to the tune of several hundred million dollars.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3/5
I wanted to feel generous and give this title more than three stars, but I owe my honesty to you, the readers of Home Theater Forum, to accurately spell out what I see. I feel there is too much against this transfer to rate it any better. Viewing the title sequence is a good indication on where the video quality is heading. It’s the worst looking of all scenes but what comes after isn’t much better. The video has nice contrast and good black levels, but its colours aren’t impressive at all. Flesh tones appear a bit on the orange side and everything else has a much-muted colour palette. This transfer also begs for more resolution of any kind. It’s quite grainy and soft, lacking the look of additional resolution offered by current HD technology. This is one title that I can honestly say only looks somewhat better than the best DVD transfer. The loss of vertical resolution because of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio doesn’t help much in this department either. This Blu-ray disc lacks compression artefacts that plague DVD when viewed on large screens, but the ringing around edges is noticeable in many scenes on this transfer. This is an artefact not found on the best of newly produced HD releases. Let me note that this isn’t a Blu-ray problem, but the format’s ability to show all the warts in the transfer supplied by the studio. I don’t doubt this is another 10-year old transfer and I bet if I compared my laserdisc to this HD release, I’d probably see the same dirt specs pop up in the same spots. As I’ve mentioned with most other older Fox titles, I’m happy Fox is dipping into their catalogue but we’re seeing variability in image quality resulting from this. But when it comes down to it, any improvement is a big plus and we’ve all plunked money down for minor differences between DVD editions of the same title, and with HD on Blu-ray you will always be guaranteed an improvement one way or another.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3.5/5
Once a reference for home theatre systems, Broken Arrow sounds, well…broken. It’s hit and miss in terms of surround consistency and clearly not a soundtrack I’d call high fidelity. There are a few directional cues in the rear channels to work with the fronts during the most immersive moments; scenes such as the flight of the stealth aircraft, the nuke blowing up in the mining shaft, and the climatic train-top sequence all offer a wonderful surround experience.
The dialogue scenes in between the action fail to immerse the viewer in the desert landscape. Often, the intelligible dialogue doesn’t sound well integrated and sounds don’t seem to carry any additional spatial qualities. A good instance of this is when the marines were attempting to recover one of the nukes in a canyon and gunfire was going off in all directions – voices, gun shots, etc all sounded as if they were recorded in a dampened room rather than between monumental walls of rock. Bass in both the LFE channel and all main channels is good but doesn’t deliver a lot of impact. I have to say that the soundtrack as a whole is very underwhelming. It’s linear sounding and quite compressed to a particular volume level. Listen to the crash of the Stealth near the beginning of the film and you’ll agree. Sounds that should be loud aren’t and sounds that should be soft aren’t. It’s also veiled to a degree making details sound congested and undefined.
The music in the film is synth-driven and it’s limited in spaciousness as well. It’s not a great score and lacks a theme minus the string-plucked Travolta cue. The score is also awkwardly mixed with the sound effects. It’s sometimes too prominent and then at other times it takes a big back seat in the mix.
Three and a half stars are given for the quality of the 5.1 sound mix - one that will sound very good on most systems. Those with systems capable of revealing more detail and dynamics will notice the shortcomings quite easily. The encoding is DTS Master Audio and I listened to the lossy core since the lossless part can’t be accessed yet.
TACTILE FUN!! /
TACTILE TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON
SPECIAL FEATURES: 0/5 ZERO
I can't say the addition of the theatrical trailer qualifies as a special feature of its own, but its here. Accompanying it are trailers for AvP, Chain Reaction, Commando, Phone Booth, and Planet of the Apes.
IN THE END...
With disappointing HD audio/visual details, Broken Arrow is better left as an enjoyed rental rather than a purchase.
February 17, 2007.