Blu-ray Disc Review
Release Date: April 15, 2008.
Film Rating: /
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger (John Matrix), Rae Dawn Chong (Cindy), Dan Hedaya (Arius), Vernon Wells (Bennett), James Olson (Gen. Kirby), Alyssa Milano (Jenny Matrix)
Screenplay by: Stephen E. de Souza
Directed by: Mark L. Lester
Somewhere…somehow…someone’s going to pay!
Ha hah! How many of you were waiting for this one to arrive on Blu-ray?! Count me in as one of those people who is just so curious to see how this movie would turn out in high-def. But whether you like this movie or not, you must admit Commando is a bad movie. The skinny plot is strung along by weak characters and shake-your-head crying puns. Its star, the newly-minted actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is John Matrix, the most dangerous ex-military Colonel alive. Many people want him dead, but when a vicious South American dictator tracks him down, he is for a long hunt and fight when they kidnap his daughter. When the major villain looks like Freddy Mercury on steroids and Arnold blasts away 85 “little brown men” (quote: Rae Dawn Chong) aka Mexicans for the grand finale, you know this movie is going to generate a few laughs. The writer and director of this film would like you to think that you can’t take this film seriously. I still believe in 1985 they did.
Alas, I have a sweet spot for Commando. I’ve worn out my Beta tape fifteen years ago so it’s nice to see that this film got a nice treatment last year for a theatrical/director’s cut seamlessly branched on DVD. You can read the review here. Since this Blu-ray was announced as a possible high-def title much earlier than the director’s cut DVD was announced (oh, what…over a year ago?), my assumption is that work had already begun on this release well before and this BD could have completed long ago. It could have been left sitting in a warehouse awaiting some marketing strategy (I believe this title was replicated long ago as some members had reported and picked up copies that accidentally landed on store shelves for a short period of time). MPEG-2 video compression rarely appears on BDs nowadays as it was used during initial releases, plus, the director’s cut is not included on this disc (ok, so we loose a graphic “work shed” fight scene and some exchanges of dialogue, but still, it would have been nice to have). But then, we’ve lived with the theatrical version all of these years anyways, so would I really miss it? Nah…probably not.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3/5
This Blu-ray disc allows the film to breathe more than the DVD allowed. Gone are compression and other related artefacts inherent to the DVD format. This is a much more solid presentation, but the original photography still seems to be the limiting factor for any release. The film has a very soft and desaturated appearance that looks slightly out of focus in many shots. But the print, surprisingly, is very clean of grain and artefacts. Those black dirt specs are rarely noticed and when they are, they are very small on my 110” screen and hardly distracting. Image contrast is fair and seems slightly better than the DVD, but for the most part it feels very consistent in the midrange of brightness. Black levels aren’t that deep and white levels are slightly dimmer and occasionally feel slightly grey. Colours aren’t vibrant but fare better here than on the DVD, and there is no issue of artificial over saturation to give it a bit more pump. I did notice a slight amount of edge enhancement when images were contrasted with bright backgrounds. It’s not always apparent and should be non-intruding for most viewers. The original 1.85:1 aspect ratio is preserved with the unused black area appearing mostly at the top of the screen.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
The soundtrack mixes available on the Blu-ray are the same as those on the DVD. The only difference is that the 5.1 surround remix can be heard with lossless audio via DTS-Master Audio, rather than the lossy Dolby Digital. The original Dolby 2.0 Surround soundtrack is still included alongside the 5.1 remix. Switching between the two will determine your preference. I listened to the 5.1 surround version. This mix brought out some music elements more forward in the soundstage where it was drowned in the 2.0 surround mix. Surround and music effects are directional but the volume of the surrounds appeared slightly quieter than the fronts throughout the film, never quite emphasizing the directionality to the listener because of it monophonic nature. Effects, as expected, are dynamically limited for this mid-‘80s film. Gun shots are loud but always muffled and restrained from some real dynamic affect. Dialogue sounds ok, but is occasionally surrounded by some background hiss that appears looped. This is noticed mostly when Matrix is interrogated by his captors, and in fact the Dolby 2.0 Surround mix is preferred in this instance for it’s consistency. The 5.1 version has the background hiss sounding cut up. The James Horner score comes through well, although I’m not fond of its repetitiveness. The lack of LFE channel is balanced by more than adequate bass in the main channels and a non-abrasive top end.
TACTILE FUN!! /
TACTILE TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: OFF
A few gun shots are emphasized with the dedicated LFE channel. They are few and far between, so there isn’t much rumble even during the film’s climax.
SPECIAL FEATURES: .5/5
The featurettes and photo galleries that were previously available on the director’s cut DVD are not included. The theatrical trailer is here in high definition as well as D-box motion control. D-Box would be a cool feature to use, but the equipment price is still out of reach for many consumers. But that may change someday.
IN THE END...
This Blu-ray disc delivers the nice transfer of this film that betters the DVD. The audio quality, while dated, is presented in lossless audio for the best presentation possible. So if A/V quality is your main concern and special features is at the bottom of the list of importance, this disc is worth the purchase.
March 30, 2008.