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Blu-ray Review: The Terminator

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What can really be said about The Terminator that hasn’t been said already? The 1984 film is an iconic and riveting science fiction classic from the directorial expertise of James Cameron. It was a film that helped put Arnold Schwarzenegger even more on the map (as if he wasn’t already), and it single-handedly spawned a movie franchise that continues to this day.

The Terminator is one of those films that just keeps getting released time and time again. It makes sense since it’s so popular, but several double-dips over the years simply don’t add much to the experience at this point. Take the Limited Edition Blu-ray Book Edition. This rehash of the Blu-ray release from 2006, and there’s not much in the way of new features of reasons to buy the film again. What that being said, the film itself is as awesome as always.

The Terminator tells the story about the end of the world, so to speak. Artificial intelligence has risen up and obliterated its human oppressors. It has deemed them to be the number one threat in the world, and naturally it brings out the big guns to take us down. Nuking cities across the globe, the stragglers are left for the machines to snuff out. Just when the tide of the battle starts to shift the machines send a lone terminator (Schwarzenegger) back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the mother of resistance leader John Connor. A solitary human was sent back in time as well, and it’s Kyle Reese’s (Michael Biehn) duty to thwart the terminator and save Sarah.

As the terminator arrives back in the 80s, it’s only natural that there’s very little that can stop him. Reese is the only one who knows how to destroy the machine, and Sarah is caught unaware as other women with her name start getting executed. It’s a taught, action-packed game of cat and mouse that becomes a special effects treasure trove as it rolls forward. All across the board performances in The Terminator are spot on. There isn’t a bit of camp to the material, and it’s this serious attitude that helped solidify the franchise. The Terminator, along with its distant cousins Alien and Predator, is dark, violent, and the epitome of great action sci-fi. It’s a film that deserves to be in everyone’s collection, but this version isn’t necessarily the pinnacle of what fans would expect.

One of the reasons this Blu-ray release falters is thanks to the transfer presented here. It’s anything but high end and it really doesn’t do the film the justice it deserves in high definition. The Blu-ray disc is presented with 1080p that utilizes an MPEG-2 encoding. The underwhelming transfer is identical to what has already been presented on Blu-ray, and that is to say it’s not a heck of a lot better than the DVD. Heavy doses of grain, speckle, dirt, and other bits of compression plague this release. It’s not unwatchable, but it is definitely nowhere near as sharp or detailed as a Blu-ray transfer should be.

Thankfully, while the video may be a source of disappointment, the audio package here performs well. Granted it’s not outstanding, but there’s enough quality in the Uncompressed English PCM 5.1 to make it noteworthy. Strong use of LFE and an active, and immersive, soundstage really bring some of the action to your home theater. With that being said there are some balance issues in the mix and occasionally sound effects don’t pack the punch they should. There is also an English Dolby Digital 5.1 and a French track as well.

As far as the packaging for this release is concerned, it’s rather slick with a book-like presentation. There’s a 25-page booklet attached to the case and it includes biographies and articles pertaining to the cast and production of the film. It’s interesting, but nothing outstanding. That’s the plus side. The downside of the packaging is the fact that the disc just kind of floats in a cardboard insert and easily falls out if you’re not careful.

For bonus features on the disc the pickings are slim and, unfortunately, familiar from previous releases. There are seven deleted scenes, a retrospective on the film, and a look at the effects and music. All together it’s roughly 40 minutes of material and it’s a letdown for owners of previous releases.

Who should buy into The Terminator‘s latest release? Well, anyone who doesn’t own the film should consider picking it up, but even so it’s not as “special edition” as it could have been. The transfer is a letdown, the bonus features are meek, and the packaging is a blend of positives and negatives. Take that into consideration when making a decision. I say buy it for the film if you don’t have it, but don’t look for home theater showpiece material.


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About Todd Douglass