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The ultimate edition... but maybe not for some..
on 2 July 2010
So yet another original bare bones blu ray release finally gets the decent treatment it so rightly deserves.
When Predator debuted on Blu-ray a couple of years back there were some mixed reviews. I actually rated it quite highly, although it could obviously have been better, (featuring a relatively low bit-rate MPEG-2 transfer), that it was certainly a marked improvement over the really shoddy looking DVD with it's noise and grain. The other gripe about the original release was of course, the fact that it completely lacked any extras. So now, Fox have recitifed the situation (or if you're feeling more cynical - decided to nick some more cash out the fans back pockets) by releasing an inevitabvle remastered special edition to blu ray.
And here it is, newly encoded, dual layer 50GB disc crammed with all the extras from the DVD including McTiernan's commentary and the 'If it bleeds we can kill it' making of documentary.
So how does it fare? Well, in fairness I think the remastered picture in this edition could well incite the same amount of criticism as the old one, but for the opposite reason. Personally I think it's great, bright, clear, immensely vived and colourful and whereas the previous edition only really looked "Hi-Def" in a number of places, this looks pretty immaculate throughout. Black levels are also greatly improved. However, all of this comes at a price, which some fans may not like, because seemingly to combat the gripes about grain and noise this remaster is pretty heavy on the digital noise reduction. So if you liked the rougher, grittier texture of the original print, you're probably going to be disappointed. Faces look particularly "smoothed over" and a little waxy in certain shots, but I should add that this is NOT the case all the time. In fact facial close ups for example look great, and incredibly detailed, (you can even see the texture of the camouflaged face paint) the jungle looks beautfully sharp and thoroughly alive and generally the print does a good job of masking the dirtier looking scenes. I felt that for the most part the picture looked much more naturally "hi-def" than obviously "tinkered with", but I must confess there were a few bits where I really felt they'd overdone it on the enhancements somewhat, and that's the only reason why i've dropped a star. At the end of the day tho, I think a blu ray where everything mostly looks like a DVD, is far worse than a blu ray where everything mostly looks hi definition. But this I'm sure will be up to what you prefer.
Not sure if the sound has been changed since the last release, but it is still a totally engaing and absorbing 5.1 DTS HD Master audio track. This was my favourite thing about the original release, and it is totally replicated in the ultimate hunter edition. It's a brilliantly balanced track, giving great clarity and detail in the quieter scenes, exploding into hefty machine gun fire and explosions later on that pound your speakers without ever sounding too overbearing.
So all in all, whether this release is for you will come down to the remastered picture quality. If you dont mind the film looking polished, vibrant and, in certain places noticeably artifically polished, you will love it; if you'd rather watch the film closer to it's original intended look, I would hang on to (or indeed go out and buy) the original release.