The Terminator (Remastered) Review

The Terminator is the only edition of this long standing movie franchise to depict Sarah Connor as stable. She works in a diner and becomes flirty with her best friend’s boyfriend. Connor nearly vomits as the sight of a gunshot wound, and sits under a desk in total panic waiting for a rescue as a police station comes under assault from a futuristic cyborg.

By Terminator 2, she was locked up in a mental institution. Sarah Connor Chronicles depicted her on edge and in a frenzy to save her son, humanity’s best hope for the future. In Terminator 3 they… well, they said screw it for Terminator 3, but it does not lessen what a variation on the formula the first film is.

James Cameron loves a strong female hero. Aliens becomes a feminine ground war against the queen Xenomorph, and Kate Winslet has to save Leonardo DiCaprio from imprisonment in Titanic. So, Terminator becomes the film which will build that female lead. She runs away now, needs a male to pull her out of danger, but begins to see her inner strength. At the end of Terminator, you can see a spiteful, far less fearful Connor who is accepting of her fate.

Terminator is vastly different than the spectacle that would follow the franchise. This is a harder, edgier piece with a focus on dimly lit interiors and graphic violence. Arnold’s flesh coasted T-800 does not merely walk into a police station and begin shooting. The scene is set by the police chief who tells a tired Connor there are 30 cops in the building. Terminator announces its kill count the audience would be unaware of otherwise, while also building an unstoppable killing machine.

The T-800 is ruthless and a poor fact checker. He barges into a home, past a little boy playing in the front yard, and guns down a mother who happens to share the Connor name. These are graphic executions, performed in slow motion with an unnerving victim POV. The sense of fear and realization is evident before the trigger is pulled.

Despite being the most grounded of the franchise with general chase scenes and explosions, Terminator is no less of a spectacle. Brilliant miniature work depict a cold future, lasers firing and annihilating a helpless human force. Outstanding stop motion effects depict a machine stumbling and injured, relying on pure programming will. A dazzling truck explosion late is fitted with rear projection screens and miniatures you can never tell are miniatures.

Through all of the endless violence, Terminator remains a human story. The sequel would bolt itself down with a unique father/son dynamic, but is superseded by top tier action elements at every turn. No one immediately draws to mind a tender moment between a young John Connor and a new T-800 in Terminator 2; they recall the canal chase. With the first film, there is room to recall the relationship between a grizzled Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor. It is central to everything Terminator does, allowing it to stand in the face of a relentless machine and still be relevant.

Movie ★★★★★ 

Fact: This, not Arnold, was the real California gov @ 55:41

Because The Terminator does not have enough releases on home video, Fox issues the second run for the Blu-ray with this Remastered Edition (the first was from Sony). Born from what appears to be a higher resolution master and certainly better encoding, the film breathes here with excellent fidelity. What the aging film stock may often lack in pure depth, it can sit back and relax at the sight of wonderful sharpness.

Image fidelity needs to peer through an up-and-down grain structure, and it will. The AVC encode is clean, and even when the screen picks up the weightier nuances of the film stock, compression remains at bay. There is a total lack of damage to be found even during the effects shots which is certainly impressive. Some motion can cause an insubstantial amount of smearing, the grain structure seemingly sticking around while the rest of the image moves. This is too controlled to worry about noise reduction applications or other types of filtering. No signs of sharpening, ringing, or halos creep into the frame.

If anything has been changed significantly, it without question the color timing. The blue filters Cameron used are always a part of the film, but the tweaks here “modernize” the 1984 film stock, not unlike Top Gun 3D. It is orange and teal time. This a chillier image, and while the effect on the special effects driven future scenes is almost nill, the rest of the piece has been altered. Again, the veer towards blue has always been there, now tweaked to better match the warming up of the whites. Scenes in the police station are especially noticeable.

Assuming the tweaks are not bothersome, the presentation can then work to reproduce exceptionally firm definition. Close-ups have never contained this level of fine detail, and medium shots are natural. Even in the absence of daylight the source material is able to generate layered imagery plus the necessary sharpness. Arnold’s false head as he works on his damaged eye is more obvious than ever thanks the boost in resolution. A mixed reaction for sure, while the end result seems worth the tinkering.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Fox mirrors the DTS-HD audio mix of the first Blu-ray release, an often highly debatable topic that tends to split the community. On one hand, the tracking, surround uses, and wide stereo spread are perfect. Nothing is missed, and pans sound natural. The electronic score during the opening credits comes from alternating speakers for a substantial split. Shoot-outs and car chases extend vehicles from the frame, while machines will force LFE activity in the future. The mix has excellent balance.

On the other hand, there are the new sound effects. Guns sound weaker, and shotgun blasts fade out without the needed impact. It is a mixture of positive and negative effects. Those unaware of the original audio will not even notice. Those who have followed Terminator from the days of VHS will still be disappointed. On a purely technical level, fidelity is marvelous for a film of this age, and the mixing is remains a precision marvel, new effects or not.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Extras are also cloned from the prior release. Creating the Terminator is a short look at the great employment of miniatures and the style of soundtrack. Terminator: A Retrospective is an older piece pulled from a taped source that actually has some decent production values despite being older. Seven deleted scenes are left.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

Use the following screens, captured from Sony’s original Blu-ray, for comparison:

  • Kangaroo Be Stoned

    Is it 4/5 because of the color time change? If so, why?

  • gamereviewgod

    Changing the original source should not be a goal for Blu-ray. The best catalog titles represent their sources as best possible.

    Low black levels and some minor banding also factored in.

  • Kangaroo Be Stoned

    But you complain about orange and teal for movies that were made with that color scheme in mind. You dock points for that, don’t you, even if it’s intentional? You didn’t mention banding or poor black levels in the review.

  • gamereviewgod

    I’ll usually dock if it’s oppressive, sure. Rest assured the latest Die Hard will be a victim here after what I saw in theaters. There comes a point where the image is too dulled to be appealing. It’s not JUST orange and teal; any color combo can do it. It just so happens orange and teal are in vogue.

    This review was running long so I trimmed the bit about banding (it was minor) and the mention of blacks became “lack of pure depth.”

  • Kangaroo Be Stoned

    But is that not a point against the cinematography and not the theatrical representation associated with BD’s transfer? I’d actually mark that against the quality of the movie, not the transfer.

  • gamereviewgod

    Sure, in some cases. But, if something is visually making the film unappealing outside of photography, it falls into video. Think about if from a scoring perspective: If a film with all of two colors in its palette scores a 5, that goes up against some huge Technicolor productions that provide all sorts of visual eye candy. The balance is thrown off.

    Blu-ray is a showcase format, and if the material is not going to be visually (or aurally) arresting, why should someone buy the Blu-ray? I’m here to help with purchasing decisions first and foremost. A guide. If the color timing isn’t an issue, then follow the rest of the text.

  • gamereviewgod

    Think of it like sound. I just got done with The Package where the gunfights have no real surround use to speak of. That’s not the disc, it’s the source, but it doesn’t make for much of a Blu-ray experience either. It’s a perfect representation of the budget sound design (no doubt), but can it really stand with The Avengers at 5/5? No.

  • Kangaroo Be Stoned

    I don’t think every 5/5 is equivalent. I consider The Godfather’s transfer a 5/5 because the depth and detail is impeccable given what we had in the best. It’s phenomenal, However, I would in no way compare it to Avatar’s or even Transformers’. I think reviews should be based on source. If a new movie has teal and orange in the cinematography, it should not count against the scoring of the transfer. If that type of color timing bothers you, dock it from the film because it is a sign of lazy cinematography.

    Blu-ray should not only be about visual and auditory aesthetics. It’s at its best when we get something true to the original source as best as possible. The Terminator remaster probably isn’t accurate to the source with the teal and orange push, so it’s fair to dock the transfer because there was tampering. I’d say the same for The Insider because the color push creates a loss in detail. But for something like The Other Guys, it’s part of the movie and not a fault of transfer to home video.

  • gamereviewgod

    “It’s at its best when we get something true to the original source as best as possible.”

    Sure, and with modern compression, 99% of all new releases are exactly that. Soft focus, intentional lighting schemes, color timing, digital tinkering, etc. are no fault of the transfer. Short of compression/banding, not much will go wrong with major studio releases. Strictly based on that criteria, this entire site would turn into a 5/5 love fest for every single new release. If someone found the site on Google, and saw a 5/5 for Other Guys and Avatar, they make the assumption they are equal. That’s how scores work. I didn’t want them because it creates confusion like this, but the internet requires it for all sorts of reasons.

    Catalog titles are a bit different in that we have previous releases (in most cases) to work with and compare to. There are also mastering concerns, resolution, and more to consider. Also, color timing changes.

  • Kangaroo Be Stoned

    “Strictly based on that criteria, this entire site would turn into a 5/5 love fest for every single new release. If someone found the site on Google, and saw a 5/5 for Other Guys and Avatar, they make the assumption they are equal.”

    I don’t think so. There are some transfers where compression creates issues. You mentioned banding. Tree of Life has some severe banding during one of its scenes and it is very noticeable. Therefore, it is not a 5/5. In one of your Deathly Hallows reviews, the issue you noted with grain was wasn’t evident in the theater. Therefore, the transfer gets a point docked or maybe a mention of how horrible it that scene looks..

    TDK is a fantastic example of how a movie that looked great in the theater was doomed on home video. Everything sans the IMAX scenes are horrendous. DNR is all over the place for no reason. The problem there is that they likely used the IMAX master instead of IMAX and the 35mm scenes.

    I’ve also seen movies where black levels are better in the theater and on home video they are poor. Kickass is an example.

    There are issues with run time as well. Once Upon a Time in America has a mediocre transfer because the bit rate is low and compression is evident. The movie is too long to put on a single disc to keep the quality consistent and high. Imagine if Return of the King Extended was on one disc.

    Many of your reviews mention ringing and halos. I would agree that those are issues because you don’t see that much in the theater. Look at Public Enemies. When I saw that at the theater, I loved how clear and detailed everything was. I loved the aesthetics. I was harping to my friend for a half hour on how good ity looked and how it was the best theatrical presentation I had up to that point. Then the BD came and it sucked. The flickering and ringing is nerve racking. That’s a point against the movie because it is not an accurate representation of the movie.

    There are heaps of issues that can cause a dock in a transfer’s score. I don’t see the orange and teal as one if it was like that in the cinema.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BGC7U7QUFEWSSV3H4IFHLAFK54 mudslide

    Is the new remaster in WS format?

  • gamereviewgod

    Absolutely. Screen shots on DoBlu will always show the aspect ratio. In this case, it’s about 1.85:1, or maybe a little taller.

  • gamereviewgod

    Small issues such as banding are not enough to warrant an entire point. They are (generally) negligible. So is ringing. The two movies you cite are both early Warner titles back when their encodes were a mess. Not much of a case anymore, and those were blatantly obvious.

    Also, it is impossible sometimes to know what things looked like in the theater. Every movie will have its own quirks, and short of seeing every movie twice (theater, home), there is no way of knowing what is “right.” There are also projection variations to consider when making those comparisons. Maybe a movie looked soft in theaters but sharp at home. Maybe it looked brighter in the theater because of the bulb used. It is never as simple as accuracy, because accuracy has variations.

    Everything needs considered, even the color palette. The goal is to both inform and guide purchases. I would never heavily dock because of orange and teal, but generally speaking, it cannot compare visually to a brightly saturated Technicolor extravaganza of old. That says a lot.

  • Pingback: Orange and Teal, or How “Re-Mastering” is Distorting Our View of Classic Films | Not on Blu-Ray()