Descending into the Blu
The Blu-ray releases of Enemy of the State and The Descent arrived from DVD Pacific this morning. Having just watched Enemy of the State, I can categorically state that my first encounter with a Disney BD was a mixed bag. First of all, although the disc has all of the extras from the recently released Extended Edition DVD, it actually contains the theatrical cut of the film itself. Given that the Extended Edition merely spliced in some previously deleted scenes, as far as I can tell without the involvement of director Tony Scott, I tend to think that the theatrical cut is preferable, but opinions will no doubt differ. In terms of transfer, “underwhelming” is probably the word of the day. This looks like an old master to me - likely the same one used for the old 1999 DVD - and it shows signs of edge enhancement and filtering at all times. The film also looks fairly diffuse throughout. Unlike most of your recent 2.35:1 blockbusters, Enemy of the State was not shot in Super35 but Anamorphic Panavision, which theoretically allows for increased resolution (because it uses the entire area of the negative), but also has poorer depth of field and can lead to focus problems. Initially I wondered if the softness was due to this, but Red Dragon on HD DVD, which is also an Anamorphic Panavision film, looks much crisper. I’d peg this as a low 7/10.
I haven’t had a chance to watch The Descent all the way through yet, just sample a few scenes here and there, but it looks much better: very crisp, no sign of edge enhancement, nice grain. I suspect that there are some compression artefacts in the darker scenes, but I’ll have to look more carefully to confirm. Incidentally, this is one of two notorious Lions Gate BDs which feature a “fake picture-in-picture” mode (the other is Crank). Essentially, because the BD-Java functions required to get PiP to work are not yet ready (and, of the currently available players, only the Playstation 3 will ever be able to support it), Lions Gate created a PiP experience by including two copies of the film on the same disc, one with a video window superimposed on top of it. Great use of those oh-so-expensive BD-50s!