To buy, or not to buy? If you’ve already grabbed the 13 out of James Bond movies that have previously been released on Blu-ray, that is the question. Because now one can buy all 22 films in one very handsome box. Is it worth the upgrade, when most of these discs are exactly as they appeared before? There’s a lot here that’s been ported over from the old discs, so let’s focus on what’s new for this release.
Review by Brad Hansen
The 50th Anniversary set comes in a sturdy box that looks wonderful. We were one of the first to handle the packaging at Comic-con 2012 at the Fox booth, the video of which can be seen here in CraveOnline’s Bond Vehicle Special Report. One large box contains two sturdy “books” that contain the discs inside. There’s even a space for Skyfall to be included once it comes out on home video, a thoughtful touch.
Strangely enough there’s zero description anywhere on the set about what each movie is about or who stars in each film. The only identifiers are some images, the title, and the year of each film. For James Bond fans familiar with the series, this presents no problem, but for the casual viewer this will mean a trip to the internet to differentiate between the films.
Although the sleeve insets that the discs rest in look attractive, they make getting the discs out quite difficult. Overall though the packaging is substantial and attractive and one of the best reasons to get this set.
The menu designs follow the same uniform “silver orb” design that was first introduced in the Ultimate Edition DVDs in 2006 and carry over here. For the first time ever Casino Royale (2006) gets the same treatment as well.
This makes it extra frustrating that the Quantum of Solace menu system hasn’t been changed to follow suit, leaving it the odd man out design-wise. It’s literally the exact same disc that was first released in 2009, right down to the trailers of 2009 movies that played beforehand (seriously guys, I know Valkyrie and The Day The Earth Stood Still remake under-performed at the box office, but I don’t think this is going to help sell any more tickets in 2012).
The other previously-released Blu-Ray menus are unchanged, with the only addition being the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment logo animation that appears as each disc loads up which cannot be skipped or fast-forwarded.
THE MOVIE TRANSFERS
The movies that were previously released to Blu-ray carry over here exactly as before. Lowry Digital has done outstanding work with almost all of these Bond releases, with the possible exception of The World Is Not Enough (which is grainier looking that one would expect from a newer film). So let’s look into the visuals of the films that are new to HD in this set.
You Only Live Twice (1967)- Location photography looks vibrant and sharp, but a lot of this film contains effects and matte work, much of which appears notably soft. The bump to HD also reveals filming issues previously unseen- Messy blue matte lines often appear around actors heads, a “Slippery When Wet” road sign is now clearly visible in plain English in front of a “Russian” rocket launch, and the ninjas seen in the climactic battle all look suspiciously Caucasian None of these issues can be blamed on the digital restoration, but what’s curious is how often vertical scratch lines now appear throughout the film. Considering all the work that was done to digitally remove dirt and grain, it’s a shame that these scratch lines weren’t removed as well.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)- Thankfully things turn around with this fan favorite, which looks as sharp as one could hope. On close inspection it appears that the color temperatures on some scenes have been ‘warmed up’ from the controversially blueish transfer that we saw in the Ultimate Edition DVD, particularly the pre-titles sequence.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)- A transfer similar to Majesty’s, a very good thing. The space effects look much sharper than those seen in You Only Live Twice.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)- The highlight of the set. This film has always been about grand scale, and this HD transfer shows it off nicely. Every shot looks magnificent, pin-sharp, and full of rich detail. You can see every little hieroglyphic in the Egyptian sets and the immense detailing inside the Liparus tanker. There’s very little grain, and the edge enhancement that plagued the DVD (giving characters edge halos in certain shots) is now completely gone. The model shots of the Liparus and Stromberg’s lair look particularly pin-sharp, no doubt due to the different ways in which they were photographed.
Octopussy (1983)- Impressively sharp as well, striking an ideal blend between scrubbing out some of the grain but not at the risk of losing detail. The bump to HD reveals previously-unseen wrinkles in Roger Moore’s face and some, err, tight-fitting spandex malfunctions in the lower extremities of Octopussy’s female guardians.
A View To A Kill (1985)- A clean transfer but a bit softer than Octopussy. Perhaps it was shot that way to cover up the age of the cast?
The Living Daylights (1987)- Things get sharp again for Timothy Dalton’s debut. This is up there with Licence To Kill as some of the best hi-def transfers around for films shot in the 80’s.
Unfortunately this is the least-impressive transfer of the bunch. It’s far from bad, it’s just not up to the very high bar that the other film transfers have set. There appears to be too much DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) applied, which eliminates grain but saps the image of detail and leaves characters looking a tad waxy. Black levels also appear too heavily crushed, eradicating detail in darker parts of the image. On the plus side the rampant edge enhancement that plagued the DVD is gone. Overall a vast improvement on the problematic DVD transfer, but not quite up to par with the rest of this set.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)- It’s hard to fault this one. Sharp, clean, terrific. A bit of grain is back but so is lush detail. The unique score-only audio bonus track has been kept intact, meaning you could watch the entire film with only David Arnold’s music being heard. A somewhat ridiculous way to watch a movie, but glad to see it’s there considering there’s a lot of music that was never released on its own.
The James Bond movies already had a slew of special features from both of their previous DVD releases, so the makers of this gift set had to dig deep to bring us something new. On the surface things look great with an entire extra “Bonus Disc” provided with “all new” features exclusive to this set. Unfortunately, I think we’re looking at the bottom of the barrel here, as there’s almost nothing of value in the entire Bonus Disc. There are 6 World Of Bond features, but they’re simply montages of film clips (for example, World Of Bond: Title Sequences is all the title sequences in a row). There are some Skyfall video blogs, all of which have been previously available online, and a short Being Bond video that culls together previously released vintage clips of the actors talking about portraying 007. The only truly new doc included is a 4 minute piece called Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style, which overviews a museum opening in celebration of Bond. As a whole, this new bonus content was supremely underwhelming.
Thankfully, there are plenty of great previously released special features on each of the individual movie discs. The highlights of these are the fantastic John Cork produced documentaries that were produced for the original DVDs in 2002. Two of these full-length docs appear in each classic film disc. For the previously-released Blu-rays, these documentaries were up-rezzed to HD, with hi-rez graphics, backgrounds, and photos. Unfortunately none of the new Blu-rays contain HD versions of these great docs, they’re simply the standard-def versions that were seen previously. Not a deal breaker but it would’ve been nice for 20th Century Fox to spend the extra few dollars and make them all hi-def, considering how good they are.
Casino Royale gets the biggest change of the films in terms of special features. This edition combines most of the special features from the 2007 single disc Blu-ray and 2008 two disc Special Edition. MIA is the excellent 40 minute Bond Girls Are Forever documentary and four short but interesting featurettes— Chasing A Plane: From Storyboard to Screen, The Art of the Freerun, Storyboard Sequence: Freerun Chase, and Filmmaker Profiles. So you might want to hold onto that Casino Royale Special Edition Disc 2 if you want to re-watch those special features and you’re upgrading to this set.
Notably absent are any new special features for Quantum of Solace. As CommanderBond.net has previously reported, director Marc Forster has already recorded an audio commentary, and there are several significant deleted scenes that were shot but never released to the public, including an alternate ending. It’s frustrating that the studio is sitting on this content and not including it in this set, especially considering that the timing is right for it with Skyfall on the horizon. If not now, when?
Overall the special features were the biggest missed opportunity of this release. Some great documentaries were deleted in order to make room for some surface-level “new” material that mostly consists of montages. And who knows when if ever we’ll see the already-produced Quantum of Solace content that could shed some light on the making of this controversial film.
It’s terrific that one can finally own every single Bond movie in one set, especially one that looks as handsome as this. If you’ve never owned a Bond movie before, or if you only own them on DVD and want to take advantage of your HDTV, the set is definitely worth the upgrade. With only a few minor exceptions, every movie looks and sounds absolutely terrific and are a testament to what can be done with proper film restoration. For anyone new to these films, there are hours upon hours of meaningful bonus content to soak up.
But what about those of us who already own the previously-released Blu-rays? Consider that each of these new Blu-rays will soon be available individually through different retailers- Walmart is selling GoldenEye, Octopussy, and Diamonds are Forever, Best Buy has On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me, and You Only Live Twice, and Target will sell you A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights, and Tomorrow Never Dies.
So if you already own the previously-released Blu-rays, this set can only offer you attractive singular packaging and it’s exclusive Bonus Disc. But considering how surface-level that Bonus Disc is, that beautiful box will have to be the deciding 300 dollar factor. But for those who have waited to take the Blu-ray dive, and if you have the money, it’s worth every penny of it.
To discuss the new Bond 50 blu-ray set visit this thread on the CBn Forum.