Black Hawk Down appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Both the original and the special edition DVDs of Down looked very good, and the Superbit version presented a virtually identical picture.
Sharpness always appeared immaculate. Even during extreme wide shots, I found the image to remain nicely crisp and well defined. At no point did I discern any signs of softness or fuzziness in this tight picture. Some minor moirť effects cropped up when mesh netting appeared, but those were slight, and I detected no concerns related to jagged edges or edge enhancement. Print flaws also seemed absent. As part of the production design, some moderate grain showed up on occasion, but I thought this appeared insubstantial, and I didnít feel it interfered with the presentation. Otherwise, the image seemed to be totally free of any defects such as grit, speckles, marks or other issues.
Hawk featured a very stylized palette. Most of the movie offered intense tans and greens, with an occasional splash of red or blue tossed in as well. Despite the inherently bland look of the film, I felt the DVD replicated the tones quite nicely. The colors appeared vivid and distinct at all times, as I saw no signs of bleeding, noise, or other concerns. Black levels also came across as dense and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately thick but not excessively heavy. Down always looked great, and I didnít think the Superbit release demonstrated any improvements over the prior DVDs.
Matters differed when I examined the audio for the Superbit Black Hawk Down. In addition to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack found on the prior two DVDs, this one added a DTS 5.1 mix. I always liked the Dolby audio but I thought the DTS thoroughly outclassed it. Iíll cover my thoughts about the Dolby track and then get into the improvements I perceived in the DTS mix.
The soundfield presented an active affair that created a nice sense of the setting. All five channels received a good workout, as the mix featured fine stereo separation for the music and integrated effects material well. Material blended together neatly and smoothly, and the different elements seemed appropriately localized as well. The surrounds added a good sense of depth to the package, and they contributed quite a lot of unique audio during the battles. Since most of the movie consisted of fight scenes, this meant the rear speakers received a lot of work.
Audio quality appeared fine. Though much of it must have been looped, dialogue seemed clear and natural throughout the film. I heard no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Music was bright and distinct and showed nice fidelity; the mix of score and songs came across with robust and lively tones. Effects seemed crisp and concise. Even with all the loud action onscreen, I never heard any distortion, and the material appeared accurate and vivid. Low-end response came across quite well, as the movie presented tight and taut bass.
For the DTS mix, take the above comments and then multiply them. It featured all the same strengths and made them work even more effectively. The soundfield felt smoother and better integrated, with a more natural sense of place and environment. Audio quality demonstrated greater clarity and fidelity. Dynamic range was broader and more vivid. Bass response already sounded good, but the low-end of the DTS mix sounded even warmer and more forceful. It fell just short of ďA+Ē level and earned a very solid ďAĒ.
While the original 2002 Black Hawk Down included only minor extras, the 2003 Special Edition packed a killer roster of supplements; that release was so solid it made number three on my Top Ten of 2003. As usual for Superbit titles, this Down features no supplements.
Given the enormous roster of materials on the last DVD, that becomes a big loss. Does the Superbit release make up for it? I donít think so. Picture quality appeared identical when compared with the previous DVDs, but the new DTS track offered a definite improvement on the standard Dolby Digital mix.
As much as I liked that DTS audio, Iíd still recommend the special edition to Down fans. The Dolby track remains very good, and the three-disc versionís terrific supplements just canít be beat. However, for those with no interest in extras, the Superbit Black Hawk Down is the way to go. I donít know if itís worth a repurchase for those who already have one of the prior discs, but if you only want to own one Down and will pass on the behind the scenes stuff, go for the Superbit.
To rate this film visit the original review of BLACK HAWK DOWN