Die Hard With A Vengeance appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This release of Vengeance suffered from a lot of problems.
Edge enhancement was the main issue. I saw a little shimmering during a couple of scenes – mainly due to grates – but these instances were minor. However, many scenes in Vengeance displayed halos around performers and objects. As I watched the movie on this DVD, I started to keep track of the most egregious examples of this concern, but I gave up after a while because the list started to grow too long. Not every part of every scene demonstrated this concern, but too much evidence of it appeared.
Close-ups tended to display passable definition, but wider shots displayed serious problems. On those occasions, the edge enhancement caused the picture to seem blurry. Close-ups were better but they suffered from thin outlines, whereas wider images became muddled due to the edge enhancement. For example, check out the sequence in which Simon and his crew approach the Federal Reserve; this scene exhibited a very soft quality that it shouldn’t have offered.
The excessive edge enhancement found on Vengeance was a shame, for otherwise it presented a fairly solid picture. Print flaws appeared at times, but they seemed to be generally minor. I saw a few scratches and periodic examples of grit, grain and speckles, but these stayed subdued for the most part.
Colors worked well. I thought the hues looked nicely warm and natural, and the movie displayed a bright and vivid palette throughout the film. When confronted with colored lighting, the image remained stable and showed no signs of bleeding or noise. Black levels appeared deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not excessively thick.
Ultimately, the main flaw found during Vengeance related to edge enhancement, and it proved fatal. I thought this ended up as an ugly transfer. That meant a serious disappointment and a “D+” grade.
Happily, matters were much more positive in regard to the soundtracks of Die Hard With A Vengeance. We got both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes on this disc. I thought that the DD and DTS tracks seemed to be largely identical. Actually, if I had to choose one or the other, I’d probably opt for the Dolby mix, mainly because it displayed tighter, richer bass response; low-end on the DTS track seemed to be slightly boomy at times, while the DD version managed to provide nicely deep tones. Nonetheless, the differences appeared to be minor, and I found the two tracks to be very similar.
As a whole, Vengeance offered a consistently fine auditory presentation. The soundfield was very well-defined and engaging. Throughout the movie, all five speakers received a nice workout. The forward spectrum provided clean and well-delineated sound that spread clearly and accurately across the front speakers. Music showed positive stereo separation, and effects were placed appropriately within the spectrum. Elements also blended together well, and they panned neatly from side to side.
Surround usage seemed to be excellent, as the rear speakers often added some serious punch to the package. During quieter scenes, the surrounds stayed with general ambience, but the louder sequences strongly ratcheted up the auditory action. Those parts of the film made the rear channels active partners in the mix and they created a very encompassing and aggressive setting. When appropriate, the soundfield became quite involving and powerful. To see what I mean, check out the subway train sequence, or the climactic helicopter bit.
Audio quality also seemed to be quite good. At times, some dialogue sounded slightly rough and unnatural, but as a whole, speech was fairly warm and natural. Some very slight edginess interfered on a few occasions, but those were rare, and I experienced no problems related to intelligibility.
Music appeared robust and bright, and it held its own among the mix of competing elements. During DH2, I thought the score got buried beneath the effects, but the mix for Vengeance maintained a better balance, and I enjoyed the clear and vivid tones of the music. Effects were positively terrific, as they showed fine clarity and excellent dynamics. When the mix got loud, the effects appeared powerful and accurate. Low-end seemed to be very strong, as explosions and other deep elements sounded rich and vibrant. Ultimately, Vengeance offered a very fine auditory experience.
When I compared this 2007 release to the special edition from 2001, I found the pair to be identical. It was clear that this version simply took DVD One from the 2001 set and presented it on its own.
In terms of extras, most significant was an audio commentary. We hear from director John McTiernan, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh, and former 20th Century Fox President of Marketing and Distribution Tom Sherak. The three men were recorded separately and the results were edited together for this screen-specific track.
Overall, I thought this was a rather entertaining piece, mainly due to the presence of Hensleigh. The film originated as his script called Simon Says, a project that was modified into Vengeance. He provides a good discussion of changes made between the script and the film and he goes into a lot of details about the project. Hensleigh proves to be a very engaging and lively participant and he seems honest and compelling.
McTiernan also adds some solid contributions, though Hensleigh dominates the piece. The director relates some modestly revealing notes, such as the mild competition between Willis and Jackson, and he also mentions some ways in which Willis matured between the first Die Hard and the third one. He even indicates that he remembers the movie as a weak piece when he states that it’s “not as bad as I remembered”.
Sherak barely registers during the commentary. He doesn’t even appear until the 35-minute mark and he only pops up on a few brief occasions. Sherak notes a couple of financial concerns related to the film, but that was about it. Nonetheless, the commentary works very well due to the combination of Hensleigh and McTiernan, both of whom are nicely frank about the piece, which they feel free to criticize when appropriate. Many commentaries degenerate into excessive praise mode, but that’s not a problem here, as the two say what they think. I felt it was the most compelling track found on any of the three Die Hard movies.
The only other extra was the THX Optimode program. As also found on some other Fox DVDs, this is supposed to be used to set up your home theater to best present the movie on the disc in question. Apparently the Optimode is unique for each DVD on which it’s included; unlike programs such as Video Essentials, the Optimode should tweak your set-up differently every time. Frankly, I’ve been very happy with my already-established calibration and I’m afraid to muck with it, so I’ve never tried the Optimode. If you lack calibration from Video Essentials or a similar program, or if you’re just more adventurous than I, the Optimode could be a helpful addition. (Oddly, the new DVD for Die Hard lacks the Optimode, even though it was also a THX-certified package; Die Hard 2 does toss in the Optimode, though.)
To be certain, I continue to really like Die Hard With A Vengeance. Actually, after some initial dissatisfaction with the movie, I’ve come to think it’s a fine piece of work; my enjoyment of it seems to increase with every addition screening. Unfortunately, this DVD release of it doesn’t mark the “ultimate” visual execution of the film. The picture looked pretty terrible, primarily due to excessive edge enhancement. Audio quality was consistently strong, however, and we got a good commentary.
Note that this version of Die Hard With a Vengeance comes as part of the four-disc “Die Hard Collection”. That set also includes single-DVD editions of Die Hard and Die Hard 2 plus a fourth platter with some exclusive extras. The three movie discs appear to be identical to the ones already on the market, but you have to buy the “Collection” to get the fourth DVD.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE