GoldenEye 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. After a somewhat rocky start, the picture improved and ended up as satisfying.
Sharpness created the majority of those early problems. During the film’s first act, I thought it lacked great definition. Most of the shots looked reasonably concise, but more than a few slightly soft ones appeared as well. These concerns declined as the movie progressed, though, and most of the flick offered solid clarity. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, but I noticed some edge enhancement, especially during that first act. At least the flick came free from source defects, as it showed no specks, marks or other distractions.
Colors worked well. A couple of shots demonstrated a little messiness, but most seemed lively and dynamic. Occasionally the hues really excelled, and they were more than satisfactory the vast majority of the time. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows appeared acceptably clear and concise. Overall, this was an erratic transfer but it usually lived up to expectations.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of GoldenEye altered the framing of the prior DVD. It looked to slightly zoom in the image throughout the film. This cropped all four sides in a minor manner. I can’t claim this distracted me as I watched the film; the composition still looked fine to me, and I wouldn’t have known about the issue if I’d not read about it in regard to the Region 2 UEs. Whether the framing is a fatal flaw will be up to each individual viewer, but I wanted to mention it.
When I examined the audio of GoldenEye, I found other ups and downs. The DVD offered Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Both seemed virtually identical to me.
On the positive side, the two mixes provided a good surround environment that immersed the viewer. The forward soundstage seemed well-defined, with accurately placed audio that meshed together neatly. The rear channels added a great deal to the impact of the mix, with nicely-integrated sound that seemed realistic and made the appropriately thunderous impact. This was a terrific soundfield that used all the channels to solid effect.
Quality seemed erratic. While much of the dialogue was dubbed, it sounded clear and fairly natural and always was easily intelligible. Music seemed fine, though highs were a little flat at times. Effects usually appeared realistic and clean, though some distortion occasionally crept into the mix. These also sounded somewhat harsh at times, especially during explosions, gunfire or plane fly-bys. Low-end was loud but could be loose. Bass response didn’t seem as taut as I’d like. Really, it tended to overwhelm the action, a fact that occasionally made it something of a distraction. The movie boasted an “A” soundfield but only “B-“ sound quality, so my overall score wound up as a “B+”.
How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Edition” compare to those of the original 1999 special edition? I thought both DVDs offered very similar audio, but the UE presented improved visuals. Even with the issues I noticed, it looked crisper and livelier. It’s still not a terrific image, but it’s better than its predecessor. Only the altered framing stood as a concern in comparison with the 1999 disc.
The UE offers all the same extras as the prior release along with some new ones. I’ll mark this package’s exclusives with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the component also appeared on the original set.
On DVD One, we start with an audio commentary from director Martin Campbell and producer Michael G. Wilson. I've heard a lot of commentaries attached to Bond films, and many of them seem somewhat dry at times. In contrast, this is probably the best of the bunch. Wilson and Campbell seem to have a good rapport and they offer a wide variety of interesting details and anecdotes in a very engaging manner. I've listened to this track a few times over the years and I continue to find it very enjoyable.
As we shift to DVD Two, we find 11 separate components under Declassified: MI6 Vault. We begin with a collection of four *Deleted Scenes. All come with intros from director Martin Campbell. We find “Dodging the Guards” (1:48), “No Deal” (1:34), “Bond Rides with Wade/Natalya in Graveyard” (1:35) and “No Bugs in the Program” (1:13). Virtually all function as minor pieces of filler, and virtually none of them would add anything to the movie. As Campbell explains, he cut them for pacing, and he was right to do so. Still, they’re moderately fun to see here.
For more with the director, we head to *The Martin Chronicles. This gives us three pieces. We find a main featurette called “Directing Bond” (10:19) as well as “Directing Bond Segments with Martin Campbell Comments” entitled “The Monte Carlo Shoot” (1:05) and “Phil Meheux” (0:52). This program focuses on Campbell’s directorial style and has a little fun at his expense. It includes remarks from cinematographer Meheux, stuntman Wayne Michaels, executive producer Tom Pevsner, and actors Pierce Brosnan and Sean Bean.
While most shows of this sort paint nothing more than happy-happy portraits of their subjects, “Chronicles” revels in its depiction of Campbell as an aggressive taskmaster. The shots from the set offer a seemingly unending succession of bleeped profanity from the director, and he certainly comes across as rather rough on the set. Of course, the piece tempers this with some of the standard piffle, but the harsh edges make this surprisingly fun.
The “Segments” take parts of “Chronicles” and layer comments from Campbell over them. “Monte Carol” acts almost as an apology in which Campbell tries to explain his relentless profanity. During “Meheux”, the director briefly chats about his relationship with the cinematographer.
A pre-production featurette comes next. *Building a Better Bond runs nine minutes, three seconds and comes with an introduction from Michael Wilson. He explains that it was created to pump up distributors for the first Bond flick of the Nineties. It features some press conference shots as well as images from locations and remarks from Campbell, production designer Peter Lamont, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould and some unnamed guy with big hair I didn’t recognize. Although we don’t get the full original piece – as Wilson explains, rights issues required some changes – this one acts as a moderately interesting glimpse at the flick’s publicity. I especially like being able to check out the production in its very early stages.
A press event that commemorates the start of production, *The Return of Bond goes for five minutes, 29 seconds. In an interesting move, it spends most of its first half backstage, as we see the actors and Campbell as they prep to meet the press. The rest of the piece isn’t that interesting – it’s the usual superficial stuff – but I really like the glimpse literally behind the curtain.
Stunts receive attention in the two-minute, 57-second *Driven to Bond: Remy Julienne. Campbell tells us a little about the stunt coordinator, and Julienne also chats about his work. The brevity of the clip means we don’t learn a ton, but some revealing tidbits emerge, especially when Julienne discusses how he had to work to make the Aston Martin a match for the Ferrari.
More of this sort of material pops up in *Anatomy of a Stunt: Tank Vs. Perrier. This six-minute, nine-second clip starts with an intro from Campbell in which he tells us about 2nd unit director Ian Sharp. From there we hear from Sharp himself as he gets into the stunt in which the tank rams the Perrier truck. It’s a solid view of the various issues related to the scene.
A look at long-time visual effects supervisor comes via the two-minute, 39-second *Making It Small In Pictures: Derek Meddings. Since Meddings died right after GoldenEye production ended, this little tribute makes sense here. Campbell discusses Meddings work while we watch clips from the shoot. “Small” is too short, but it’s still a nice tribute.
*On Location with Peter Lamont fills 12 minutes, 31 seconds. As with similar programs on other Bond DVDs, this one shows shots from location scouts while we hear narration from Lamont. I liked those other pieces, and this one succeeds as well.
Additional info comes to us with *GoldenEye: The Secret Files. This 28-minute, 28-second piece includes comments from Brosnan, Campbell, Meheux, Meddings, Corbould, Pevsner, Wilson, Sharp, Michaels, stunt coordinator Simon Crane, modeller Peter Aston, and actor Desmond Llewelyn. “Files” looks at the new 007, planning and pre-production, miniatures and effects, locations and logistical issues, stunts and sets, and other elements.
“Files” provides a lot of good production footage. It excels in these behind the scenes moments, as it throws out quite a few interesting shots. None of this seems “Secret”, but it’s interesting.
Along the same lines, *GoldenEye: The Secret Files – The Cast occupies 12 minutes, 19 seconds. We hear from Brosnan, Bean, Llewelyn and actors Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Famke Janssen, Alan Cumming and Izabella Scorupco. This one focuses on the characters and the work of the actors. The information doesn’t expose much of interest, and film clips pop up too frequently. A few decent shots from the set help make this one watchable, but it’s not a strong featurette.
Finally, a *Pre-Title Storyboard Sequence runs 93 seconds. Campbell chats about the use of storyboards while we look at some art created for the movie’s opening. It’s a decent examination of these elements.
With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
One of the only interesting elements comes from the presentation of the opening credits without text (2:48). “Locations” (3:01) also gives us a narrated set of clips. Samantha Bond chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with the 43-minute and 28-second The World of 007. As hinted by that title, this documentary doesn't specifically focus on GoldenEye itself, though there is a minor section about that film. Instead, the program offers a light and frothy history of the entire series.
Hosted by Elizabeth Hurley, the show originally appeared in 1995 as a promotional piece prior to the release of GoldenEye and it does a good job of highlighting the series' history. A nice variety of topics are covered, and we see some good archival footage. Plus the luscious Miss Hurley wears an ever-changing array of alluring outfits. While I'd prefer a more detailed feature about GoldenEye itself, this show nonetheless offers a lot of fun information in a pleasant manner.
Next comes a documentary called The GoldenEye Video Journal. This 14-minute, 14-second program doesn't offer much depth but it provides some interesting interview clips and some cool behind the scenes footage. I don't know why, but I found it very entertaining to watch Minnie Driver lip-synch to inaudible accompaniment. It's definitely worth a watch.
A promotional featurette makes the DVD as well. This piece lasts for five minutes, 21 seconds. While it falls into the "glorified trailer" category that typifies featurettes, it's not bad.
Other promotional materials find their way onto the GoldenEye DVD. We get the music video for Tina Turner's title song. It's lavishly produced but still essentially sticks to the traditional video-for-a-movie-song formula: shots of the performer lip-synching intercut with film scenes. At least it's better than most of these, though.
The standard theatrical trailer and the clever teaser trailer appear, as do twelve TV spots. In the Image Database, we get a collection of *Still Galleries. These split into 13 subdomains, each of which displays between two and 15 shots. These add to a total of 90 photos. Don’t expect anything memorable, but it’s a decent array of images.
Finally, the GoldenEye DVD includes a nice booklet. It offers some fun facts about the production; you'll hear some of them elsewhere, but most aren't repeated in other areas.
After a six-year break, 1995’s GoldenEye brought the Bond franchise back to prominence. 11 years later, it remains a fun and inviting adventure. The DVD offers erratic but generally positive picture and sound along with some good extras. Though this isn’t one of the best Bond discs, it works well enough to earn my recommendation.
Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? Yes, though don’t expect it to blow away the prior DVD. Actually, it demonstrates a noticeable improvement in terms of picture quality, and it throws in some good new extras as well. It just suffers from a few more flaws than I’d like.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of GoldenEye can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Three”. This five-movie set also includes On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Live and Let Die, From Russia With Love, and For Your Eyes Only.