Live Free or Die Hard 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. Free presented a strong picture.
Sharpness seemed immaculate. I never noticed any signs of softness or fuzziness. Instead, the movie looked nicely crisp and detailed at all times. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement seemed apparent on rare occasions. I noticed no signs of print flaws, as the image looked clean.
Free presented a highly stylized palette. Most of the movie leaned toward a metallic blue tint, with a few quiet greens and ambers thrown in as well. At no point did the film offer tones that seemed remotely natural. However, the DVD replicated them accurately, as its hues represented the flick’s design well. As for the dark elements, they were deep and dense. I thought blacks seemed nicely replicated and presented clear, taut textures. Low-light shots came across extremely well. They looked very well-defined and delineated and made the movie quite attractive. Free gave us a fine transfer.
Similar praise greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Live Free or Die Hard. As I expect from an action picture, the soundfield offered a lot of activity throughout the film. Guns, vehicles, explosions and other connected elements zipped all around the room in lively but natural manner. The elements formed a fine sense of setting and immersed us in the action. Music showed good stereo presence as well, and even used the surrounds at times. The soundfield seemed broad and engaging.
No issues with audio quality materialized. Despite a lot of looping, speech was natural and concise, with no edginess or other concerns. Music sounded dynamic and full, while effects followed suit. Those elements were accurate and impressive, with crisp highs and rich lows. All in all, the audio proved to be very satisfying.
For this two-disc release of Live Free or Die Hard, we get a mix of extras. On DVD One, we begin with an audio commentary from director Len Wiseman, actor Bruce Willis and editor Nicolas De Toth. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. The track starts with a discussion of ratings issues and then progresses through story, script and characters, stunts and action, cast and performances, sets and locations, editing and cut/altered scenes, and a few other production areas.
The prime problem that mars this track comes from dead air. Especially in the movie’s first act, we get an awful lot of gaps between comments. This does improve as it progresses, though, and the track eventually becomes reasonably informative. It gets into nuts and bolts issues in a satisfying way and throws out enough fun stories from the shoot to become enjoyable. At no point does it threaten to turn into a great commentary, but it delivers enough goods to merit a listen.
With that, we head to DVD Two and start with a documentary called Analog Hero in a Digital World: The Making of Live Free or Die Hard. The show runs one hour, 37 minutes and 15 seconds as it meshes movie clips, shots from the production, and interviews. We hear from Wiseman, Willis, De Toth, stunt coordinator Brad Martin, production designer Patrick Tatopoulis, visual effects supervisor Patrick McClung, special effects coordinator Michael Meinardus, visual effects producer Joe Conmy, special effects general foreman Anthony Simonaitis, digital intermediate producer Des Carey, director of photography Simon Duggan, digital intermediate colorist Siggy Ferstl, sound recording mixer Anna Behlmer, sound re-recording mixer Andy Nelson, sound designer Cameron Frankley, composer Marco Beltrami, and actors Maggie Q, Kevin Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Timothy Olyphant, and Justin Long.
Across its 11 parts, we start with some reflections on the original Die Hard and what drew various participants to Free. From there we learn about the new take on the franchise and what different folks brought to it, script, story and characters, cast and performances, production design, stunts and action, editing and effects, digital intermediate work, audio and score.
Though “Hero” feels fairly dry much of the time, it does manage to capture the various aspects of the production. Actually, it starts a little slowly, as the first few chapters don’t seem particularly involving, but it picks up after that. “Hero” gives us a good nuts and bolts view of production specifics.
Next comes a featurette entitled Yippee Ki Yay Motherf*****! It runs 22 minutes, 39 seconds and presents a chat between Willis and Smith. Willis talks about his reticence to do another Die Hard and related concerns. He also gets into reflections on the Die Hard series and other aspects of his career, and thoughts about Free.
Smith acts as interviewer here and shows his usual openness. That makes him a good person to talk to Willis, as he asks the kinds of questions we’d like to hear. Oh, there’s still some smoke blowing, so don’t expect a hard-hitting conversation. However, it’s still pretty low on fluff and a lot more honest than usual. Smith helps make this an enjoyable chat.
Two elements relate to a song in the flick. We find a music video for “Die Hard” by Guyz Nite. The pop-punk styled song uses its lyrics to recap all four movies while we watch scenes from them. The tune is moderately clever, but the video is a dull dud.
Connected to the video, Behind the Scenes with Guyz Nite goes for five minutes, 47 seconds. If they made an unsubtle version of Spinal Tap, they’d call it Guyz Nite. A band meant to spoof various rock excesses, they’re not nearly as funny as they think they are. Even the notes about “Die Hard” come in a comedic vein, so don’t expect anything interesting here.
Another featurette lasts six minutes, 19 seconds. In Fox Movie Channel Presents Fox Legacy, Fox’s Tom Rothman talks about Willis’s casting, the choice of the Nakatomi Plaza location, the series' impact, and aspects of Free. Rothman throws out a few decent notes, but the promotional side of things dominates.
Lastly, we get a few Trailers. We get the theatrical ad for Free as well as clips for Mr. Brooks, 24 Season 6, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and The Last of the Mohicans.
Many groaned when Fox announced a fourth Die Hard film – especially given the 12-year gap since the last one. Happily, Live Free or Die Hard managed to suppress most of those groans, as it provided an erratic but usually exciting and enjoyable adventure. The DVD offers excellent picture and audio along with a few solid extras. This is a quality release that earns my recommendation.