Speed 2: Cruise Control appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the picture seemed good, but a few small issues kept it from greatness.
Sharpness looked positive as a whole. At times, wide shots came across as slightly soft, but those concerns occurred infrequently. Most of the movie seemed nicely crisp and distinct. Jagged edges and moiré effects created some small concerns, and I also noticed light edge enhancement at times. In regard to print flaws, I saw a few speckles, and the image also came across as moderately grainy at times. However, the latter issue mainly seemed related to the many low-light shots found in the movie and didn’t seem to result from transfer problems.
Colors worked well. The movie showed nicely rich and vibrant hues from start to finish, and they appeared concise and lively. The tones demonstrated no signs of noise, bleeding or other concerns. Black levels looked well developed and dense, and shadow detail usually appeared acceptably clear. However, the film’s smoky look occasionally made those shots somewhat too thick. Ultimately, Speed 2 usually presented a solid image, but this mix of concerns knocked my grade down to a “B”.
More impressive were the soundtracks of Speed 2. The DVD includes both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. To my surprise, I preferred to Dolby track to a small degree. I’ll cover my thoughts about it and then detail the ways I thought it bettered the DTS mix.
Jan de Bont’s films always include active soundfields, and Speed 2 offered no exception. The track used all five channels to a terrific degree. From start to finish, the movie featured discrete audio from each of the different speakers, and the mix really made them count. Take the sequence in which the villain shut down the boat. Appropriate ambience sound emanated from all around the spectrum, and the elements seemed to be well placed and accurate. The material blended together neatly to create a vivid and involving atmosphere that helped bring the track to life.
Audio quality also seemed to be excellent. Despite some obviously looped lines, dialogue sounded natural and distinct throughout the film. I noticed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music sounded robust and clear, as the score provided a lively and punchy presence. Effects came across as accurate and concise, and they presented very solid dynamics. Bass seemed appropriately deep and rich, and the track provided plenty of low-end response to accentuate the action.
For the most part, the DTS mix seemed fairly similar to the Dolby one described above, but I still gave the latter the nod. In comparison, the DTS track displayed slightly thicker qualities. It showed a little too much midrange and lacked the same depth in regard to bass. The soundfields seemed identical, but audio quality declined to a degree. Both mixes worked well, but I preferred the Dolby Digital one.
Unlike the packed “Five Star” edition of Speed, its sequel includes only a couple of extras. Most prominent is an HBO Special called “The Making of Speed 2: Cruise Control”. Like the Dennis Hopper-hosted companion piece on Speed, this 31-minute and five-second program takes a cutesy approach: it features comedian Tim Conway - who plays a small role in Speed 2 - as he takes a bus ride to catch a cruise. This means he encounters driver Sam (Hawthorne James) and passenger Ortiz (Carlos Carrasco) on the bus and goes through other shenanigans after that. The “making of” parts show the standard mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews with director de Bont, executive soundtrack producer Budd Carr, composer Mark Mancina, stunt coordinator Dick Ziker, special effects coordinator Al DiSarro, production designer Joseph Nemic III, special effects technician Mike Kirchmeier, production supervisor Spencer Franklin, ILM visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeie, and actors Sandra Bullock, Jason Patric, Willem Dafoe, Glenn Plummer, Temuera Morrison, Tamia, and Royale Watkins.
The interview pieces seem fairly bland and uninformative. Actually, one shouldn’t expect to learn much about the production from the program, as it mainly sticks to promotional material. However, it does include some decent behind the scenes bits. Few of these really illuminate the experience, but they contribute some interesting glimpses. To my surprise, Conway’s parts actually are the highlights of the program, as they seem moderately funny and enjoyable. Some predictable but still fun cameos crop up at the show’s end. The HBO piece doesn’t replace a real documentary, but it seems reasonably winning nonetheless. Heck, it’s more entertaining than the movie itself!
Within the trailers domain, we find three ads. We get a clip for Speed and two trailers for its sequel. All three appear with anamorphic 2.35:1 pictures and Dolby Surround 2.0 sound. Finally, we get the THX Optimizer. This purports to help you set up your home theater to best present the movie on the disc in question. Apparently the Optimizer is unique for each DVD on which it’s included; unlike programs such as Video Essentials, the Optimizer 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 Optimizer. If you lack calibration from Video Essentials or a similar program, or if you’re just more adventurous than I, the Optimizer could be a helpful addition.
Speed 2: Cruise Control belongs in the sequel hall of shame. The movie does little more than offer a very poor imitation of the first movie. Unfortunately, it totally lacks that flick’s sense of fun and excitement, as it just tosses in flat characters, nauseating camerawork, and oodles of pointless destruction. The DVD provides slightly flawed but generally fine picture along with excellent audio and a passable collection of extras. None of these excuse the crumminess of the film, unfortunately. Speed 2 will mainly entertain masochists.
Note: this 2002 edition of Speed 2 replaces an old non-anamorphic version from 1999. Both covers look very similar, except the new one uses a different font for the movie’s logo and makes the title gold instead of red. The 2002 release also includes a THX banner across the bottom of the front cover. Both list for about $20, so if you want a copy of the film, there’s absolutely no reason to go with the old one.