January 1, 2024

Classic CAMERON in 4K: Digital Will Do...For Now

Review by Mr. Bonnie😺
The Abyss, Aliens and True Lies are available in 4K Ultra UHD for the first time ever on digital and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc March 12, 2024.

The good news is that three of James Cameron’s greatest films are finally available in 4K Ultra HD. This is especially significant for movie fans and collectors because two of the titles (The Abyss & True Lies) have not even gotten a Blu-ray release, which many have been clamoring for since the format was introduced.

The bad news, especially for collectors, is that they aren’t scheduled to be released on physical media until March. However, they are now available digitally and can be viewed as a preview of what to expect, or at least something to tide you over for three months. 

One thing is certain, the video/audio restorations for all three are outstanding, as clear, deep and detailed as Paramount’s recent Titanic 4K disc (which was one of the best physical releases of 2023). Speaking of Titanic, reviewing that title had me thinking it was Cameron’s greatest film. However, my statement should be taken with a grain of salt…

Before he went exclusively into the Avatar business, I was such a James Cameron fan that I was convinced whatever film I was watching at the time was his greatest. So while revisiting Aliens (1986/137 min) in 4K, it once again took the top spot. Decades later, it remains a stunning sequel. Of the three titles reviewed here, this one packs the most bonus material (though all of it is from previous physical editions). Also included is the 1990 Special Edition (154 min), which some fans see as an improvement, but I always preferred the original.

The new neighbors' obnoxious floodlights.
But as soon as I fired-up The Abyss (1989/140 min), that one became my favorite at the moment. Arguably Cameron’s most original film, it’s also his most notoriously troubled production and ended up underperforming at the box office (at least by his standards). Still, it remains a gripping sci-fi epic with breathtaking special effects and some of the most engaging characters he ever created. Like Aliens, this one includes bonus features carried over from previous releases, as well as the 1993 Special Edition (171 min). But unlike Aliens, the longer version is significantly better, with the apocalyptic implications of the tidal wave sequence adding considerable dramatic weight.

Back in the day, I was a little disappointed when I first saw True Lies (1994/141 min) in theaters, much preferring Cameron’s sci-fi excursions. But it grew on me over time, enough that I’m now convinced this is his greatest film (at least until I pop-in The Terminator again). Sure, some themes and comedic elements haven’t aged so well, but it remains slam-bang entertainment and the last truly great film Arnold Schwarzenegger ever starred in (though the late Bill Paxton briefly steals it from him). There’s no special edition, but it does include an excellent new hour-long retrospective documentary featuring Cameron, Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tia Carrere and Paxton (interviewed in 2012).

If you’re like me, finally having digital copies of these titles in 4K is nice, but mostly a teaser for the eventual physical releases. They look and sound great, but would ultimately look a lot better on my shelves than stored on an app. But if such tactile trifles aren’t all that important, the long wait is over.

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