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GoldenEyeA new Bond meets a New Technology

GoldenEye shakes and stirs Bond

by Jim Bray

I'm grateful for DVD, if for no other reason than it gave me an excuse to revisit GoldenEye, the umpteenth James Bond flick, and the first starring Pierce Brosnan as Ian Fleming's 007. I've learned to avoid Bond flicks in the theatres, where my $8 is usually wasted on an overblown, silly spectacle that pales in comparison to the classic Bond films of old.

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a Connery Bond fan, with a particular penchant for Goldfinger. Connery was suave, but sudden death. Roger Moore's Bond was a buffoon, a caricature of Connery's interpretation and, with only a couple of exceptions, his Bond films were hollow shells. Sure there was great spectacle, but that's not the only thing 007 is all about.

Timothy Dalton's Bond was much better, and "The Living Daylights" was the best Bond outing since You Only Live Twice. Unfortunately, "Licence to Kill," was a load of hooey. I was sorry to see Dalton go, but Brosnan's media hype said he was going for a Connery-esque Bond, which made it worth a try.

Then my son saw GoldenEye theatrically, and came home with a two word assessment: "Roger Moore." Well, that was enough. I wasn't about to toss my money into the street, so opted (as usual) to wait and rent the laserdisc for half the price of a theatre ticket.

So I did. And agreed with my son. I also noticed that this seemed to be the most violent Bond film ever, with Bond brandishing a machine gun and mowing down a crowd of bad guys instead of using his normal, more stealthy, subtle methods. And the stunts! Okay, I'll buy him fighting his way onto a moving plane before it goes off the cliff - but leave it there; launching himself after it like he did destroyed my willingness to suspend my disbelief. Ditto for the tank sequence, which was okay until they started driving the thing around with a statue on its turret. Give me a break.

And much as I loved seeing a classic Aston Martin again, I would have had to put my money on the Ferrari's extra 25 years or so of technological refinement - and what the heck was that scene doing there anyway? It had nothing to do with the rest of the film and just seemed to be there to include the requisite car chase..

These flaws destroyed GoldenEye for me during my first viewing - which is why I'm so glad DVD gave me an excuse to go back and see it again.

But not only did DVD give me another opportunity to see GoldenEye, it was an excellent introduction to the new digital disc format.

DVD Rules...

And what a format it is. I went into this exercise ready to hate DVD. I'd heard all the hype and seen all the demos. And the hype and demos were terrific - but I don't trust hype nor do I trust demos, so was ready for a big disappointment.

I was wrong. DVD is definitely the next generation - and this first generation of players and disks (even with any flaws - and I can't really say there are any) shows that all the hype has been true - finally. Who'd a thunk?

Okay, maybe the picture isn't quite as wonderful as we'd been told - we'd been promised 600 lines of horizontal resolution and get about 500 - it's still better than Laserdisc (and I'm a laserdisc fan who'd love to admit that nothing's better) and I find that more than acceptable. All it requires to approach perfection is a big screen monitor and the appropriate sound system - which means an investment of an extra few grand.

GoldenEye on DVD is the best video experience I've seen, and I've been following home video since the dawn of the videocassette This DVD incarnation gives you all the benefits of laserdisc (great picture,sound, and an abundance of potential extras) in a disc the size of a CD.

They've even made the packaging good - it's about half again taller than a CD's jewel box but about the same width - so there's room for all the liner notes (to which movie buffs are addicted) and it's still small enough for 'high tech marketing." And since the case isn't a traditional "jewel box" the liner notes don't get stuck, and torn apart by, the little plastic tabs that keep them inside the package.

The GoldenEye Experience...

GoldenEye comes with two English soundtracks (Dolby Digital AC-3 and Dolby Surround), and "stereo surround" mixings in French and Spanish. There are also subtitles in all three languages - and which language appears on screen is determined by how you set up the player.

And the movie is offered in both widescreen and "pan and scan" versions on the same disc - all of which adds up to a horrendous amount of data storage on this disc. As longtime video snob, I watched the widescreen version all the way through, only choosing pan and scan long enough to ensure that it works.

Slipping the disc into the player brings up your opening menu choices of widescreen or pan and scan. After you click on the one you want, you're sent (at least with the English setup) to the choice of Dolby Digital (they call it 5.1 Surround, which is sure to confuse many people) or Dolby surround. Only then are you passed on to an interminable "anti piracy warning" that's guaranteed to bore the pants off viewers.

Anyway, the subtitles (you can have English, French, or Spanish subtitles - controlled from the player) are displayed below the 16:9 screen image, which is a nice touch - though I wonder how those with 16:9 TV's are going to see them. It's interesting to see an English language film played back in French with English subtitles, too...

GoldenEye has 49 chapters on it, in true laserdisc tradition, and you can randomly access any one.

In fact, the closest analogy to the DVD viewing experience is to compare it with laserdisc. You get the incredible picture and sound of the big ol' disc, and its interactivity - only more so. And one thing I particularly noticed was the approach of the magic 60 minute mark, which on a laserdisc, means "pee break" while the disc flips, but on DVD means nothing. Yep. The whole movie (both versions) fits on one side of the disc - as advertised.

Golden Eyes

I'm glad I had a chance to see GoldenEye again. Not only did I unfairly judge it in my first viewing (some silliness aside, it's a worthy Bond movie), but it's a good example of how the new DVD format can be used.

GoldenEye on DVD, from MGM/UA home video.


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Updated May 13, 2006