Anaconda Blu-Ray Review
Blu-Ray Review- Anaconda
Distributor: Mill Creek Home Entertainment
Street Date: July 22nd 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio
Runtime: 89 Minutes
“When you can’t breathe, you can’t scream.” –Anaconda Promotional Tagline
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a sucker for creature features, especially of the aquatic type. The thought of being grabbed, bitten, or pulled from beneath the water by something is a terrifying and helpless one. If the creature itself doesn’t get you, you’ll succumb to the agonizing death of drowning. It’s a scary concept, executed so well in movies like Creature from the Black Lagoon, Jaws, Piranha (1978), and Lake Placid. Needless to say I was excited walking into the movie theater at the age of 14 to watch Anaconda, which I remember enjoying at the time. Unfortunately, revisiting the film on Blu-Ray 17 years later simply didn’t prove as satisfying as it was to my teenage counterpart.
Jennifer Lopez plays Terri Flores, the Director on a camera crew sent to the Amazon River to document a reclusive tribe for the first time. She’s joined by a Professor of Anthropology (Eric Stoltz), her cameraman (Ice Cube), and a sound engineer (Owen Wilson), among others. There’s a slight romantic aura surrounding Stoltz and Lopez, which is never fleshed out enough for anyone to care. Soon the crew comes across a stranded Paraguayan Snake hunter named Paul (a ridiculously over-the-top Jon Voight), who purposely guides the crew in the wrong direction to pursue a ferocious Anaconda he had been tracking before everything went south.
With the crew intimated by Paul and desperate to get help for a wounded Stoltz, they go along with Paul’s mission to capture the Anaconda. Though it involves endangering everyone on board, they need his help to get back to civilization. What follows is certainly goofy, harmless fun, but the years have not been kind to many of the 90’s era B movies that utilized CGI. The snake looks laughably bad in most scenes, and even when practical effects are utilized, the mechanics and polish appears cheap. The story is lacks any depth or involvement with the characters, never taking the time to flesh out the leads enough for the audience to care what happens to them. It may sound like I’m being a bit harsh on an admittedly campy and somewhat self-aware B flick, but the bottom line here is that Anaconda just doesn’t hold up, and certainly doesn’t warrant repeat viewings. This one is recommended for die-hard creature feature fanatics only.
Mill Creek Home Entertainment has provided Anaconda with a watchable, but somewhat disappointing Blu-Ray transfer. I don’t fault them for it, as this is the very same transfer that accompanied the 2009 Sony release. The transfer comes across soft and washed out, with inconsistent clarity and detail from scene to scene. Some of the softness could very well be inherent to the source material. The good news is that the print we have here is generally clean and free from artifacts or anomalies. The dated CGI definitely becomes more apparent in High Definition.
The audio is a bit of a head-scratcher on this release from Mill Creek Entertainment. This new Blu-Ray edition sports a 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo track, unlike the previous Blu-Ray release from Sony which featured lossless 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio. Though I didn’t own the previous Sony release to contrast and compare the two, the exclusion of the HD audio here is a bummer. What you’re getting is DVD quality sound, which just isn’t up to today’s standards. With that being said, dialogue always comes through clean, and there is some power to the track during the intense action moments. The problem is the dynamic range and crystal clear advantage of an HD track is notably absent. Background sound effects, the score, and other aspects seem to get jumbled in the mix, and this track, plain and simple, just doesn’t feature the clarity of what we’re accustomed to for the format.
It’s become pretty standard for Mill Creek releases to not feature many, if any, bonus materials. Anaconda is not the exception. Though I would hardly blame it on the distributor, as Sony has never included any special features on any of their past home video releases of the film. For a fan of creature features, I would have loved to see some featurettes or documentaries on the making of the film. From the special effects to the action set pieces, it would no doubt provide some added entertainment for admirers of the genre.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Mill Creek Entertainment features cover art that mimics the theatrical poster design for the film, and very closely resembles the previous Sony Pictures Blu-Ray release. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, credits for the film, and a quote from Roger Ebert’s review of the film. Inside of the case you’ll find the Blu-Ray disc featuring some art that resembles the cover design. There is no interior artwork on this release.
Anaconda is certainly goofy, harmless fun, but the years have not been too kind to this 90’s-era creature feature. The snake looks laughably bad in most scenes, the story lacks any depth or involvement with the characters, and it certainly doesn’t warrant any repeat viewings. The Blu-Ray edition from Mill Creek Entertainment features a watchable but somewhat soft and muted transfer, and a disappointing 2 channel stereo track. With no special features to speak of, this is a hard one to recommend. The good news for fans of the film is that Anaconda is available for very cheap on this brand new Blu-Ray edition, so you can’t complain too much at a great price point, as long as you enjoyed the film more than I did. This one is recommended for die-hard creature feature fanatics only.