Since any list of the all-time best DVDs includes Terminator 2: Judgment Day - The Ultimate Edition, which replaced the original Terminator 2 DVD, why do we now find ourselves confronted with T2 - Extreme DVD (Artisan, $29.98)?
Well, there are the obvious reasons, the first being to capitalize on the impending release of T3: Rise of the Machines, with star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The other is that fans who consider James Cameron's 1991 T2 one of the greatest of all action films will always want a new improved version for the library; there were, after all, no fewer than six laser-disc generations of the film.
But you might want to hold off on handing off that Ultimate Edition to a friend.
While Extreme DVD has been re-mastered again, frame by frame, from what the notes call a "1080p 24sf high-definition digital telecine transfer," this new transfer can be accessed only on a PC with Windows XP and a Windows 9 Media Player. The DVD-player version contains just the transfer that's found on Ultimate. And, unless they're hidden away somewhere and I've simply failed to find them, Extreme DVD does not include the original 136-minute theatrical version or the 155-minute extended cut, which had a different ending.
What's here is the 153-minute version that director Cameron says he always preferred, and now you hear it from the captain's mouth. Disc 1 contains the first screen-specific commentary by the director (who was just one of two dozen voices on The Ultimate Edition) and co-writer William Wisher, as well as an interactive option like the one on New Line's InfiniFilm series, which incorporates more commentary as well as production footage and other factoids. There is also a new THX-certified 5.1 Surround mix and, a la Pearl Harbor, a new reduced mix for headphones.
The draw for Disc 2 is a new retrospective documentary, No Feat But What We Make, with Cameron's participation, along with an "On the Set" doc of production footage. And, for everyone who always wanted to be a machine, there's an "Infiltration Unit Simulator" that allows you to morph a photograph into either a T-800 or a T-1000, though why anyone would want to be an old 800 I can't imagine.
But a lot of the supplements from The Ultimate Edition have been dropped, and unless your computer is hooked up to a big-screen TV, the high-definition digital transfer may not be enough to justify buying this new version.