The Big Hit appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This disc represented the second DVD release of The Big Hit. The original DVD came out more than three years ago, back when the format remained relatively young. It crammed both fullscreen and widescreen versions of the movie onto one double-sided disc along with a mix of good extras, but somehow it still managed to offer very satisfying picture and sound.
However, apparently the good folks at Columbia-Tristar (CTS) thought they could improve upon this presentation. As such, The Big Hit - as well as some other films - has been reissued as part of their “Superbit” collection. According to the booklet that accompanied the DVD, this line offers “the highest standard for picture and sound available on DVD” with “higher bit rate for better picture resolution than standard DVD”.
Those are some lofty goals - will the DVDs reach them? After all, The Big Hit already looked very good. I recently rewatched it in preparation for this review, and I thought that though it’s not one of the absolute best, the original remained very solid. Ultimately, I thought the Superbit release looked virtually identical to the first edition.
Sharpness consistently looked excellent. The movie always appeared crisp and well defined. At no time did I witness any signs of softness or fuzziness. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws seemed very minor. Some light grain appeared in a few slow-motion shots, and I also saw a few specks of grit. However, these were very modest issues; for the most part, the movie remained clean and fresh.
Colors came across as nicely bright and bold. The movie featured a vivid palette that worked for its comic book tone, and the hues appeared very vibrant and lively at all times. I saw no concerns related to bleeding, noise, or other areas. Black levels were deep and dense, while shadow detail seemed clear and appropriately heavy without any excessive opacity. Ultimately, The Big Hit fell short of reference level, but it offered a very solid visual experience.
Also excellent were the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks of The Big Hit. It featured a very active soundfield. Actually, at times the mixes seemed a little too active; for example, during one scene in which Melvin worked out on a punching bag, the exaggerated use of the surrounds became a little distracting. However, this attitude ultimately worked for the cartoony nature of the flick. The front channels displayed good stereo presence for the music and also offered well-delineated effects that blended together nicely and moved cleanly from channel to channel. The surrounds contributed a lot of unique audio, especially during the movie’s many action sequences. The track blasted a great deal of vivid audio from the rear, and the elements meshed together well to create an encompassing and involving setting.
Audio quality appeared solid for the most part. Some lines displayed a slight amount of edginess and some speech was a little flat, but for the most part, dialogue came across as natural and distinct. Speech also showed no problems related to intelligibility. Music was bright and vivid and offered positive range with clear highs and rich lows. Effects demonstrated some slight high-end distortion at times, but those concerns remained modest. Otherwise, the effects blasted cleanly and displayed a powerful impact. The track featured fine bass response, which seemed tight and deep at all times. Overall, the slight distortion could distract a little, but otherwise The Big Hit provided a terrific soundtrack.
The original DVD only included the Dolby Digital mix; the DTS track is unique to this new disc. Did I hear any differences? Actually, the DTS version did seem slightly superior. It packed a better low-end punch, and the soundfield appeared a little better integrated, with more cleanly blended audio. I preferred the DTS track, but I didn’t feel the differences were significant enough to warrant a variation in grade between the two; they remained very similar.
The only substantial difference between the old and new DVDs relates to its extras. The original disc packed a few deleted scenes, a trailer, some production notes, and two very compelling audio commentaries. The Superbit version includes absolutely nothing in the way of supplements.
As such, I think fans of The Big Hit should stick with the original DVD. I found picture and sound to appear identical, and the Superbit edition loses some solid extras. In addition, the standard edition lists for much less money; it retails for $14.95 opposed to the $27.96 of the Superbit version. If you really value performance above all else, perhaps you’ll find enough extra quality in the Superbit The Big Hit, but I thought the two seemed the same and the standard version is a much better deal in many ways.