Licence to Kill appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. If you’ve read my other Bond Ultimate Edition reviews, you’ll know what to expect from this transfer.
Sharpness was usually solid. A little edge enhancement made wide shots a bit soft, but the majority of the flick looked fine. The flick mostly came across as concise and accurate. I noticed no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges, and source flaws appeared absent. The folks behind the transfer cleaned it up quite nicely.
Though they always looked good, colors came to the forefront in daytime exteriors. The hues looked fine across the board, but they were particularly good in those shots. The tones seemed lively and dynamic. Blacks were also deep and rich, while shadows showed fine clarity and delineation. Only the minor softness knocked the presentation down to a “B+”.
Another continuation of the patterns seen with the other Bond Ultimate editions, Licence to Kill featured Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 sound mixes. As usual, I detected no differences between the two. Both tracks seemed very similar to me.
The two tracks presented strong soundfields. The five channels offered a lot of useful information and involved us in the action. The front speakers got the most use, as they gave us very good spread and delineation. The surrounds got into the flick well during the action scenes. Elements zipped around the room and formed a fine sense of the various pieces.
The quality of the audio was very good. Speech sounded clear and natural. The music was solid, with strong fidelity and dynamic range. Effects showed just a smidgen of distortion during some gunfight sequences, but they usually were vivid and accurate. Given the movie’s age, this was a very satisfying soundtrack.
How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Edition” compare to the original 1999 DVD? I thought both releases provided similar audio, but the UE presented significantly improved visuals. The 2006 transfer was cleaner, smoother and more detailed.
Note that this release corrected an audio error found on the original DVD. Toward the end of the film, Lowell drives up to Dalton in a
truck and yells, "What are you waiting for? Get in!" and Dalton replies, "Yes, sir!" For the old disc, we saw the actors say their lines about two seconds before we heard them. That’s fixed for the UE.
This “Ultimate Edition” includes all the elements from the prior DVD and adds a mix of new ones. I’ll note pieces exclusive to the UE with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, that means the component also appears on the old disc.
On DVD One, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director John Glen and actors Carey Lowell, Desmond Llewelyn, Benicio Del Toro, Robert Davi and David Hedison. Each sits separately in interviews edited together for this non-screen-specific piece. They discuss their impressions of various actors and other participants, locations and shooting challenges, the characters and aspects of the performances, the opening credits, the score and songs, and post-production.
That’s a good selection of subjects, and the commentary often proves informative. However, we get a surprising amount of dead air given the format and number of participants, and a lot of the track gets devoted to basic praise for the various filmmakers. This is especially notable during the commentary’s first half; it gets weightier as it progresses. Despite these problems, there’s enough good material here to make the track worthwhile.
The second commentary presents producer and co-writer Michael Wilson, production designer Peter Lamont, director of photography Alec Mills, and visual effects supervisor John Richardson, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, production buyer Ron Quelch, assistant art director Neil Lamont, second unit director Arthur Wooster, advertising consultant Don Smolen, stunt coordinator Paul Weston, and stuntmen Simon Crane, Jake Lombard and BJ Worth. It uses the same edited, non-screen-specific format as the first track. Unsurprisingly, it mostly deals with nuts and bolts subjects. We learn a little about story and script but largely address stunts and action sequences, various forms of effects, sets and locations, production design elements, cinematography, working with the various collaborators, and the general challenges that accompany making a Bond flick.
Expect the same positives and negatives as the first track. Praise decreases a bit but remains a minor drag on the piece. There’s also too much dead air, particularly around the point in the film when “Q” arrives; we find a major gap at that juncture. This is still a good track, but it’s not a great one.
Over on DVD Two, we open with five elements under Declassified: MI6 Vault. Nine *Deleted Scenes fill a total of 10 minutes, 10 seconds. We find “Sharkey Arrives” (0:27), “Bond and Sharkey Follow Yacht” (1:05), “Bond in Hotel Room” (1:14), “Cash Transaction” (0:41), “Bond in Isthmus” (1:18), “’Bienvenidos Mis Amigos’” (0:59), “Bond Returns to Casino” (1:08), “Bond Captured by Hong Kong Narcotics Agents” (1:52), and “Boat Ride” (1:23). Some interesting material appears here, but don’t expect anything particularly memorable. I’d be hard-pressed to cite pieces that should have ended up in the final cut.
The scenes come with introductions from director Glen. He gives us info about shooting the pieces and occasionally lets us know why he cut them. His remarks aren’t great but they add some decent details.
A featurette called *Bond ‘89 runs 11 minutes and 42 seconds. Introduced by Michael Wilson, it includes interviews from the set. We hear from Weston, Worth, Davi, Lowell, actor Timothy Dalton and producer Cubby Broccoli. They look at Dalton’s approach to Bond, the work of director Glen, the film’s characters and reflections on Bond, locations, stunts, and the familial feel of the Bond crew. The immediacy of this program helps since it gives us the participants during the film’s creation. Don’t expect tremendous insight, however, as the piece remains pretty pedestrian.
Additional info about the director comes via *On Set with John Glen. This nine-minute and 26-second piece gives us behind the scenes footage narrated by the director. His remarks provide some perspective about what we see, but the clips themselves are the highlight, as they present nice glimpses of the shoot.
To find out more from the production designer, we head to the five-minute and 22-second *On Location with Peter Lamont. The production designer chats about the material as we watch location scouts. The short includes good glimpses of the process.
Finally, *Ground Check with Corky Fornoff goes for four minutes, 46 seconds. The vintage piece presents aerial coordinator Fornoff as he shows us elements related to his work. I like the glimpse of the Bond dummy used for plane shots and find this to offer a fun program.
With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
One of the only interesting elements comes from the presentation of the opening credits without text (2:52). “Locations” (3:33) also gives us a narrated set of clips. Samantha Bond chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with Inside Licence to Kill and it runs for 31 minutes and 59 seconds. It presents movie clips, behind the scenes shots, and interviews. We hear from Glen, Dalton, Lowell, Davi, Wilson, Peter Lamont, Hedison, Del Toro, Neil Lamont, Corbould, Quelch, Mills, Lombard, Richardson, Crane and Wooster.
This documentary does a fairly nice job of covering the basic details, but the participation of Dalton is missed; the only interview appearance he makes is an archival clip from the time during which the movie was made. Honestly, I'd be curious to know why he wasn't involved. I mean, I understand when Connery doesn't pop up for these projects - he's a huge star and he's also probably sick of the whole Bond thing - but I don't have any idea if Dalton has negative feelings about his stint as 007. Anyway, the program's good but not exceptional.
A four-minute and 56-second production featurette from the time of the film's release provides a brief overview of the movie; it's not fantastic, but it's better than the usual puff pieces that we see passed off as "featurettes." A second, more unusual featurette appears here as well. It's a nine-minute and 30-second piece produced by Kenworth trucks to highlight their involvement in the production; all of the trucks used during the movie's climax were made by Kenworth. It's done in a utilitarian way, as one would expect of a promotional job such as this, but it's very entertaining because it focuses on an area that we normally wouldn't hear discussed. It's a unique look at a more hidden side of filmmaking.
Two music videos show up here: one for Gladys Knight's title song, and another for Patti LaBelle's version of "If You Asked Me To". Knight's video follows the standard MO for such productions; scenes from the film are intercut with shots of Knight (in a tux, ala Bond!) delivers the song and some babes idly cavort. It's a decent but somewhat dull video, although the song itself isn't bad.
"If You Asked Me To" is a song you've probably heard, although not by LaBelle; Celine Dion had a hit with it in 1992. The tune is yet another crap-tacular piece of balladic dreck from schlockmeister extraordinaire Diane Warren. In good hands, her songs can work decently (such as Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing") but usually good hands don't touch Warren's songs; I saw a website that listed everyone who'd ever performed one of her tunes, and it was a long and abysmal affair.
Patti LaBelle definitely doesn't qualify as a pair of good hands. She displays her usual overbearing brand of emotive silliness as she bludgeons the song to death. The video itself omits any reference to the film; it's just a long clip of LaBelle delivering the song with far too much artificial emotion as she seems about to collapse under the weight of one of her then-trademark absurd hairstyles. Bad song, bad singer, bad video.
Under Ministry of Propaganda, we see two theatrical trailers. Both of these are actually quite good. They provide yet another reason why the financial failure of Licence seems strange.
In the Image Database, we get an extensive still photo supplement. The section for Kill includes about 110 photos. These pictures are presented under different chapter headings; there are eleven of these in all, and these offer a nicely efficient way to manage the pictures so that you don't have to wade through tons of dreck to later review one that you like. As always, I'm not a huge fan of these still archives, but this one is well executed.
Finally, we get a nice booklet inside the case. It offers some fun facts about the production; you'll hear some of them elsewhere, but most aren't repeated in other areas.
Licence to Kill is a winner. The film offers one of the best Bonds ever made, a fact that's become sadly obscured by the picture's box office death. The DVD offers very good picture and audio along with a mix of interesting extras. I like the movie very much and recommend this DVD.
Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? Probably, as it offers the superior rendition. The disc provides improved picture and a few nice new extras so it stands as a decent upgrade on its predecessor.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of Licence to Kill can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Two”. This five-movie set also includes A View to a Kill, Thunderball, Die Another Day, and The Spy Who Loved Me.