With a series of critical and box office successes under his belt, director Quentin Tarantino tackled a new kind of story for his films. With a payback angle that spans two films, Tarantino’s Kill Bill series made quite the impact on viewers when they first saw it in theaters in 2003 and 2004. The series was another success for Tarantino and one that will surely be copied for years to come, with its eye popping visuals, incredible action sequences and characters that only Tarantino could come up with. For its 2008 Blu-ray debut, Miramax has pulled out all of the stops, offering up a gorgeous 1080p transfer for both films, accompanied by uncompressed 5.1 surround tracks.
Four years after being shot in the head at her own wedding, The Bride (Uma Thurman) wakes up from a coma with only one thing on her mind: payback. Bride quickly begins to take out those responsible for her attempted murder, moving swiftly through her list of four before she finally lands on the man who hired them all: Bill (David Carradine), the man who ordered her execution and her former master. It’s a brutal and bloody showdown as Bride takes out all of those around her in a violent spray of blood and severed limbs.
Admittedly when I first watch these two films I wasn’t immediately blown away by them, but I think that’s partially because I squandered watching them on my new (at the time) 19” LCD PC Monitor. I somehow expected the violence and sound orgy that this film contains to be accurately represented by a small screen and lackluster speakers. Still, while visual and aural element was wasted on me during that time, I did get to focus entirely on the story. This can either be a good or a bad thing, depending on where your opinion of Tarantino lies. I’ve seen the majority of his films and while I’ve enjoyed them all for the most part, it’s hard to deny that they don’t tend to slow down a bit to develop characters. This isn’t a bad thing for movies usually, but the characters in Tarantino’s films are so layered that we’re forced to spend a lot of time with them to fully understand where they’re coming from. Not a huge deal, but you always have to take into account the “down time” with his films before settling in. Fortunately while the Kill Bill films do have their own share of talking moments, they’re almost always backed up by some insane action sequence as well, so it all evens out.
For me the difference between the two films was rather jarring. The first volume was much more action packed and vengeful; the second piece was quieter by the time it wound down and the final “fight” was so full of information droppings that I was overloaded by what was going on. After such a tame second volume I guess I didn’t expect there to be that much left to reveal about it all, but pretty much every question that the first film had was answered by the epic final scene.
It’s easy to see why Tarantino didn’t want to condense the script to one film and it definitely benefited from being able to breathe. When you think of the two films as one, the flow is a bit better, but there’s still a clear difference between the two films for me. Both are excellent in their own way and I’m sure I could sing each of their praises for several more paragraphs, but with the first film already five years old, there’s not too much else to say about these films that hasn’t already been said. Both are remarkable in their own away and both are excellent representations of Tarantino’s body of work. Influences from all over can be picked out of these two volumes and the brutal action sequences simply cannot be beat. The directing style, use of visual tricks and even the animation included in the film are all jarring at first, but with repeat viewings the films become even more enjoyable as you pick up on the little elements that connect the two together.
Overall Kill Bill comes Highly Recommended. Before watching them on Blu-ray, I figured I’d stick with my old opinion of the films, but seeing and hearing them in high-definition really does bring them to life in ways that the original DVDs couldn’t.
Miramax/Buena Vista has released both of volumes simultaneously on the same day and both feature the same art that their DVD predecessors had. Inside the standard Blu-ray casing is an insert for $10 back on these Blu-ray editions should you upgrade from the standard DVD editions. As with all Disney titles, the insert is double sided so you can check out the chapter stops and movie art once you remove the inserts and discs. For some annoying reason there are two security tags included inside—a bit overkill and when you try to remove them they just leave a giant sticky mess. They really need to make these things less intrusive. Menus follow the usual Buena Vista information/layout style, although the visual representation of it is wildly different. Animated menus and easy pop-up menus make for a simple and enjoyable start to the discs.
Both films, presented in 2.40:1, arrive with 1080p AVC encoded video transfers that are just absolutely astonishing. The detail seen in the picture is fantastic, with colors jumping off the screen. If you’ve spent years watching the previous DVD releases, then you will undoubtedly be floored by the quality of these transfers. Nothing short of fantastic, the transfers for both films are easily some of the best I’ve seen on the format. Without a doubt if you loved the films, you will want to own these on Blu-ray.
Not to be outdone by the video, the audio also gets a massive upgrade with an uncompressed 5.1 PCM track that brings to life every element of the film like never before. Excessive surround usage brings out every little sword swing, punch, blood spray and glass shatter. As with the video transfer, this new audio transfer is worth upgrading for—it just sounds absolutely remarkable with the amount of information being tossed about the room for any given scene. Of course the big battle in the first volume is easily the one to test out the home theater on, as the surround mix on that particular sequence is amazing.
Unfortunately while we get a new audio and video transfer, the same extras from the DVD editions are ported over (and in standard definition to boot). For the first film we get “The Making of Kill Bill Volume 1” (22:05), a standard making-of documentary piece that highlights the production of the film. It could definitely be longer as I feel like we barely scrape the surface of what could be told about this film. “The ‘5,6,7,8’s’ Bonus Musical Performances” (5:51) and Tarantino Trailers wrap up the rest of the extras for the first film, making for a very disappointing round of extras for this first volume.
Sadly enough, if you thought the extras were disappointing for the first film, we get even less for this second volume. “The Making of Kill Bill Volume 1” (26:03) follows along the same vein as the first volumes extra, while “Damoe” Deleted Scene (3:37) gives us our only Kill Bill deleted scene. Finally a “Chingon Musical Performance” (11:32) wraps up the extras for the second volume. I really wish we could have gotten a commentary on these films, but I guess Tarantino likes to leave a lot of mystery to his works. As is the making-of’s are nice, but simply don’t feel like they do enough to give us a full feel for the films.
Overall the Kill Bill volumes come Recommended. You will want to upgrade your previous discs for this A/V upgrade, but sadly enough we don’t get any new extras to accompany them.
Kill Bill Volume 1 and Volume 2 are now available on Blu-ray.