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The X-Files: Fight the Future
Dolby Digital (AC3) / DTS comparison
1998 (1998) - 20th Century Fox

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The X-Files laserdisc

The X-Files laserdisc (DTS)
Program Rating: A-
The X-Files gives you shadow conspiracies, deadly plagues, insidious plots, and good, motivated action. The villains are as vile as they come, and our noble heroes struggle through their darkest hour. Throw in a pair of black helicopters, a UFO, and some particularly nasty little green men, and what more could you want? Good stuff.

Disc Ratings (AC3 - Video/Audio): A/A
Disc Ratings (DTS - Video/Audio): A/A+
The letterboxed widescreen video is excellent on both releases. The color is rich and full. The picture is a bit soft at times - definitely more than you'd see on DVD. But the DVD is still a few months away yet. The audio is also very good on both versions, with good clarity and full, deep bass. The DTS version adds just that extra measure of both.

Overall Rating (AC3/DTS): A/A+
A great flick, worthy of purchase in either sound format - neither will fail to please. If you're a DVD-only household, hold out for the 5" version, which comes out in late April. But if you're laserdisc-capable, and you really dig this film, why wait? You'll be very happy with either of these fine discs.

Specs and Features

Dolby Digital (AC3): 122 mins, PG13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 2 discs (3 sides), 21 chapters, Sides 1 & 2 CLV (Extended Play), Side 3 CAV (Standard Play), audio: English (DD 5.1 & matrixed PCM 2.0), Close Captioned

DTS: 122 mins, PG13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 2 discs (3 sides), 22 chapters, Sides 1 & 2 CLV (Extended Play), Side 3 CAV (Standard Play), audio: English (DTS 5.1 & analog 2.0), Close Captioned

Review

The Truth is Out There... on a laserdisc player near you. You don't really have to know anything about The X-Files to enjoy the film, but loyal TV viewers will benefit from some additional context and back-story. That said, newbies should have no problem here - the bad guys are clearly bad guys, the good guys are engaging, and the plot's got plenty of mystery and action. Intrepid FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) work just fine on the larger canvas. I saw it in the theater with my wife and brother (neither of whom are fans of the show), and both of them really enjoyed the film.

The cinematography is really great - all the dark, dynamic imagery we've come to expect from the show, looks great on the wide screen. The effects are very good, until near the end, where a couple of shots on the ice field don't quite measure up (you'll know what I mean). But it still works pretty well. The film visits locations unlike any seen in the show before. The acting is all first rate: Martin Landau and Armin-Mueller Stahl, in particular, are fantastic additions to the gallery of spooks and wierdos that populate the X-Files mythology. We do get to see a little more deeply into the lives of Mulder and Scully than ever before, and the events of the film serve to deepen their relationship, as well as their determination to seek the Truth. If you go into this flick expecting to be blown away by an awesome film, you'll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you go in expecting a really big, grand two-hour episode of the series, you'll really dig it. This isn't so much a criticism of the film, rather it's more a testament to the terrific quality of the series week in and week out. Can you tell I'm a big fan? Well I am.

The letterboxed widescreen video quality is very good on both versions of the laserdisc. The image is a bit softer than I'm used to on DVD, but once I made the adjustment, I was very happy - it's very film-like in appearance. The color is rich and full, and the flesh tones are accurate. The contrast is generally excellent, with solid blacks and good shadow detail. And the transfer is also excellent, with very little dust, film grain, or other unwanted artifacts to be seen. Clearly, a pristine print was used. This is a great laserdisc picture. I'm still bugged by having to swap the discs (my only peeve with laserdisc), but it's still a great visual experience.

The 5.1 audio was also pleasing on both versions. I found the dynamic range to be generally excellent on the Dolby Digital (AC3) version, with deep bass, and good spatial ambiance. There's good directionality where appropriate, but nothing artificial sounding - nothing gimmicky. The dialogue seems generally natural, and is well spread over the front half of the sound field. All in all, a very satisfying three-dimensional sound environment is created. The DTS version adds a subtle measure of clarity to the sound experience, and seems to have a slightly wider dynamic range. Certain low frequency sounds were more audible on the DTS, and a small handful of sounds that I didn't hear at all on the AC3 version were subtly conveyed by the DTS track. The aggressive score, by series composer Mark Snow, was nicely mixed with the sound effects and dialogue in both versions, and definitely added impact to the visuals.

Both versions of this laserdisc include an introduction, with comments by X-Files creator Chris Carter, and actress Gillian Anderson. Both versions also have additional minutes of an important scene added (which were not shown in theaters), wherein we learn what happened to Mulder's sister Samantha. For non-series regulars, Samantha's disappearance years ago (which Mulder believes was an extraterrestrial abduction) is what drives his life-long quest to uncover the Truth.

Bottom line

The X-Files: Fight the Future was, for me, an entirely satisfying first trip to the big screen. The film gives you everything you've come to expect from good X-Files and more. And the film experience is definitely delivered by these two laserdisc releases. If you've got DTS capability, go for that version. Otherwise, you'll be very happy with the Dolby Digital release. And you DVD fans hang in there... your version is just a couple of months away. Trust No One.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


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