True Lies 4K Blu-ray upgrade gets mixed reviews

James Cameron’s True Lies is now out for purchase in 4K, but the restoration is already proving to be controversial.

true lies

After many years of being unavailable, James Cameron’s True Lies is finally out on physical media. While it’s been out digitally since December, it’s now on disc, but the 4K transfer is proving to be controversial. How so? During the initial digital release, many took issue with the film’s seemingly AI-assisted upgrade. Our own Luke Ryan, who ran the long-running Movie Endings Explained series for us on JoBlo Originals, took to Twitter (or X) to post some disturbing screenshots from the film, which suggests the film looks far different now than it did back in 1994.

True Lies

Having watched the 4K restoration on iTunes myself, I’ll admit that in motion, the movie looks better than it does in the stills Luke has posted. However, it also looks quite different from how it used to, with actors having a too-smooth appearance, which makes me think Luke is correct in his assessment that AI enhancement was used rather than a negative scan of the original elements (or rather – some combination of the two). Simply put, the 4K version of the movie shouldn’t look this good, as we’re talking about a movie that’s 29 years old. Restorations like this are a kind of revisionist filmmaking, although one could argue that Cameron certainly has that right as the movie’s director and producer. 

On disc, the movie apparently fares a little better, but the look is still getting mixed reviews. One of the best home media review sites, TheDigitalBits, tried to explain the restoration process:

“For its release on Ultra HD, Lightstorm, working with Park Road Post, has built a new 4K Digital Intermediate using recent 4K scans of the original camera negative (confirmed per Lightstorm). This footage has then been “optimized” by Park Road’s proprietary deep-learning algorithms. Photochemical grain has been greatly reduced, though not eliminated entirely, while fine detail has been enhanced algorithmically.”

While they say the film does indeed look better on physical media than it did digitally, the overall result is still the same. Whether you like it or not depends on your preferences.

The Abyss and Aliens have a similar look, but it’s a little less noticeable in those older films than it is in True Lies. End of the day, we don’t want to dissuade anyone from buying True Lies. It looks fantastic, and it’s great to finally have the movie available to own after many years of it being only available on a non-anamorphic DVD. But this kind of restoration reminds me a bit of how some early Blu-rays were overly DNR’d, with Predator being a notable early example, in a way that made the actors look waxy. Eventually, the film was re-released with a more normal look. That said, I wouldn’t hold my breath for a new version of True Lies as Cameron, the perfectionist he is, had probably gone over every frame of this restoration, with it looking exactly how he wants it to.

At any rate, the 4K UHD disc is due out March 12th.

Do you think Cameron went too far? Let us know in the comments. 

Source: X

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.