DVD - Image A- Sound A- Extras C
BD - Image A- Sound A Extras B-
starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn, Robert Duvall
screenplay by Cormac Wibberley & Marianne Wibberley
directed by Roger Spottiswoode
by Bill Chambers The 6th Day has one idea that made me sit up and take notice. In a future that's "sooner than you think," some henchmen from the shallow end of the gene pool have been sent to dispatch Arnold Schwarzenegger's illegally-cloned charter pilot. Said goons aren't nervous when confronting the Austrian Oak because they've always got a contingency plan: should Ah-nuld snap necks like he's been doing since Commando, the casualties will be shipped off to a lab for regeneration. In other words, the PG-13 film antiquates Schwarzenegger once and for all.
Ten years ago, studio marketers probably would've rejected The 6th Day's one-sheet, a poster that obscures its star's salable crocodile stare. But these days, Schwarzenegger is a Catch-22 commodity, famous yet unpopular, so advertising his projects becomes akin to defusing a bomb--pun intended. Columbia Pictures, The 6th Day's distributor, has extra reason to be gun-shy: their last film with Schwarzenegger was Last Action Hero.
Schwarzenegger's momentum might pick up with another Bush in office, but I doubt it. In the capitalist Eighties, we liked our heroic icons brawny--we had national bloodthirst, because it was drilled into us that our enemies were terrorists who could not be reasoned with; ultra-buff Stallone and Schwarzenegger had made their names in the '70s, but it was in the decade that followed that their hulking builds rendered them virtuous and they became box-office draws. In Schwarzenegger's case, everything about him seemed to inflate with Reagan's economy. But the world up and changed on these charismatic ogres. Clinton took the presidency for eight years and glamour returned to the throne at the movies. How else to explain the action heroes of the Nineties, who wear Armani better than they do a charred, sweaty undershirt? I think this accounts for Arnold's vulnerability in The 6th Day more than does his recent real-life bypass operation. As much as I admire the invincible-bad-guys hook, a sharp idea that really capitalizes on the film's subject matter (the title, in case you hadn't deduced, is a biblical allusion, as of course is "Adam," the name of Schwarzenegger's character), it's difficult to watch the merely attractive establishment (the slacker hotties who take on Ah-nuld could model by day) get the best of Arnie.
Moreover, the new, post-Clinton/Columbine sensitivity frowns upon the kind of guns-n-ammo violence that results in nihilistic one-liners, and the good directors in Schwarzenegger's past, like Predator's John McTiernan or Terminator 2's James Cameron, have left shoot-'em-ups behind. This has saddled Arnold, who lacks the range to likewise dabble in other genres, with strictly "B" filmmakers--including End of Days' Peter Hyams and The 6th Day's Roger Spottiswoode, late of Turner & Hooch (although Spottiswoode used to edit for the brilliant Sam Peckinpah, evidently he didn't learn a lot)--and robbed him of an AK-47 when he needs it the most. Schwarzenegger is losing his muscles to age, and his charisma is rooted not only in the strength of his collaborators, but also in being as imposing as he can. Everybody in The 6th Day is armed with that least masculine of firearms, the laser pistol.
Up until this point, I haven't said much about The 6th Day specifically. In and of itself, it's a decent time-waster that hypothesizes a believable future of pet cloning (no more having to teach your children about death when Sparky buys the farm) and pro-life-type protests for the genetics industry. (Its gaffe is in assuming that Vince McMahon's XFL will live long and prosper.) As a Schwarzenegger vehicle, it's a sub-par but nevertheless poignant portraiture of a world not unlike our current one, where unnatural processes have nullified the strongman--where it takes two Ah-nulds to defeat Tony Goldwyn, the lanky scoundrel from Ghost. I don't necessarily miss the era that gave rise to Schwarzenegger, but his gradual castration since that period inspires anything but schadenfreude.
Originally announced as a Special Edition, Columbia TriStar took a lower-key route with their The 6th Day DVD. A 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is supplemented by Trevor Rabin's isolated score (the South African composer and Yes founder provides mundane commentary between passages), a commercial and convincing 3-minute infomercial for the mock franchise corporation "RePet" (see explanation above), various trailers (for The 6th Day, Hollow Man, Final Fantasy, and the similarly themed Gattaca), and a foldout case insert. The image on this disc is clean and clear but the colours seem slightly off (either that or Schwarzenegger is caked with tan make-up), and contrast could be crisper. Those expecting T2-style audio will also feel let down, though the final third contains thick bass, and Adam's "Double X" charter plane is utterly and discretely present in the surrounds. Originally published: March 26, 2001.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
Something I neglected to mention in my DVD review of The 6th Day is that it features Schwarzenegger in quite possibly the most hysterically unconvincing twins performance since Elvis Presley in Kissin' Cousins, which becomes an ironic virtue when revisiting this ersatz Verhoeven. (I envision a future where the film is perceived as a minor camp classic for this reason alone.) The 6th Day is arguably more palatable on Blu-ray besides, the 2.40:1, 1080p transfer sporting razor-sharp detail and less synthetic colours, although there is occasionally some minor banding on fleshtones. If it continues to look ineffably flat despite obvious improvements in contrast, blame director Roger Spottiswoode and DP Pierre Mignot for lighting the thing like high-end TV. More impressive still, the D-BOX-enhanced Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track puts the standard-def disc's DD 5.1 audio to shame with a hyperactive, dizzyingly transparent mix and an LFE channel that's rarely idle. The BD recycles the RePet commercial while replacing the isolated Trevor Rabin score/commentary with a slew of bonus features that unfortunately fight a losing battle against apathy for the movie proper. (Think eating at Denny's then taking a tour of their kitchen.) Start with the Showtime special "The Future is Coming" (16 mins.)--and by "the future" they mean The 6th Day and by "is coming" they mean the picture's release date: something for the cable network to show after "Queer as Folk" in lieu of a test pattern, it's the standard promotional filler blending vacuous cast/crew soundbites with B-roll and a few testaments to the movie's prescience. Nine featurettes categorized under the umbrella "On the 6th Day" and totalling 48 minutes mainly take us inside the production's second unit; not sure whether years of sifting through supplementary material have made me jaded or savvy, but I found even a relatively novel piece on the creation and implementation of the creepy Cindy doll incredibly tedious. (Hell, I groaned a little at seeing ubiquitous creature designers Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis.) Two animatics, three storyboard-to-screen comparisons, BD-Live links, and previews for "Damages" and "Rescue Me" round out the disc. Extras-wise, only the trailers are in HD; they also cue up on startup. Originally published: April 8, 2008.