Aquaman 4K Ultra HD

Featured In Issue 238, April 2019

WSR Score3.5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Warner Home Video
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Sequences of sci-fi- violence and action, and some language
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Single Side, Dual Layer (BD-66)
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James Wan
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Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1
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"Aquaman" tells of an adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas. The Atlantean child Orin, son to the Queen of Atlantis (Kidman), was raised by his father (Morrison), a kindly lighthouse keeper. The keeper named him Arthur Curry (Momoa). Able to survive the harshest depths of the ocean and on the surface world above, the child of two worlds grew to be a hero to both, eventually returning to Atlantis to become their King in addition to being a founding member of the Justice League as Aquaman. (Gary Reber)

Special features include 11 featurettes: "Going Deep Into The World Of Aquaman," "Becoming Aquaman," "James Wan: World Builder," "Aqua Tech," "Atlantis Warfare," "The Dark Depths Of Black Manta," "Heroines Of Atlantis," "Villaneous Training," "Kingdoms Of The Seven Seas," "Creating Undersea Creatures," and "A Match Made In Atlantis"; scene study breakdowns; an exclusive sneak peek of "Shazam!"; upfront previews (Blu-ray) and a Movies Anywhere digital code.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265 Ultra HD HDR10/Dolby Vision picture, reviewed on a Sony Bravia Z9D 4K Ultra HD HDR display, was photographed digitally using the Arri Alexa Mini and SXT camera systems and sourced from a 2K (not 4K) master Digital Intermediate format. As the 2K Digital Intermediate has been upconverted to 2160p, there is no real gain in native resolution. While there is a 3D conversion GENER8 on the Blu-ray Disc, this was not provided for review. The 4K Ultra HD picture is presented in 2.40:1 in scenes above water and 1.74:1 during the IMAX-framed underwater scenes, which are sporadic early on but dominate the second half of the movie. At times during underwater scenes the imagery exhibits an unrealistic and "produced" quality, especially in the CGI and visual effects department. However, image quality is overall sharp. The color palette is unusually hued in pastels during underwater segments, such as in scenes in the otherworldly Atlantis, and more normalcy on land sequences, such as scenes at the home of Arthur's father and scenes in Sicily and the Sahara Desert, which is wonderfully photographed. Saturation is strong on the surface, such as Mera's fluorescent red hair and Aquaman's yellow-gold attire, but less dramatic in underwater scenes, though, still colorful. Lighting design is quite elaborate and extends to the high side of the HDR contrast range, but black levels could be blacker. Shadow delineation is revealing throughout. There are so many backdrops and set designs that color saturation is varied. Still, often colors pop. Resolution tends to never exceed in exhibiting very fine detail, but instead, the overall resolution is soft for most frames. Of course, there are exceptions here and there, especially in close-up frames above water such as facial features, hair, beard and costumes. WOW! segments are from 00:33 to 02:50, 25:14 to 30:09, 41:02 to 44:24, 50:23 to 53:26, 01:14:29 to 01:15:22, 01:17:14 to 01:20;27, 01:39:36 to 01:44:58 and 02:04:15 to 02:06:56. Overall, this is a diverse mixture of sights that depicts an underwater world with excellent visual depth and color diversity. (Gary Reber)

The Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1-channel soundtrack is quite dynamic and features a very active orchestral/choral score. The music completely and aggressively envelops the soundfield at ear level, and extends aggressively to the height layer. Sound effects play a very large role in portraying the underwater world and the intense combat scenes with laser rockets and other "gunfire" effects. Atmospherics enhance the underwater scenes and deliver a sense of realism above the surface. Deep bass occurs in the main channels and in the .1 LFE channel during numerous explosions and other sound effects and within the orchestral/choral presentation, which utilizes the .1 LFE channel extensively. At times the bass powerfully extends to sub-25 Hz. Dialogue is echoey in the underwater world and completely ADR. Above the surface, dialogue is often ADR produced and wanting in spatial integration but does sound overall better integrated. (Note: be sure to select the Dolby Atmos soundtrack option in the Audio menu, as Warner fails to make this the default soundtrack on their 4K Ultra HD release, and instead the default is DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1.)

The Immersive Sound element is comprised exclusively of sound effects such as bubbling water, intense storm winds, rain and thunder, whiz and explosive effects, "gunfire" effects, submarine ruckus due to a torpedo hit, the submarine propeller, seagulls, rock and stone structures collapsing underwater, wave destruction sounds, dripping and gurgling water, a sinking city, crowd roars, swoop sounds, underwater gunfire, wind, din, running footsteps on the roof, wood debris, and other brief indescribable sound effects. This is an underachieved height layer production with long gaps of silence and absent the extension of the orchestral/choral score.

The ear-level production is busy and dynamic-sounding and an engaging holosonic® experience that feels "produced" instead of holistic, with generally compressed audio with little in the way of effective Immersive Sound. The sound is often bombastic but always engaging. (Gary Reber)