BLU-RAY REVIEW: AQUAMAN 4K ULTRA HD
I think it's far from speculation to say that the DC movies haven't lived up to the hopes of audiences, or for that matter Warner Brothers. Regardless, there's an undeniable charm to the characters of the DC Universe.
Far from being a millennial, I grew up on a steady diet of Adam West's Batman, George Reeve's Superman and of course Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman. Sure, Marvel got the odd look in, with Lou Ferrigno's Hulk and the occasional Spiderman cartoon, but DC universe was the star of the day.
Likewise, Aquaman was limited to the odd cartoon on Saturday mornings (if you remember Saturday morning cartoons!), but to my young mind at least, Aquaman fell solidly in the realm of meh! And, to be honest, I must admit that's how I felt delving into the new release of Aquaman.
However, in the hands of a competent director such as James Wan and despite my initial misgivings, Aquaman (thankfully) works!
It's hard not to get caught up in the film, which sheds much of the darker grittier feel of earlier DC films. And, while it often borders on downright campy, it's just a fun and entertaining film.
After rescuing the wounded Atlantian queen - Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), lighthouse keeper Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) takes her in and nurses her back to health. The two fall and love and live happily together, their son Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) resulting from their union.
Initially thought lost, King Orm (Patrick Wilson) sends Atlantan soldiers to recover the queen and bring her back to Atlantis, where she is to be wed to King Orvax.
Growing up with his father and secretly mentored by Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe), Arthur learns his heritage and how to use his abilities. Now a full grown man, Arthur must prevent a war, which his brother King Orm is trying to spark against Atlantis and the surface world.
While I'm not opposed and often favour movies that move at a breakneck pace, Aquaman is a little too relentless in this regard. Opportunities to catch your breath and flesh out the characters barely adequate. For the most part, you feel as though you're being led from one action set piece to another.
Fortunately, however, we're still given enough to draw us into the fascinating world of Atlantis. And this is one of the more intriguing elements of the film; the world is fascinating enough to support a sequel.
Aquaman is decidedly lighter in tone than its predecessors, feeling closer to a Marvel title than a DC offering. Fans of DC's recent offerings may feel a little shortchanged, at least initially, however, the lighter tone its taken works.
Indeed Jason Momoa's portrayal of Aquaman and for that matter the film itself, never taking themselves seriously. And neither should you, to enjoy this very entertaining and just downright fun popcorn flick!
While those who watch Aquaman on a 16.9 screen are not going to mind or even applaud the fact that Aquaman switches between a 2.39.1 and IMAX aspect ratio, I imagine many scoped screen owners won't be as happy.
Like the aspect ratio, the overall colour palette of the film varies with the content. Scenes shot on the surface-world have a neutral colour tone, whereas those that are underwater favour a slight green/bluish palette.
The film's above ground environments have a very natural and convincing quality to them. Delve under the surface, however, and all bets are off.
While skin tones are naturally rendered, regardless of the environment, colour usage is purposely over the top, often fluorescent. Here, HDR gets a chance to shine with the bold and various colours found in underwater confines taking advantage of both the wider colour gamut and higher peak-brightness capabilities of the format.
HDR usage is not ignored in scenes on the surface world either, being used to good effect in sunsets and beams of sunlight poking through the clouds.
The ability of HDR to open up detail in darker scenes, combined with the film's excellent black levels, give the image both a nice sense of dimensionality and stability.
Shot digitally, there's not a hint of grain in the transfer. Likewise, I didn't notice any artifacts. However, depending on both your display type and whether the Blu-ray or UHD version of the film is used, don't be surprised to encounter some banding in the film's underwater environments.
Shot in 3.4K Aquaman uses a 2K Digital Intermediary. And while the resolution is, for the most part very good, at times, the film takes on a decidedly softer appearance, particularly during more CGI laden scenes.
While not quite reference, Warner Brother's have splashed out with a superb video transfer Aquaman.
Accompanying the film's excellent video transfer is a reference quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack. To take advantage of the Atmos soundtrack requires you to select it from the film's menu, the soundtrack otherwise defaulting to DTS-HD.
Although I often find myself turning up Atmos soundtracks a little more than their DTS-HD counterparts, Aquaman is devoid of the low volume levels which have plagued Marvel titles over the past few years. Likewise, the bass is present and accounted for, with some serious low-end to keep your subwoofer(s) busy.
The film's dynamics alone may be enough to have you dragging out Aquaman to showcase your sound system's capabilities; however, coupled with the near-constant engagement of all the speakers including the height channels, make it not only a very dynamic but also an exceptionally engaging soundtrack.
The detail is not overlooked either, whether it's the crashing of waves or more subtle ambient effects in the Atlantian throne room, the soundtrack being wonderfully nuanced. Voices are clearly rendered at all times, never getting lost in any of the film's more action-laden moments.
Sony VPL-VW270ES projector, Panasonic UDP-9000 4K Blu-ray player, Denon AVC-X8500H AV Receiver, VAF i91 front and centre speakers, VAF i90 rear speakers, Sonique in-ceiling speakers and dual VAF Veritas 10” custom subs (5.2.2 speaker configuration).
- Review Format: 4K Ultra HD
- Aspect Ratio: 2.39/ IMAX
- Audio: Dolby Atmos/ DTS-HD
- Label: Roadshow
- Run Time: 143 Minutes
- Director: James Wan
- Genre: Action
- Available Formats: Blu-ray, DVD, Ultra HD
- Rating: M
- Actors: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.
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