Steven Spielberg has finally made his dream movie with West Side Story and it's a genuinely flawless film full of love for the original and some of the best music ever created. Spielberg is still on top of his own creative game and every note and action in this movie reveals that. The 4K video presentation and Dolby Atmos audio mix are spectacular, along with a truly fun, and informative feature-length bonus feature that captures everything about the making of the movie. MUST-OWN!
Spielberg has made a smattering of films in different time periods and varying genres from family-friendly science-fiction to dramatic character studies, to action-packed war films, to even period piece biopics. He traveled to the land of dinosaurs and made everyone care for life on other planets. But never has he done a musical before with the small exception of the opening "Anything Goes" number at Club Obi-Wan in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Since then, a lot of people, including Spielberg himself have been clamoring for the legendary filmmaker to make a musical. One of his favorites is West Side Story and the time finally came for him to take the reins and make his version.
He didn't take the job to improve on the already wonderful original film from Robert Wise. Those actors and infectious songs from the late Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein are still as popular today as they were when they hit the stage. Spielberg simply wanted to show his vision for the story, which is a story that's been remade and redone countless times since the age of Shakespeare. That famous Shakespeare story Romeo and Juliet captured audiences when it first was shown all those centuries ago and many artists have remade those worlds from the iconic playwright in a variety of different ways. West Side Story is one of them, but with an updated story on two different factions of people living in NYC where the local government is trying to move out immigrants and people of color from their neighborhoods to make way for upscale living and lifestyle for the suitable only for the rich and wealthy elite of the city.
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Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
West Side Story dances its way to 4K Ultra HD in a two-disc set that includes the 4K + Blu-ray + Digital Code from 20th Century Fox. The discs are housed inside a hard, black plastic case with a cardboard sleeve. The artwork reveals the two leads on that famous balcony falling in love. There is also an insert for a digital code.
West Side Story comes with a fantastic-looking 2160p UHD 4K transfer with HDR. Spielberg shot the movie on 35mm film by his longtime cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, which was then finished on 4K DI. The result is an amazing-looking movie that is ripe with color and vigor that stays true to its time period of the 1950s.
A lot of the city has a dreary color palette due to its torn-down buildings. Silvers, ugly red bricks, dirt, and browns dominate the screen as the camera pans over the city. But soon enough, the colors in the clothing and dresses, and decor inside the apartments look amazing. The primary colors with the dramatic lighting at the school dance of purples, reds, blues, greens all shine brightly and come through beautifully. The HDR enhances some of the more nuanced lighting colorings that brighten up the wardrobe of everyone. In the lower-light sequences at night time or inside the dull police station, yellows and green stick out well and reveal even better colors for the darker shots. Clear blue skies go nicely with the silver and red brick city below. One thing that's not on display here is green grass, with the exception of a sequence at a museum, which comes through nicely. Black levels are very deep and inky with zero murky shadows of bleeding into the image. Skin tones are very natural as well in all lighting conditions.
The detail is very sharp and vivid throughout. Closeups reveal facial pores, makeup, visual effects, individual hairs, and textures in the amazing costumes very well. Even inside the dark bodega shop where Tony works, detail of old and vintage machines and candy bars reveal their textured details. Wider shots of a torn-up city look great as well and never soft. The salt mine fight showcases reveal amazing details, right down to individual grains of salt. The Blu-ray version looks great, but this 4K UHD has a great upgrade in both its color palette and detail. Lastly, there are no issues with banding, aliasing, or video noise.
This release comes with an impressive Dolby Atmos track for a musical. There are no real action explosions or a ton of gunshots here, but rather a fantastic and detailed audio experience that captures not only the music of the film but the sound effects of a bustling city. The sound effects of buildings being worked on and general construction are wonderful. Older vehicles driving by also sound robust and natural. Old fashioned cash registers ding up nicely as well. But the real sound exploration is in the iconic music.
This is where the soundscape takes its full shape with every speaker providing a big and hefty sound that is complete with a low end of bass to every note. Each instrument and voice can be heard throughout the speakers and it sounds phenomenal with some great directionality. Height speakers provide some instances of pinpoint specific effects like rain or people yelling from above, specifically from the Maria song when she's standing on the balcony looking down at Tony. Dialogue is clean, clear, and easy to follow, free of any problems. There aren't any whizbang action scenes to give you a bombastic wall-to-wall sonic experience, but when the music starts playing, it definitely starts to sound like one. The community dance at the gym is an amazing sequence!
All of the bonus features content is on the included 1080p Blu-ray disc - and then there's really only one actual genuine bonus feature on this disc, which is a feature-length documentary on the making of the film. It might not be much but it's simply amazing and focuses on Spielberg himself and how he finally got to make the movie he's always wanted to direct. The entire cast and crew are along for the ride here and is a joy to watch.
Steven Spielberg's vision for West Side Story is perfection. He has not lost a beat in the decades he's been making movies and this being his first outing in the musical genre is a triple grand-slam of a movie. The 4K UHD with HDR image looks outstanding and the Dolby Atmos track is incredible. The bonus features are slim, but give everything anyone could want in a feature-length documentary offering a ton of insight, and behind-the-scenes footage. If you love musicals and were a fan of this new rendition, this is a MUST-OWN!