Did the world need another edition of Kevin Costner and Kevin Reynolds’ aqua-opus Waterworld on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray? No, probably not, but Arrow went ahead and did it and fans of this fishy flick are ultimately the better for it if only even slightly. With a new and much better Dolby Vison encode and a thunderously fantastic Atmos track, Arrow’s impressive Limited Edition set just got a bit better. Too bad the extended versions aren’t in 4K, but as it stands this is a solid disc but ultimately For Fans Only
I already reviewed Waterworld on disc. Twice actually. 2019 was a busy year for this film seeing Arrow’s deluxe multi-disc multi-cut release sail onto Blu-ray only to be followed by Universal’s own impressive 4K UHD Blu-ray with HDR10 and DTS:X upgrade. I’m a fan, I love this movie, I got my first migraine headache during it. I’ve got a strong attachment to it but reviewing it twice in a year was kinda a lot. But after a four-year break, I'm back at it. My thoughts on the film haven’t changed. I still pull this movie out every summer so with that in mind, drift on down and click the links below for my previous reviews
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Similar to what Arrow’s been doing for a few of their rereleases now, Waterworld sees the label give it another spin on home video this time with 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. For this review, we were issued only a 4K UHD Check Disc without packaging, additional Blu-ray discs, or extra swag materials. While I have this new set on pre-order and will confirm later, the press info and images look like we’re getting the same sets of extras and alternate cuts just the 1080p theatrical disc swapped out for the 2160p 4K version.
After already seeing a nice upgrade on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Universal, Arrow Video ups the ante with their own excellent 4K transfer. The difference maker for this edition is two-fold. One, the 2160p transfer now scores a lovely Dolby Vision HDR grade (in addition to the HDR10), and two: more of the BD-100 disc is dedicated to just the 4K presentation giving the film a much better and healthier encode. While the Universal disc was very good on its own, it sacrificed disc space to include the 40-minute longer Extended Cut in HD. So those bitrates could really fluctuate. That’s not an issue at all on this disc.
For all intents and purposes, this is roughly the same restoration source, with less compression than the Universal 4K disc. Film grain is a little better resolved in some of the murkier scenes, some of those fine details in facial features and the intricate costume details get a little more attention. Soft shots like when Mariner holds the flare over the tank still look soft, but the bitrate runs higher and more stable through the whole scene giving it an appreciable edge. Again not a huge massive leap, but this version runs almost 20gigs larger using more of the BD-100 disc and for some scenes it’s an appreciable improvement in clarity.
Going into this review, my biggest worry with this Arrow disc was the Dolby Vision grade coloring and thankfully that’s also a nice improvement. This grading seems to strike a balance between the very vivid blues of Arrow’s Blu-ray and the stronger yellows of Universal’s 4K. So this time the blue water is still very blue, but it hasn’t pushed yellows into bright greens. Likewise yellows haven't been pushed so hard as to dull out the blue water and sky. Basically, Costner’s pee is a nice healthy shade of light yellow instead of looking like he drank a juiced leprechaun. Skin tones are healthy throughout, but again you can see who was sunburnt from scene to scene as they shot the film in the open ocean. Black levels are nice and inky and shadow separation is a bit stronger giving an improved sense of image depth. While there are incremental improvements over the Universal 4K, I wouldn’t exactly call this a knockout improvement either. That transfer still stands strong on its own fishy feet while I'm ultimately giving a slight edge to this disc.
On the audio front, Waterworld opens up for a new Dolby Atmos track that is a notable improvement over Universal’s own strong DTS:X mix and the previous DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks. The biggest gain I literally felt was the LFE and rumble in my subs for that iconic opening scene. That carries on into James Newton Howard’s energetic score, the rumble of the Smoker’s engines, and the variety of explosions throughout the film. That DTS:X track was no slouch in that arena, but where I set my levels I felt more power in this mix. I also felt better care was paid to using object-specific channel placement for the variety of specific sound effects. Especially during the Smoker raid on the Atoll - you have screams, gunfire, explosions, an airplane, and Dennis Hopper having the time of his life. Dialog is clean and clear throughout without any issues. Again James Newton Howard’s lively score is a highlight accent to the soundscape that gets plenty of attention but doesn’t overwhelm the mix. Levels are spot on and plays wonderfully nice and loud to rattle the walls.
With only a check disc of the 4K on hand, I can confirm that all of the bonus features found on Arrow’s previous 1080p Blu-ray have carried over. While I’d love to hear the two Kevins get together for an audio commentary, the feature-length documentary is still a fascinating watch. I rarely enjoy revisiting bonus features once thoroughly digested but this is a good one well worth revisiting just to admire and appreciate how bonkers the production was. When I have final product in hand I’ll loop back in to see if either of the extra discs for Extended and Ulysses Cuts has carried over.
4K UHD Disc
Blu-ray Disc One
Blu-ray Disc Two
Some people hate Waterworld. Some people love it. I count myself in the latter category. I never understood the hate people lumped at this movie and I still don’t. We live in a world of “Volumes” where any background can be faked with increasingly cheap-looking CGI, but this movie did it for real with incredible attention to detail for costumes and production design. It might not have worked out as intended, but damn was it ambitious. On top of that, I dig the high-concept post-apocalyptic storyline - it’s never gotten old.
Arrow returns to the future of melted polar icecaps to give collectors another run at Waterworld on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. The new Dolby Vision presentation is certainly an improvement over Universal’s own 4K disc and Arrow’s previous HD edition, but is that enough to spur a double dip or even a triple dip? If the extended cuts both were in 4K with HDR then I’d say “absolutely, yes” but even with sharp Dolby Vision HDR and excellent Atmos audio enhancements, it’s hard to give this a full-hearted recommendation when it may only appeal to the people who already bought this disc once or twice already in 2019. If you don't have Waterworld on 4K yet, yes, this is the set to get. But to that end, it really is For Fans Only