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Ultra HD : Worth a Look
Ranking:
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Release Date: March 12th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 2023

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

4K UHD Review By: M. Enois Duarte
Although Jason Momoa remains a charming presence throughout, James Wan's Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is sadly, a lackluster follow-up that pales in comparison to its predecessor with characters, particularly the villains, who are more of a goofy, cartoonish shell of their former selves while Aquaman is relegated to acting the clown. The sequel washes ashore on Ultra HD with a reference-quality 4K HDR video, an oddly disappointing Dolby Atmos track, and a decent collection of bonuses. Ultimately, this UHD edition is another case of a good disc, bad movie but Worth a Look for fans.

OVERALL:
Worth a Look
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Single-Disc UHD Pack, UHD-100 Triple-Layer Disc, Region Free
Video Resolution/Codec:
2160p HEVC/H.265, Dolby Vision HDR
Length:
124
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.78:1
Audio Formats:
English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH, French, Spanish
Special Features:
Featurettes, Digital Copy
Release Date:
March 12th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

You know you're in trouble when a cast member's legal dramas overshadow any conversation about a movie production, making it a central issue of concern and controversy. Even worse, when a studio has two projects shrouded in heavily publicized legal disputes released in the same year. First, it was The Flash with Ezra Miller, and now, walking into Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, Amber Heard has unintentionally stolen the spotlight, making it difficult to not focus on her presence and performance. Or the lack thereof since her screen time is less than five minutes total while her acting is about as enthralling as watching a manatee swim in swamp water. No disrespect to the beautiful, majestic, and noble manatee, of course. But frankly, Heard's Mera is so inconsequential that removing her entirely would not have affected the overall story, as she's gone for a majority of the time until the eleventh hour.

Setting that annoying discussion point aside, we have a direct follow-up that sadly pales in comparison to its predecessor. It's not necessarily boring or uninteresting, but a plot that sees Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) again fighting Aquaman (Jason Momoa) to avenge his father's death feels terribly familiar and even routine. Except, with a twist in the form of Kordax, the merciless ruler of the lost kingdom Necrus and true master of the Black Trident, which he uses to possess people to do his bidding - and to implant visions of his diabolical plan, apparently. The story, which director James Wan co-wrote with David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Thomas Pa'a Sibbett, and Momoa, also makes the lamest excuse for recruiting Aquaman's half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) to peacefully talk to the ruler of the Sunken Citadel (Martin Short), which ends in a gigantic action sequence anyways while clumsily injecting a buddy-comedy feel to the movie.

However, much of the humor and sense of swashbuckling adventure that worked so well in the first film is in disappointingly short supply here. If the lack of chemistry between Momoa and Heard was bad enough before, the buddy chemistry with Wilson is all but absent. Their entire interaction essentially consists of bickering about the events in the previous movie, moaning and grunting with every hit, and repeating a gag about being called "brother" that almost instantly grows tired after its first utterance. None of the jokes elicit a burst of genuine laughter, except for a smirk when Wilson's Orm claims he doesn't know how to run - his arms stiffly pulled back with his head thrusting forward. Thankfully, Wan and cinematographer Don Burgess interrupt the monotony with stunning, spectacularly surreal visuals of the underwater civilizations and some admittedly rousing action sequences that pose a believable threat to our maritime hero. 

Although Momoa remains a charming presence throughout, just enough at least, to tolerate this sanctimonious attempt to be a shrewd take on the climate change crisis, it's sadly not enough to save Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, a dried-up seaweed washing up to shore. His Arthur/Aquaman has been relegated from a sarcastic, wisecracking reluctant superhero to a jeering, zany reluctant superhero who is peed on a couple of times for no other reason than to simply make juvenile jokes. Clocking in at just over two hours, the sequel overstays its welcome eighty minutes in, meaning much of the action, as good as it is, is poorly excused for its own sake rather than integral for moving the plot forward. This is a missed opportunity to introduce a new formidable villain, such as Mera's evil twin sister Siren or the power-stealing terrorist Charybdis, both of whom could have easily replaced Black Manta with similar results. In the end, this follow-up largely feels unnecessary and rather boring littered with lots of pretty visuals. 

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Warner Home Video brings James Wan's Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a single-disc package with a flyer for a Digital Copy, granting owners access to the 4K UHD version with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio. The triple-layered UHD100 disc is housed inside a black, eco-elite case with a glossy, lightly-embossed slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken to a static screen with usual options along the bottom and music playing in the background.

Video Review

Ranking:

The superhero sequel storms the Ultra HD seas thanks to an 8K source that was used for creating a 4K digital intermediate, resulting in a gorgeous demo-worthy transfer that folks will want in their collection to show off their home theater setup. 

The stunning, reference-quality HEVC H.265 encode is consistently razor-sharp from start to finish, showing striking details in the costumes, buildings and various weapons. Even the many CGI and fast action sequences maintain distinct clarity with well-defined lines in the fantastical creatures and the individual pieces of debris dashing across the screen. Close-ups of those same creatures and the real-life cast reveal small pores and discrete facial features. The Dolby Vision HDR presentation also boasts a dazzling array of richly saturated colors, which is most evident during all the underwater scenes like the Atlantean Empire bathing in a kaleidoscope of flamboyant, sumptuous neon hues. Meanwhile, primaries are continuously lush and animated, and facial complexions always appear healthy with a peachy-rosiness around the cheeks. A spot-on contrast and brightness balance supplies the action with immaculate, radiant whites and inky, raven blacks with outstanding visibility within the darkest shadows. Specular highlights provide the hottest spots with a beaming, resplendent glow without washing over the finer details, providing the 1.78:1 image with an eye-catching cinematic appeal that's sure to wow viewers. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 100/100)

Audio Review

Ranking:

The King of the Seven Seas washes ashore with a sometimes impressive but also oddly disappointing Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing specifically defective or wrong with the design. It delivers an extensive mid-range that exhibits remarkable clarity and superb distinction in the upper frequencies, even during the loudest action pieces while still prioritizing the vocals amid the chaos.

The issue is that this is more of a front-heavy presentation that doesn't fully complement the visuals or ever really take full advantage of the audio system, almost as if holding back during the most rambunctious sequences in the vein of a Disney title. Nearly all ambient effects move between the surrounds and rears, creating an otherwise outstanding soundscape that envelops the listener. However, those same atmospherics only lightly bleed into the ceiling channels, and even then, they seem to come in at lower decibels than the rest or are too easily localized within the room. The top front heights fare much better as background activity smoothly moves above the screen, but the same can't be said for the top middle and rear heights, failing to ever really generate a convincing hemispheric soundfield that feels truly immersive. In fact, the lack of activity during certain segments is noticeable enough to have pulled me out of the movie's enjoyment several times. Likewise, the low end is surprisingly moderate and average given the magnitude of the wildly fantastical visuals. To be fair, the bass is adequately commanding when required with strong, appreciable oomph, but it's mostly in the 35-40Hz range, except for one notable sweep early on that extends just below 20Hz but at a rather low decibel (bass chart).

For the sake of clarity, I watched the movie at -10dB from reference in a dedicated calibrated room in a 7.4.8 audio system. And in the end, this makes for an outstanding 7.1 lossless track that's sure make listeners plenty happy, but as a 3D audio design, it's rather unsatisfying and leaves some to be desired. Also, the disc includes legacy Dolby Digital 5.1 options in English, French and Spanish, along with subtitles in those same languages. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 82/100)

Special Features

Ranking:

This single-disc UHD edition arrives with an acceptable but familiar collection of "covering-the-basics" bonus material.

  • Finding the Lost Kingdom (HD, 21 min) is an EPK-style piece with cast and crew interviews and lots of BTS footage
  • Aquaman: Worlds Above and Below (HD, 10 min) discusses the comic-book character while also looking at the FX work, the choreography and the shooting locations
  • It's a Manta World (HD, 10 min) focuses on the David Kane/Black Manta character and his role in the sequel with interviews of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and others
  • Escape from the Deserter World (HD, 8 min) explores the creation and execution of the prison-escape sequence with concept art, production design and BTS footage
  • Necrus, the Lost Black City (HD, 6 min) takes viewers on an exploration of the lost kingdom, from concept and creation to its execution in the film
  • Atlantean Blood is Thicker than Water (HD, 4 min) provides some insight into the relationship between Aquaman and Orm with interviews of Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson
  • Brawling at Kingfish's Lair (HD, 4 min) is similar to the above featurette but focuses on the creation and execution of the Sunken Citadel sequence
  • Oh, TOPO! (HD, 2 min) shines the spotlight on Aquaman's trusty octopus sidekick

Ignoring the legal dramas of one of its cast members, James Wan's Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is a direct follow-up that sadly pales in comparison to its predecessor, lacking the same humor and sense of swashbuckling adventure that made the first movie a success. Although Jason Momoa remains a charming presence throughout the film is too clownish with a sense of humor that struggles to land a laugh. The sequel washes ashore on 4K Ultra HD with a striking, reference-quality Dolby Vision HDR presentation and a decent but also at the same time disappointing Dolby Atmos soundtrack. While the collection of bonuses covers the basics, this UHD edition is reluctantly recommended, but it's ultimately another case of good disc, bad movie that's really only Worth a Look.

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about the gear used for this review 

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