Black Panther – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

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Film Title: Black Panther
Release Date: 2018
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 134 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Studio: MARVEL (Disney)
Audio Format(s): Dolby Atmos 7.1.4Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
High Dynamic Range: HDR (HDR10)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Formats Available: 4K UHD Blu-ray & Blu-ray Disc
Versions Available: 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, 4K SteelBook, Blu-ray SteelBook
Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Chadwick BosemanMichael B. JordanLupita Nyong’o, Danai GuriraMartin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling K. Brown, Winston Duke


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The Movie

Black Panther” is the latest character from Marvel Comics, now in the the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to get their own film. The character originally first appeared in issue #52 of “Fantastic Four” all the way back in 1966. He was created by the legendary team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The character would continue to appear in Marvel comics and from 1973 on out in “The Black Panther” comic books.

Theatrically, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we were first introduced to “T’Challa” and “Black Panther” in the 2016 film “Captain America: Civil War.” Spoilers aside, he makes a few appearances in that film. Those few appearances were enough in a busy film like that to have established the character in the cinematic universe. It’s not really something that you totally need to see going into this film, but it certainly would not hurt if you want to completely understand the character and his origin story in the cinematic universe.

Now, the 2018 film adaptation of “Black Panther” was co-written and directed by Ryan Coogler, best known for directing the films “Fruitville Station” (2013) and “Creed” (2015) – both of which starred Michael B. Jordan, who appears in this film in an unforgettable and vital supporting role.

As far as the plot goes for this film, this takes place after the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and spoilers aside, we find the former Prince of WakandaT’Challa” (Chadwick Boseman) trying to make his official rise to King in the fictional African nation and getting ready for a possible challenge at his claim for the throne. Meanwhile two men, “Erik Killmonger” (Michael B. Jordan) and “Ulysses Klaue” (Andy Serkis), are trying to steal the precious “Vibranium” and artifacts from the nation. These two men are vital to the plot.

There are a lot of other great characters (supporting roles) here that aide T’Challa such as his love interest “Nakia” (Luptia Nyong’o), his mother “Queen Romonda” (Angela Bassett), his extremely helpful sister “Shuri” (Letitia Wright), as well as his badass head of armed forces “Okoye” (Danai Gurira), Wakandan shaman “Zuri” (Forest Whitaker) and a CIA Agent “Everett K. Ross” (Martin Freeman). That’s just naming some of the characters that you’ll see and setting you up for the real plot. We will get to see T’Challa fight for his claim to the throne, as King and Black Panther, as well as get to see some excellent action, and learn some very important things along the way.

It was no surprise that a film adaptation of “Black Panther” was such a massive success. In fact, the film was a box office powerhouse grossing 1.34 billion dollars world-wide, and was only shot on an estimated 200 million dollar budget. Fans (moviegoers) really enjoyed the film with, at time of writing this, it carrying a strong 7.5 (out of 10) average rating on IMDb. The critics were pretty damn kind to the film with, again at time of writing this, the score being 88 (out of 100) on MetaCritic and carries a “certified fresh” 96% (out of 100%) over at Rotten Tomatoes.

During its long run as a comic book series, “The Black Panther” has spoken to a younger African-American base of comic book readers, as well as readers of all ages and races. It’s important though that it was around in the time period the comic book started and is still very relevant today and it’s great to see the character finally getting a film.

Ryan Coogler proves, after an amazing film like “Creed” back in 2015, to still be able to make absolute blockbuster breathtaking films – even now in the superhero genre. It’s also great to see his continued work with his usual lead (muse) Michael B. Jordan in a very vital supporting role (as mentioned). The cast here is absolutely incredible be it Chadwick Boseman in the lead role, or any of the other supporting roles. This film is filled with a great cast, great story and comes together perfectly.

Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)


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Video Quality

According to the technical specifications on IMDb, this was filmed on the Arri Alexa XT Plus camera with Panavision Primo Lenses. “Black Panther” was shot digitally in 3.4K resolution via ARRIRAW codex format as source. It was then digitally intermediate mastered in true 4K resolution. The film is presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio.

This benefits heavily from having High Dynamic Range on the 4K presentation versus the Blu-ray Disc presentation which seems almost flat in terms of colors and black levels in comparison. And, sure the amount of detail you’ll find here versus the 2K Blu-ray is very impressive, to say the least. In terms of HDR benefits though, let’s start discussing. The film starts out with a couple very dark nighttime scenes. Later via a flashback to Oakland in 1992 and HDR makes absolute benefit of having a solid black level when looking at the skyline and such of an outdoor basketball court in the dark cloudy night. The black level is way more intense here with HDR, almost in a “night and day” like comparison – again with 4K HDR versus the Blu-ray. At times, especially dark scenes, the black of the character’s costume will almost blend into the black bars of the aspect ratio. Not too bad at all.

One of the first and most vivid scenes in terms of color comes about 20 minutes into the film when the tribes of “Wakanda” assemble for a ritual challenge. The outfits of the different tribes prove to be a visual rainbow of bright and vivid color and pop off the screen a tad at times. There’s quite a bit of that throughout the film, sometimes more than others. Namely one scene (pictured above) that struck me in terms of vivid color via the HDR is where T’Challa is walking across this sparse dark African desert with a few trees and a beautiful sky that is this blend of purples and blues. It just looks gorgeous here in scenes like that. It also looks straight up awesome during the more bright (better lit) action scenes too.

In terms of detail, let’s say this comes across really sharp coming from its 3.4K source and 4K master. Lines are clearly defined, details on costumes like textures and such stand out a whole lot more than they do in the 1080p Blu-ray presentation. Some films don’t always benefit like this when they’re released to 4K. This really is a sight to behold at times and does the beauty of the fictional land of “Wakanda” visual justice. However, in fairness it doesn’t pop off the screen in terms of bright vivid color as much as the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – namely the past two. Still, it looks great and has its own cinematic style: one that some may not have translated perfectly to 4K but still looks great.

In regards to this being from a true 4K digital intermediate master: I just hope that this is a sign of more true 4K mastered releases from Marvel Studios (Disney) on the way in the future. Looking back, it’s maybe a slight shame “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2” and “Thor: Ragnarok” in their 4K UHD Blu-ray releases only came from 2K masters. It feels like those two previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe could have probably benefited if they had decided to master those in 4K. All of this being said, in terms of video quality, it’s a nice sharp 4K visual experience and benefits heavily from HDR vs. the Blu-ray which seems dull in comparison.

Video Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)


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Audio Quality

Audio here (on the 4K disc) is presented in Dolby Atmos 7.1.4 format and in Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 as well. The film was originally mixed and presented during its theatrical run in the Dolby Atmos format as well as even other atmospheric audio formats like Auro 11.1, DTS:X – according to technical specifications on IMDb. It seems atmospheric sound was definitely in mind by the sound department.

Starting with the opening of the film, in the father / son narration flashback, you will notice how clear and well mixed the dialogue is to center channel speaker. This, I’m happy to report, is the case throughout the film, and not once will you find yourself making any volume adjustments for the dialogue. However, this Dolby Atmos mix can require a little bit of amplification to higher volume to really get the most out of it. You’ll get more “oomph” out of those action sequences if you crank your AV receiver’s volume up some from the start of the film.

Now, once some music and sound effects start up you’ll notice the use of the front, rears and even atmospheric speakers start to intensify a bit. As the film progresses and the title sequence with the MARVEL logo pops up, you’ll really start to notice how this atmospheric mix comes together. It’s nothing too flashy, by no means, but it certainly gets the job done. If you’re on a proper Atmos capable setup: your room should be benefiting from having either 2 or in this case 4 atmospheric speakers. Regardless if you’re just on 5.1 or 7.1 or on Atmos you’ll be feeling the pretty good amount of bass via LFE generating on your subwoofer during intense action sequences, as well as pretty nice use of rear channels.

For those who chose to opt for it, it’s worth noting, the Dolby Digital 7.1 Plus however is a bit outdated and sounds a bit off in comparison to the Atmos TrueHD. Still, it’s nice to see another sound format included – but realistically a DTS:X mix would have been a better choice as another atmospheric track to accompany the Atmos to make for comparison. Still it’s nice to see Marvel (Disney) continuing to stick with 7.1.4 Atmos mixes, even if this is – in all due honestly – not one of the strongest. I don’t mean any disrespect by that. I’m just being realistic. I’ve heard better Atmos in just a 5.1.2 configuration. In closing, it’s audio mix has received some disapproval from both critics and consumers. I’ll just say that it’s not perfect, but as I said, the Atmos gets the job done and is a definite improvement over the standard DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix found on the Blu-ray Disc.

Audio Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)


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Bonus Materials

  • A Digital Copy of the film via Movies Anywhere is included, which is compatible with iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video and more. You redeem this with a code on paper insert in the various forms of packaging. This sadly does NOT include a 4K version on iTunes, just HD, however it is in 4K with HDR on Vudu even with Dolby Atmos sound – something actually capable on Vudu for those on devices like the NVIDIA Shield TV. However, it will NOT playback with Dolby Atmos on a device such as Apple TV 4K when using the Vudu app. Just felt this is worth noting to the consumer.

The 4K UHD Blu-ray includes no bonus materials what-so-ever, aside from subtitles and audio tracks in a few other languages. The second disc, a Blu-ray Disc of the film, is where the bonus materials are to be found. All of the content here features Dolby Digital 5.1 sound unless otherwise noted in the description.

On the Blu-ray Disc you will find the following:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Ryan Coogler & Production Designer Hannah Bleacher

 

  • Introduction by Director Ryan Coogler (1:23 / HD)

 

  • Featurettes (24:55 / HD) includes a “play all” function. These include: “Crowning of A New King”, “The Hidden Kingdom Revealed“, “The Warriors Within“, and “Wakanda Revealed: Exploring the Technology.” –– These featurettes offer up your typical clips from the film, previous Marvel films, as well as include some excellent interviews with cast and crew members like star Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa / Black Panther) and Co-writer/Director Ryan Coogler.

 

  • Gag Reel (1:38 / HD) is actually pretty funny, unlike most that seem scripted.

 

  • Deleted Scenes (6:53 / HD) includes a “play all” function. These include:
    UN Meet and Greet“, ” Okoye and W’Kabi Discuss The Future of Wakanda“,”T’Challa Remembers His Father“, “Voices from the Past.”  –– Unlike most deleted scenes, those in superhero films, prove to be worth the watch and will give you more information about the characters and plot. It’s worth noting that ALL of these deleted scenes include Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound.

 

  • From Page To Screen: A Roundtable Discussion” (20:27 / HD) is technically subtitled “A Black Panther Discussion with the Writers and Filmmakers” as you will see in the opening title. I guess they decided to shorten it to fit on the Blu-ray menu. This includes a six-person panel of: Christopher Priest (Writer, Black Panther Comics), Don McGregor (Writer, Black Panther Comics), Nate Moore (Executive Producer, Black Panther Film), Ta-Nehisi Coates (Writer, Black Panther Comics), Joe Robert Cole (Writer, Black Panther Film), and Ryan Coogler (Co-writer/Director, Black Panther Film). You will get to see some awesome old still frames of the original comic books here as the guys discuss the character.

 

  • Marvel Studios – The First Ten Years: Connecting The Universe (8:39 / HD) includes clips from all of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, including “Avengers: Infinity War.” You’ll also get interviews from Kevin Fiege (President, Marvel Studios), Robert Downey, Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Victoria Alonso (EVP, Physical Production, Marvel Studios), Stephen Broussard (Production & Development Executive, Marvel Studios), Peyton Reed (Director, “Ant-Man and the Wasp“), Louis D’Esposito (Co-President, Marvel Studios), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord), William Hurt (Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross), Nate Moore (Production & Development Executive, Marvel Studios), Taika Waititi (Director, Thor: Ragnarok), Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa/Black Panther), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Anthony Russo (Director, Avengers: Infinity War), Joe Russo (Director, Avengers: Infinity War), Stepehen McFeely (Writer, Avengers: Infinity War) and Christopher Markus (Writer, Avengers: Infinity War). Essentially this just serves as a hype piece to get you to want to see the next film (after this) in the MCU. Nothing at all wrong with that.

 

  • Exclusive Sneak Peek At “Ant-Man and The Wasp (2:26 / HD) is technically the next film in MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and will be released in July of this year (2018). This includes interviews with cast and crew members: Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Evangeline Lilly (Hope Van Dyke/The Wasp), Michael Douglas (Dr. Hank Pym), and Peyton Reed (Director). This also includes lots of behind-the-scenes on set footage and actual finished footage from the film, as well as footage from the first film.

Bonus Materials Rating: 4 (out of 5)


Closing Thoughts

Black Panther” – as a new superhero film – serves as a breath of fresh air, as it’s a popular character finally getting their own film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, you’ll see some racially motivated situations, and that’s because there are. I’d be lying if I said race doesn’t play a part here. However, the lead character is a hero for and to his people, yet fights for all people, regardless of race – as you’ll find if you actually watch the film.

In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4 (out of 5) for bonus materials

It’s a great 4K release and definitely worth picking up, especially for those who are fans of the Marvel films or the character specifically.


Overall Verdict:
Excellent Film , Great 4K & Atmos


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