Joker Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

In Gotham City, mentally troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He soon embarks on a downward spiral of revolution, bloody crime and eventually the path that brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: Joker. Check out Ralph Potts’ Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Joker from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

96

Details:

Studio and Year: Warner – 2019
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 122 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Francis Conroy, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Music by: Hildur Gudnadottir
Written by: Tod Phillips, Scott Silver
Region Code: A

Release Date: January 7, 2020

“Put on a Happy Face”

Synopsis:

In Gotham City, mentally troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He then embarks on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: the Joker.

My Take:

Forever alone in a crowd, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) longs for any light to shine on him. Trying his hand as a stand-up comic, he finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty and, ultimately, betrayal, Arthur makes one bad decision after another that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events.

Joker centers around an origin of the iconic arch nemesis of one of DC’s biggest heroes and is an original, standalone story not seen before on the big screen. Todd Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale. I went to see Joker when it was in theaters and found its alternate perspective on Gotham City and the origin tale of Joker to be engrossing. I liked the idea that it took place in an undisclosed time period, which appeared to be somewhere in the mid nineteen eighties and how it made very specific references to the Wayne family and Joker’s connection to Bruce Wayne’s beginnings.

Don’t misunderstand, this story is most definitely about Arthur Fleck, a loner who has spent his life on the brink of insanity, only needing a push to cross the line. We see, in great detail, who he is, why he is and, his propensity for violence, that stirs just under the surface, waiting to be unleashed. He begins as an empathetic nebbish that lives with his sickly mother, trying to make ends meet with the scraps left to him by the high society types of Gotham. The evolution of Arthur’s story is born out in a making of a madman character piece that is brought to disturbing life by Joaquin Phoenix’s tour-de-force performance.

Is it a perfect film? No. There are plot points that begin, seemingly for no defining reason, some of which aren’t taken to fruition and others that raise questions that aren’t answered. Be that as it may there is much to enjoy as the unraveling character study takes a dark turn while we witness Arthur’s spiral after the only things that have meaning in his life are stripped from him.

Joker definitely played better upon a second viewing which allowed me to focus on the small but tangible elements found in the story, background and Phoenix’s terrific performance. I have to imagine that Joaquin Phoenix will receive an Academy Award nomination but, regardless, his portrayal of this character is among his best. Joker may not have broad audience appeal however, those that appreciate something that sort of reinvents the wheel will surely find it to be time well spent. For me, it turned out to be better than I’d hoped.

Replay Value: 4.5 Stars

Parental Guide:

The rating is for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Level of immersion: 
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  • Entertainment factor: 

 

Joker comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

For its presentation on Ultra HD Blu-ray Joker was derived from 3.4K/4.5K/5.1K sources and finished on a 4K Digital Intermediate.

The 1080p transfer of Joker is a good one and this Ultra HD rendering takes it up a notch with a discernible increase in detail and visual depth. This is a period style film that was shot with a specific visual aesthetic in mind and that comes through in this presentation. This isn’t an overtly colorful film. Other than several well-chosen moments where sepia tones and rich chromatic variants are used, the film doesn’t make for especially eye-catching levels of color. Over the course of the film the presentation’s earth toned and primary colors benefited from UHD’s wider color gamut but, not to a defining degree.

The added dimension in blacks, and shadows during the low-level scenes is immediately noticeable. The cinematography makes use of shadows, streaming light and a mix of light/dark elements. The blend of shadow detail/depth of field offset by the presence of light at varying levels, looked very natural. The film has a variety of sequences that make use of close up camera angles that show off the superb rendering of detail. A fine example is the film’s opening moment which features a close up of Arthur as he dons his clown makeup. At times, the level of minutia is eye opening, as even the finest nuance in the physical features, costumes, interior sets and exterior venues is resolvable.

The application of high dynamic range takes on a lesser role in this presentation but, this seems to coincide more with the film’s innate elements rather than the nature of the encode. It wasn’t something that I missed based upon what I was seeing onscreen. I think that Joker most definitely benefitted from the Ultra HD treatment. The improvement over its 1080p counterpart is a discernible one that elevated the experience of watching the film. I thought it looked simply fantastic.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

In comparing the DV and HDR-10 renderings I ran the same scenes using my reference Panasonic UHD player in DV and HDR-10 modes. The title looked terrific on both formats with respect to the reproduction of HDR. While I found that the DV presentation offered slightly better delineation of color it wasn’t enough to warrant a rating difference. Inevitably you can’t go wrong with either but, if pushed, my preference was the Dolby Vision presentation.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the active variety that made steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects is a mix atmospherics, discrete effects and music. This is done to very good effect and creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. During the first act, there are several instances where the mix generates a noticeable improvement in dimension and depth of field. This continues with the film’s action-based sequences as they convey the breadth/expanse of interiors and exterior venues, which bristle with enveloping ambience and discretely placed effects.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

 

Audio: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

 

Joker comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

This is an excellent high definition rendering that sports plenty of fine detail and crisp definition that provides discerning dimensional perspective. Colors range from warm and vivid to cool, reserved and almost tonally neutral. This is obviously a creative decision that draws definitive visual boundaries and works quite well. Contrast is strong and blacks are deep without compromise to delineation. Shadowy areas exhibit excellent depth of field and visible gradational stages. I didn’t see any signs of video degrading artifacts or extraneous compression related noise. Joker looks fantastic on Blu-ray.

The 7.1 channel soundtrack features crystal clear dialog, robust dynamics and when called upon, an engaging surround sound mix. I was impressed with the implementation of both spacial dimension, and directional effects. This worked hand in hand with a resonating low end that underscored the film’s thematic tone. I found this to be an involving audio presentation that complimented the video resulting in an entertaining viewing experience that enhanced the source material.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Joker Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Joker Blu-ray
  • Joker: Vision & Fury
  • Becoming Joker
  • Please Welcome…Joker!
  • Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos
  • Digital Code

Final Thoughts:

Joker is a decidedly dark origin story that in the hands of co-writer/director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix pushes the envelope, resulting in a disturbingly twisted tale with a bite that leaves a mark. It comes to Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring faithful, reference quality video, excellent surround sound, including a solid Dolby Atmos immersive listening experience and a fair supplemental package. Joker may not have broad audience appeal however, those that appreciate something that sort of reinvents the wheel will surely find it to be time well spent. For me, it turned out to be better than I’d hoped. In that light it comes highly recommended on Blu-ray.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman & C6-HDR Meter from Portrait.com)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems