Pacific Rim Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of this entertaining popcorn flick that is popular among audio/video enthusiasts. Read on to see if Ultra HD video and a new Dolby Atmos immersive mix improve upon its excellent technical merits.

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

Film:

Extras:

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

98

Details:

Studio and Year: Warner – 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 113 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action/Fantasy

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

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, French DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Blu-ray: English DTS-HD 7.1, English/Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Charlie Hunam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Rob Kazinsky, Max Martin, Ron Perlman
Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
Music by: Ramin Diawadi
Written by: Travis Beachman & Guillermo Del Toro
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: October 4, 2016

“To Fight Monsters We Created Monsters”

My Take:

When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes—a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi)—who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankind’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

I Reviewed Pacific Rim when it was originally released on Blu-ray and have included my comments from that review here. The ratings for the 1080p audio/video and bonus content will be the same as they are identical to the original release. New comments and ratings from the new Dolby Atmos mix and Ultra HD video are below.

I really wanted to get to the theater to see Pacific Rim but it just didn’t work out. I like director Guillermo Del Toro and the subject matter just looked to be lots and fun. I sat down to watch it and was sold right from the opening sequence. As a kid that grew up in the 1970’s watching the classic monster films of that era I immediately connected with the concept of Kaiju (Japanese for Monster) rising from the depths to attack nearby cities. It’s evident that what Del Toro, who co-wrote the screenplay, was shooting for wasn’t so much an homage (although it could be seen that way), but a fresh take on the genre.

I think he successfully captures the essence of what made those films so much fun while spinning a contemporary yarn containing elements of sci-fi, action, drama and a little levity. The narrative is simply drawn but covers the bases in terms of character development and associative thematic context. Right at the start we get a taste of what is to come and for genre fans the flavor is savory sweet. This is a big budget extravaganza with a massive production design both in scope and scale. Using a blend CGI, live action and hand crafted sets few punches are pulled (sorry I couldn’t resist) in bringing the director’s vision of the film’s “antiverse” to life.

This film is a rock ‘em sock ‘em good time plain and simple. This isn’t provocatively deep filmmaking nor is it intended to be. What it is, is a full on sci-fi action thriller with an ambitious slant on the monster movie genre. I found it to be thoroughly fulfilling in that regard and enjoyed the infusion of elements that distill the subject matter. The cast, led by Charlie Hunam, Idris Elba, Charlie Day and Rinko Kikuchi handle their respective roles with aplomb. This is capped by Guillermo Del Toro’s passion and attention to detail.

Pacific Rim is far from highbrow entertainment but for those willing to sit back and simply take it all in it’s an exhilarating thrill ride.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.

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: 96
(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: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Level of immersion:
  • Soundstage integration:
  • Audio object placement:
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform:
  • Entertainment factor:

 

Ultra HD Blu-ray has finally been released and eager enthusiasts are ready and willing to see what it has to offer. 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

For those not willing to refer to the article linked above, I have included some comments here. The implementation of high dynamic range as it stands currently, doesn’t appear to have exacting standards and no calibration tools to allow for a foundational threshold for setting up a visual system. This leaves us to do the best we can to determine what appears to be accurate, at least for the time being. With that in mind, my approach to reviewing Ultra HD Blu-ray will be to assess the elements observed which I find to generate the most significant visual impact when compared to standard high definition Blu-ray.

For me, high dynamic range, with its broader spectrum of colors and emboldened highlights in the areas of contrast and brightness, is where the potential lies in the format. The increase in resolution, while an important component, isn’t going to be definitive in every case, especially given that currently many of the Ultra HD Blu-ray releases are derived from 2K Digital Intermediates that are up-converted to 4K. This shouldn’t be strictly construed to mean that such up-converted images won’t look noticeably better than their 1080p counterparts. Conversely, a release finished on a 4K Digital Intermediate isn’t a guarantee that it will be heads and shoulders above the rest. So, what can you expect to hear from me when discussing what I observed from Ultra HD Blu-ray? I will hit upon the things that struck me, the impact, or lack of impact, of HDR and the improvement, if any, in resolution when compared to 1080p Blu-ray. The outcome will be a rating as seen above.

Front projection for home theater is just stepping through the door with respect to the reproduction of HDR. My goal is to present readers with a reasonable expectation of what they can expect when viewing the same content that I have. There may be variables that differ slightly however I believe that in general the outcome will be close. As we are exposed to more and more content and calibration tools come onboard we will have better perspectives from which to gauge. Thanks for reading!

Pacific Rim comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound that has an average bitrate of 5 Mbps.

For its presentation in Ultra HD Pacific Rim was rendered from a 2K DI and up-converted to 4K. With the limited exposure to Ultra HD material sourced from a 4K Digital Intermediates we are left to judge based upon what we have seen thus far.

* Let me begin by saying that last week I was away from home on vacation in Northern California. I was fortunate enough to spend time with my good friend David Vaughn, Contributing Technical Editor for Home Theater Magazine, and active AVS Forum member. Dave covers Blu-ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray among his duties and received the same batch of Warner Brothers Home Entertainment UHD Blu-ray releases as I did, so we sat down together and viewed them in his theater. We share some of the same equipment, specifically the projector and A/V processor. Upon viewing, our impressions/opinion were the same. When I returned home I went through and watched specific scenes on my system and found the results to be identical to what Dave and I saw in his viewing environment. Read on..*

Despite its thematic tone and subject matter Pacific Rim is a colorful film and this Ultra HD rendering makes the most of its elements. With a discernible increase in detail and emboldened chromatic highlights the image appears noticeably sharper and vibrant when compared to the 1080p version. Primary colors such red and blue are pleasingly rich while whites appear gradational and snappy. The added dimension in the grays, blacks and shadows is immediately noticeable. I find the natural rendering of light via its discernible stages and incremental highlights to be one of the big pluses I’ve noticed with HDR. The opening segment beginning with the background on the Kaiju followed by the first encounter in the ocean looked stunning top to bottom. The image had excellent dimension that enhanced the action while colors literally popped off of the screen. The film has a variety of sequences that make use of close up camera angles that show off the superb rendering of detail. At times the level of minutia is amazing as even the finest nuance in the physical features, backgrounds/sets and computer generated imagery seen onscreen is resolvable.

The difference between viewing Pacific Rim in high definition and Ultra HD isn’t quite night and day but there is no question regarding which rendering stands out. I am pleased with this presentation and continue to be excited by the format’s potential.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be an entertaining listening experience that made steady use of the platform. The immersive mix compliments the already top notch soundtrack and enhances the experience of watching the film at nearly every level. The attention to detail here is noticeably on display and I have to tip my cap to the sound mixer. You get a taste of what is to come right at the aforementioned opening. The use of audio objects placed above and at ear level is a mix of atmospherics, discrete effects and music. This is done to excellent effect and creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. The film’s active moments, of which there are many, swallow you up as the revolving, rotating and all-encompassing surround sound comes at you from all sides.

There is also much to enjoy in scenes that aren’t actively intense as smaller elements in the background are articulated and dimensionally full. In general, this Dolby Atmos mix made for an involving surround sound display. I enjoyed the balance of atmosphere and discrete object placement. In my humble opinion Dolby Atmos is simply the best game in town, adding a complimentary element to an already superb soundtrack.

* Both David Vaughn and I had similar reactions over the course of watching/listening. At one point we disabled all but the height/rear channel speakers to see how much information was mixed there and were impressed by how active they were. Overall we simply enjoyed the ride and appreciated the quality this excellent Ultra HD/Dolby Atmos presentation.*

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

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialog Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): [img] [/img]

 

Pacific Rim comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 22 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 5.2 Mbps.

Shot digitally this film looks superb on Blu-ray Disc and features glossy high definition video quality that exhibits high level detail, razor sharpness and exquisite definition that brings out lifelike textures captured by the camera’s lens. Dimensional perspective has a near infinite appeal that can be visually stimulating. Close ups are noticeably refined and revealing of the subtlest details within facial features and objects within the frame. Mid level camera pans are equally enriching and offer excellent depth and dimension. Colors are appreciably delineated with natural rendering and punchy primaries that stand out among the remaining spectrum of secondary hues. Fleshtones are rendered with vivid tonality and discerning complexional depiction. Contrast is boldly applied without overstatement as it enlivens colors and drives brightly lit scenes without whitewashing detail. Blacks are gradational and deep which emboldens sequences containing a mix of light and dark elements. Detail in uneven light and darkened environments reveal visible shapes and structure that enhances depth perception. This is a pristine and reference quality presentation that looks terrific on my big screen.

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is reference quality and is sure to please those who like to play their systems loud. I had high expectations for this soundtrack and this lossless audio presentation didn’t disappoint. I was treated to an impeccably detailed, powerfully dynamic, and demonstrative surround sound experience. Multi-layered sound effects are appropriately placed within the soundfield so that their purpose was definable yet never overstated. The mix makes effective and often aggressive use of the surround channels to elongate the front soundstage and reproduce the spatial and discrete sounds of this demanding soundtrack. The front and rear sound fields are integrated with precision which enables a seamless transference during panning sequences. The listening position is submerged into a 360 degree web of sound that is sometimes riveting as it bombards the senses with a combination of well placed sound effects and musical ambience.

Dialog is supremely articulated with excellent focus, clarity and descriptive intonation. Low frequency detail can be substantial as it occasionally reaches seismic levels that will test the limits of lesser subwoofers. The extended dynamic range of the recording coupled with the inherent high resolution audio encoding renders the bombastic nature of battle with superlative high level sonics and authoritative bass transients that are deep and powerful. The LFE channel is mixed on the hot side which occasionally derives deep bass emphasis on sounds where it may not be necessary. Having said that I am the first to admit that I love clean powerful bass and this track delivers it in spades. I found its ability to render fine detail, and subtle nuance to be excellent. As viewers I think we sometimes miss some of the intricacies that go into the design of soundtracks such as this. Not so in this case as even seemingly inconspicuous minutia within the recording is detectable. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute with this terrific soundtrack.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Pacific Rim Ultra HD Blu-ray
    Disc 2: Pacific Rim Blu-ray
  • Audio Commentary by Guillermo del Toro
  • (HD) Focus Points (14 segments totaling 60 minutes):
    1. A film by Guillermo Del Toro
    2. A primer on Kaijus & Jaegers
    3. Intricacy of robot design
    4. Honoring the Kaijus tradition
    5. The importance of mass & scale
    6. Shatterdome ranger roll call
    7. Jaegers echo human grace
    8. Inside the Drift
    9. Goth-tech
    10. Mega-sized sets
    11. Baby Kaiju set visit
    12. Tokyo alley set
    13. Orchestral sounds from the Anteverse
  • (HD) The Directors Notebook – Interactive feature with clickable pages, interview pods, image scan note and more
  • The Shatterdome – Interactive feature with animatics, concept art galleries, costume design, environments
  • (HD) The Digital Artistry of Pacific Rim – 17 minutes
  • (HD) 4 Deleted Scenes
  • (HD) Blooper Reel – 4 minutes
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

Pacific Rim doesn’t require an in-depth analysis of the plot or deep dissection of its storyline. What it is is a knock down drag out summer blockbuster that asks little of genre fans other than to check their brain at the door, grab a bag of popcorn, kick back and enjoy the ride. It comes to Blu-ray in the Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment that features sparkling Ultra HD video, reference quality high definition audio/video, including an entertaining Dolby Atmos immersive surround mix, and legacy bonus material. Pacific Rim needs no introduction among audio/video enthusiasts. This Ultra HD Blu-ray release improves upon an already top notch presentation and comes highly recommended for those with systems capable of playing back its elements. Enjoy!

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player
Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and In-Ceiling series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package

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