The Shape of Water Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Nominated for 13 Academy Awards, and winner of four, including Best Picture, Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Guillermo Del Toro’s, The Shape of Water.

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



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



Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox – 2017
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 123 minutes
Genre: Drama/Fantasy/Romance

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

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg
Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Written by: Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
Region Code: A

Release Date: March 13, 2018

“A Fairy Tale for Troubled Times”

My Take:

Elisa is a mute, isolated woman, who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret — a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate, and very survival, lies in the hands of a hostile government agent, and a marine biologist.

From master story teller, Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water is an otherworldly fable, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America in the early 1960s. I think the decision to set the film in this historic era was a good one, as it plunges the audience into a world full of things we recognize – power, anger, and intolerance, while merging the pathos, and thrills of classic monster movies with film noir. To say that the film’s romance is unconventional would be an understatement, but, within the narrative’s construct it serves to underscore its allegorical spirit.

There are additionally elements or mystery, espionage, and period related social themes weaved into the narrative’s landscape, all of which seem to work at connecting the audience to the film’s character base, which includes the mysterious amphibious being. I saw The Shape of Water in the theater with my wife and son. I think we all came away with the same reaction to it, which was essentially, lukewarm. I think absorption of its differing romantic context was probably the biggest obstacle during that first viewing, but, connecting with the plot’s other elements was easy and enjoyable, overall.

The performances, most notably, Sally Hawkins’ positively supported both the story and Del Toro’s vision, which to say the least, shines through brilliantly. The production elements from beginning to end are excellent, while Andre Desplat’s Academy Award winning music compliments the proceedings. I found The Shape of Water to be more entertaining this second time around, although, if I am being honest, I wouldn’t have picked it for Best Picture, among this year’s Oscar nominated films. Be that as it may, it did win Best Picture, and Best Director for Guillermo De Toro, which was long overdue.

The Shape of Water is a polarizing film that has left many scratching their heads, and I can understand why. For me, I find it to be a beautiful ode from a visionary director that always remains true to his art.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and 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.**

Audio: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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

UHD Presentation: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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

The Shape of Water comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

For its presentation in Ultra HD, The Shape of Water was derived from a 3.4K source, rendered from a 2K DI and up-converted to 4K. The Shape of Water is a period-based film that has a specific visual aesthetic which comes through quite naturally in this Ultra HD rendering. With a discernible increase in detail and depth the image appears more vivid and lifelike when compared to the 1080p version, which is solid in its own right. Primary colors such red and green are pleasingly rich while whites appear gradational and delineated. The film contains a host of sequences that take place in low lit interiors, and the increased dimension in blacks and shadows is appreciable. Close ups reveal oodles of fine detail and abounding textures. Wide angle shots of the city, movie theater, and the holding chamber, look great in Ultra HD.

I found the application of high dynamic range to be spot on and quite complimentary. The rendering of natural and artificial light via its discernible stages and incremental highlights is one of the presentation’s big pluses. This is noticeable during the daytime exterior sequence, around the various areas within the facility, the diner, and several of the dwellings featured in the story. The film utilizes sepia, teal schemed color and an overall a warm chromatic aesthetic that is faithfully reproduced. I found instances where the image softened, depending on the camera angle, however this appears to be innate, as it is present in both the Ultra HD, and 1080p renderings.

The difference between viewing The Shape of Water in high definition and Ultra HD isn’t night and day, but it assuredly benefitted from the increase in resolution, wide color gamut and subtle high dynamic range treatment. Overall, I was pleased with this presentation.

This is primarily a dialog driven film however there are elements in the film that require use of the entire system so its ability to clearly render them is essential. Dialog is reproduced with transparent realism and lucid texture as it is appropriately balanced within the front soundstage. The surround mix utilizes the entire platform to recreate the many acoustic sounds associated with the environments portrayed onscreen. The surrounds contain a mixture of spatial ambience/musical extension as well as directional panning cues that effectively support the front soundstage. There is a rich low end that occasionally underscores the building of tension and its presence of noteworthy. This is a complimentary audio presentation that mates well with the source material.

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: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
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  • Compression:

The Shape of Water comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio 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. The various wide angle shots of the shooting locations look terrific. Other than some innate softening, I didn’t see any signs of video degrading artifacts or extraneous compression related noise. Hidden Figures looks great on Blu-ray.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: The Shape of Water Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: The Shape of Water Blu-ray
    • A Fairy Tale for Troubled Times
    • Anatomy of a Scene: Prologue
    • Anatomy of a Scene: The Dance
    • Shaping the Waves: A Conversation with James Jean
    • Guillermo del Toro’s Master Class
    • Theatrical Trailers
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

From master story teller, Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water is an otherworldly fable that asks a lot from the audience. If you’re open to it, it does return the favor with a beautifully crafted story and wonderful performances. It comes to Blu-ray in this Ultra HD Combo Pack from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring excellent Ultra HD video, crystal clear high definition audio/video, and a worthwhile array of supplemental features. The Shape of Water is a film that definitely takes the road less traveled, but, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re a fan it’s absolutely worth picking up on Blu-ray.


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 Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 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 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