A contemporary retelling of H.G. Wells' classic, the sci-fi thriller reveals the extraordinary battle for the future of humankind through the eyes of one American family. Fleeing from an extraterrestrial army of killer Tripods that annihilate everything in their path, Ray Ferrier (Cruise) races to keep his family safe. Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray debut of War of the Worlds from Paramount Home Entertainment.


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

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

92

Details:

Studio and Year: DreamWorks - 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 117 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Adventure/Drama

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

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, French/Portuguese/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins, Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Rick Gonzalez
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Music by: John Williams
Written by: Josh Friedman & David Koepp
Region Code: A

Release Date: May 19, 2020
"They’re Already Here…"
Synopsis:

“A contemporary retelling of H.G. Wells' classic, the sci-fi thriller reveals the extraordinary battle for the future of humankind through the eyes of one American family. Fleeing from an extraterrestrial army of killer Tripods that annihilate everything in their path, Ray Ferrier (Cruise) races to keep his family safe.” – Paramount Home Entertainment

My Take:

I previously reviewed War of the Worlds on Blu-ray and have included my earlier comments here. Ratings for film, and bonus content will be the same, as they are identical to the original. New comments and ratings for the Ultra HD video and Dolby Atmos sound are below.

Note: There are spoilers contained below.

War of the Worlds is a free adaptation of the classic story by H.G. Wells which revolves around a hostile alien invasion of earth and a father struggling to protect his children. Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is a blue-collar worker living in New Jersey, divorced from his first wife Mary Ann (Miranda Otto) and estranged from his two children Rachel and Robbie (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin), of whom he has custody on weekends.

On one such visitation, looking after the kids becomes a little more difficult when, after a series of strange lighting storms hit his neighborhood, Ray discovers that a fleet of death-ray toting robotic spaceships have emerged nearby, part of the first wave of an all-out alien invasion of the Earth. Transporting his children from New Jersey to Boston in an attempt to find safety at Mary Ann's parents' house, Ray must learn to become the protector and provider he never was in marriage.

I saw this film during its theatrical run in the summer of 2005. It would be fair to say that I liked it from the start. Having watched it multiple times on home video (first on DVD and then on Blu-ray) I think it has grown on me even more. This isn’t classic cinema but, taking it as a whole which includes the scope of its production, I just find it captivating. The premise speaks to man’s insecurities (unspoken or not) about the inherent danger should aliens ever visit our planet. Unlike similar films which feature multi-directional plotlines I like the story’s primarily singular focus which centers on the characters of Ray, Robbie, and Rachel as we see the layers of their dysfunctional relationship peeled back. I appreciate how they slowly come together as Ray instinctively goes from dead beat dad to stalwart protector that will stop at nothing in getting the kids safely to their mother.

Co-mingled with that is the development of a bond that only a parent and child can share. We see it when Ray looks on with proud eyes as Robbie scales the large ramp aboard the ferry in order to help others that are trying to get to safety. In that same sequence Rachel senses danger close and reaches for Ray’s hand. Later trust and understanding begin to emerge. This is evident in the scene where Robbie says to Ray “you need to let me go” followed shortly after by Rachel asking Ray to “sing me a lullaby” when she is frightened. The development of these characters and our belief in their connection is important since they need to trust and rely upon one another if they are to survive.

This film is a special effects extravaganza that teams star Tom Cruise and director Steven Spielberg up for the second time (Minority Report being the first). Spielberg is certainly no stranger to sci-fi films that relate to this subject matter as he directed both Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. (considered classics) before this one. Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is edgy and features chills, thrills and suspense as it pays homage to but, doesn’t remake, the classic 1953 film.

While it isn’t a wholly satisfying cinematic work, it is an entertaining and thrilling sci-fi adventure that is bolstered by its large-scale production, apt direction, and engaging performances by Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning. I am excited that it has finally come to Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Replay Value:
Parental Guide:

The rating is for frightening sequences of sci-fi violence and disturbing 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): 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: 
 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 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: 88
(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: 
 

War of the Worlds comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Paramount Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

War of the Worlds was shot on 35mm film, and Its presentation in Ultra HD is derived from that source. I was unable to determine if it was rendered from a 2K or 4K Digital Intermediate. It's important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. A film like War of the Worlds has an aesthetic that incorporates film grain and the use of optics that won't result in the type of high gloss, tack-like sharpness of a film shot using digital cameras. This isn't a problem and shouldn't be seen as such.

As noted with the Blu-ray release of War of the Worlds let me begin by saying that in my opinion this presentation appears to faithfully reflect the film’s original elements and director Steven Spielberg’s vision. Having said that it is important to understand that the way the film was shot does not necessarily reproduce the highly polished, three dimensional, and clearly resolute imagery that typically evokes the wow factor.

The film was shot utilizing a visual style that gives it a distinctively de-saturated, monochromatic and dynamic look that imbues it with sepia toned hues that more or less predominate the presentation. Colors are primarily limited to various stages of gray, brown, green and red. There are elements of richer color but, saturation is noticeably held in check. Fleshtones are mildly affected but, otherwise appear natural with appreciable tonal variation and warm highlights.

Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography benefits from the enhanced resolution and emboldened contrast. The imagery retains the gritty aesthetic that it always has, with no unnecessary additions. Copious amounts of detail can be seen, both in wide-angle and close-up perspectives, imparting a discernible increase in depth/dimension. Shot on 35mm film, using anamorphic lenses, film grain and some innate softening are present. Neither are compromising, even during special effects shots, or those laden with minutia, such as falling rain, hazy, light filled backgrounds or drab interiors lit only by streams of light.

The use of HDR is spot on, driving the story’s use of visual cues offset by gleams of brilliant light that illuminate the landscapes and gray skies. The beautiful use of sepia stands out in stark contrast to the gradational blacks, grays and teal, that make up the dystopia featured in the story. The film’s shadow laden environs, such as those that take place in Harland’s basement, have never looked better, offering increased interstitial details that promote depth of field. Blacks are inky without compromise to fidelity.

The ferry boat attack and, the military attack in chapter 14, brings all of the presentations best elements together and looks terrific. While I have never found War of the Worlds to make for a commanding presentation on home video, I was impressed with the Ultra HD presentation which, takes it to the next level, allowing its attributes to be fully realized in a way that it hadn’t been before. Video enthusiasts are sure to appreciate it.

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 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.*

Comparing the DV and HDR10 presentations for War of the Worlds, I found the HDR to be extremely close. In fact, I would go so far as to say they were negligible. Again, I want to emphasize that this film’s predominating elements aren’t necessarily lent to the engaging type of HDR that makes the format shine.

Dolby Atmos:

The Good:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the active variety that made steady use of the platform. This soundtrack has always been excellent, with its primary set pieces being the lightning storm, the first pod emergence/attack, the ferry boat attack, the neighborhood airliner crash and the military battle. In terms of surround sound/depth dimension none has ever sounded so good as the use of audio objects placed above successfully expands the breadth of the soundstage. I appreciated the fact that the sound designers utilized the freedom of object-based mixing, making this a fairly active Atmos track that retains much of its original essence while adding a noticeable increase in scope.

When called upon everything comes together, placing you inside the action as sounds rotate and revolve around the soundstage from both above and at ear level. In addition to the aforementioned set pieces the film features a series of scenes that show off the immersive effect as the blend of music and smaller object sounds effectively support the story’s thematic elements. I enjoyed the balance of atmosphere and integration of discrete object placement. I think that each complimented the source material and made for a complimentary and at times entertaining listening experience.

The Bad:

I think that most of us at some point have used the pod emergence sequence in chapter 4 to show off the prowess of our subwoofer (s). The original DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack delivers bass that is truly prodigious as it extends down into the 20 and 30hz regions as times. Its palpable presence is never in question as it fills the room with tight ultra-refined bass that is appreciably superior and on occasion skin tingling.

Well, such is not the case with the new Dolby Atmos/7.1 channel sound mix. The low frequency effects channel in the new mix has been tamped down, leaving memorable scenes like the pod emergence sequence lacking the infrasonic palpability that fills the listening environment. The difference is not subtle. I played the same scene first, on the Atmos track, followed by the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track (I have the scene saved as an .MKV clip for demo purposes) for my wife and she said the difference is quite obvious. Dynamic range doesn’t appear to be impacted as the track sounds dynamic when called upon. Bass is certainly present, with effects such as the firing of the death rays, tank/missile fire and lightning bolts offering solid tactility/response. The problem is that the rhythmically charged bass that has been a staple of this soundtrack just doesn’t hit as hard. For the life of me I can’t imagine why the sound designer would make such a deleterious change. Aside from this the track truly is excellent.

This oversight has taken what should have been a noteworthy upgrade to an already top-notch soundtrack and made it questionable for fans that have reveled in its attributes. My Atmos rating system doesn’t have a parameter that takes low frequency effects into account so this will be reflected under the Entertainment Factor rating parameter.

Note: The Blu-ray that comes in this UHD Combo Pack is the original 2010 Blu-ray release that has the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack.

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

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: War of the Worlds Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: War of the Worlds Blu-ray
  • Legacy Bonus Material
  • Digital Code
Final Thoughts:

War of the Worlds may not be considered a timeless classic but, there is no denying its staying power among fans. It is a free adaptation of the story by H.G. Wells and in the hands of Steven Spielberg makes for a thrilling albeit slightly over the top sci-fi film that is a personal favorite. It makes its Ultra HD Blu-ray debut in this Combo Pack from Paramount Home Entertainment featuring terrific Ultra HD video and legacy bonus material.

Since its release on home video audio enthusiasts (myself included) have reveled in the deep ultra-low frequency bass associated with this soundtrack. I have looked forward to experiencing it on Ultra HD Blu-ray via the new Dolby Atmos immersive listening track. While the new mix incorporates excellent use of the Atmos platform it eschews the room shuddering and attention-grabbing bass that has always been associated with the soundtrack which, spoils an otherwise terrific presentation. It includes the original Blu-ray release/bonus features. Despite the issue with the audio track this offering is still worthy of consideration for fans that are equipped to take advantage of the upgraded video and Atmos listening track which are both great.
No code has to be inserted here.
 
Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews


Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman color calibration software and Portrait Displays C6 HDR2000 colorimeter from  Portrait.com )
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 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
Oppo BDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/Roomie Remote V6 Universal Remote Control
SVS Ultra Tower Speakers (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Center Channel (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Niles Audio In-Ceiling/In-Wall Series Speakers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems




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