Aquaman appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this 4K UHD Disc – most of the time. Parts of the movie also used a 2.40:1 ratio.
Indeed, the first 25 minutes, nine seconds of the film remained 2.40:1. It then broadened to 1.78:1 from 25:09 to 30:10, at which point it reverted to 2.40:1.
Once we hit 32:22, we went back to 1.78:1 and we stayed there all the way to 1:21:52. From then until 1:24:04, we got 2.40:1, and 1:24:04 to 1:25:21 produced more 1.78:1.
From 1:25:21 to 1:37:58, we spent time at 2.40:1 before the film opted for 1.78:1 from 1:37:58 to 2:14:29. The remainder of the movie – primarily text credits – brought 2.40:1.
So out of a two-hour, 23-minute, 19-second film, 47 minutes, 48 seconds – or roughly one-third – opted for the 2.40:1 ratio, whereas the rest went 1.78:1. The vast majority of the 1.78:1 framing focused on Atlantis-related material, though that wasn’t a perfect rule.
I admit the use of the dual ratios perplexed me. Why not just go 1.78:1 the whole way?
Actually, the 1.78:1 surprised me because those scenes were shot 1.90:1. I’m glad they opened up but I’d have preferred that the image stuck with the 1.90:1 dimensions rather than alter them for this presentation.
In terms of picture quality, sharpness seemed excellent. Virtually no softness cropped up, so the image came across as accurate and well-defined.
I saw no jaggies or moiré effects, and the image lacked edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to materialize.
To the surprise of no one, the movie opted for a teal and orange palette much of the time, along with some yellow/amber at times. Given all the watery shots, the blue-green side of the street dominated. Predictable though those choices may be, they came across with positive clarity and dimensionality, and the disc’s HDR capabilities gave them real punch and power.
Blacks seemed dark and tight, while shadows appeared smooth and well-rendered. The HDR brought extra oomph to whites and contrast. Across the board, this turned into a terrific visual presentation.
I also felt pleased with the film’s impressive Dolby Atmos soundtrack, as it added involvement to the proceedings. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, much of the movie came with vivid action scenes that used the channels well.
At these times, the soundfield broadened to give the story a nice orientation. These moments increased as the film progressed and brought out solid movement and punch when appropriate.
Audio quality always satisfied, with music that appeared full and dynamic. Speech came across as natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns.
Effects fared well, too, as those elements boasted positive accuracy and heft, with deep, tight low-end along for the ride. Given the movie’s hectic pace, the mix opened up on a frequent basis and made this a winning track.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? Both came with the same Atmos audio, so expect no changes there.
However, the 4K UHD boasted clear improvements in terms of visuals. Colors appeared brighter and more vivid, while definition felt tighter and more precise. The 4K UHD delivered a notable step up compared to the Blu-ray.
No extras appear on the 4K UHD itself, but the included Blu-ray disc comes packed with many featurettes, and these start with Becoming Aquaman. In this 13-minute, three-second show, we hear from director James Wan, producer Peter Safran, stunt coordinator Kyle Gardiner, executive producer Rob Cowan, and actors Jason Momoa, Temuera Morrison, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Patrick Wilson, and Amber Heard.
As the title implies, the reel discusses Momoa’s casting, character and performance. Some of this tends toward the usual happy talk, but we get a few good insights as well as some nice behind the scenes material.
After this we find Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman, a 19-minute, 28-second reel with Wan, Cowan, Momoa, Safran, Gardiner, Wilson, Abdul-Mateen, Morrison, Heard, production designer Bill Brzeski, costume designer Kym Barrett, fight coordinator Jon Valera, director of photography Don Burgess, set decorator Bev Dunn, location manager Duncan Jones, special makeup effects and specialty designer Justin Raleigh, and actors Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, and Nicole Kidman.
“Deep” covers creating a watery setting, sets and locations, costumes and production design, and general aspects of the film. “Deep” follows the shoot in order, so it acts as something of a production diary. It does well and becomes an informative show.
Next comes World Builder, a seven-minute, 42-second piece with Wan, Momoa, Brzeski, Cowan, writer David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, and visual effects supervisor Kelvin McIlwain.
This one focuses on Wan’s contributions and the design/execution of Atlantis. I expected this one to focus on praise for the director, but it offers a solid level of filmmaking notes.
For insights about a bad guy, we head to The Dark Depths of Black Manta. In this six-minute, 39-second show, we hear from Abdul-Mateen and a narrator as they discuss the Manta character and Abdul-Mateen’s performance. I like the look back at the comic book’s Manta and his depiction here, so expect a pretty useful overview.
On the other side of the coin, Heroines of Atlantis lasts five minutes, 31 seconds and features Kidman, Heard, Wan, Momoa, Safran, and Morrison. As expected, we learn about Mera and Queen Atlanna as well as the performances behind them. It’s not bad but it tends toward fluff.
Villainous Training fills six minutes, 21 seconds and notes from Safran, Wan, Wilson, Abdul-Mateen, and fight coordinator Jon Valera. Here we learn a little more about the movie’s bad guys. Like “Heroines”, it boasts some praise, but it brings more depth, especially in terms of the fight styles.
Love fills the air via A Match Made in Atlantis. The three-minute, 12-second featurette gives comments from Momoa, Heard, Wan, and Wilson. We get some notes about the Arthur/Mera connection in this generally puffy piece.
After this we see Atlantis Warfare, a four-minute, 40-second piece with Wan, Lundgren, McIlwain, Cowan, Brzeski, property master Richie Dehne and assistant property master Richard Mansfield.
“Warfare” discusses the movie’s weapons and vehicles. Though it comes with some good views, it tends toward too much praise.
With Creating Undersea Creatures, we discover a seven-minute, 15-second show with Wan, Dafoe, Johnson-McGoldrick, McIlhain, Raleigh, Safran, Brzeski, and Momoa.
As expected, “Undersea” tells us about the design and execution of various aquatic critters. Like “Warfare”, we get a lot of happy talk, but we still find some useful notes.
Aqua-Tech lasts five minutes, 42 seconds and includes material from Wan, Burgess, McIlwain, Safran, Wilson, Dafoe, Brzeski, Abdul-Mateen, Cowan, virtual production supervisor Eric Carney, special effects supervisor Brian Cox, and draftsman Benjamin Donnelly.
Various effects take the stage here, and the end result works pretty well. In particular, our view of the stages of effects and some design choices add value.
Lastly, Kingdoms of the Seven Seas takes up six minutes, 59 seconds with narration from Lundgren. We get a view of Atlantis as depicted in the comics and the movie. It becomes a decent little summary.
Under Scene Study Breakdown, we find examinations of three film sequences: “Submarine Attack” (2:44), “Showdown in Sicily” (3:54) and “The Trench” (3:36). Across these, we hear from Wan, Momoa, Abdul-Mateen, Gardiner, Brzeski, Safran, Heard, McIlwain, stuntman Stephen Murdoch, stunt coordinator RA Rondell, and 2nd unit director John Mahaffie.
In these clips, we find specifics about the creation of the three scenes in question. Expect a positive array of details and insights.
Footnote: why do so many of the film’s participants pronounce it “Ack-waman” instead of “Awk-waman”? It’s bizarre.
The disc opens with ads for Shazam, Creed II and the Blade Runner: Nexus mobile game. An additional Sneak Peek at Shazam (3:27) provides a full scene from that film. No trailer for Aquaman appears here.
Arguably the DC Extended Universe’s biggest hit, I regard Aquaman as an equally big disappointment. Loud, incoherent and generally absurd, the film throws lots of action our way but little of it boasts real impact. The 4K UHD comes with excellent picture and audio plus a pretty solid set of supplements.
Aquaman isn’t the worst superhero film I’ve seen, but it squanders its potential. At least the 4K UHD acts as a potential auditory and visual demo reel.
To rate this film, visit the prior review of AQUAMAN