War of the Worlds appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD disc. A challenging presentation, the Dolby Vision 4K represented War well.
Sharpness worked well, with an image that consistently appeared nicely defined. A few establishing shots felt slightly soft, but they were the exception to the rule, as the vast majority of the flick seemed accurate and concise.
Jagged edges and moiré effects displayed no concerns, and I also noticed no signs of edge haloes. With a dense layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any noise reduction, and print flaws remained absent.
Much of the time, War featured a desaturated image, as it preferred a cold, blown-out look, though some brighter colors still crept through at times. For instance, some of Rachel’s clothes and accessories showed nice definition, and the red vines that appeared toward the end looked full and menacingly rich.
The disc presented the colors as intended, and they worked fine in that realm. The 4K’s HDR added impact and punch to the tones, subdued as they often could be.
Despite the washed-out presentation, black levels looked dark and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately opaque but not too thick. Low-light sequences were clear and distinct, and the HDR added to contrast.
At times, this threatened to feel like too much brightness, as some white tones nearly overwhelmed. However, this seemed intentional, as the high-contrast photography intended to overpower us with whites at times. Overall, I felt pleased with this quality reproduction of the film.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, I found no problems at all during the top-notch Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The soundfield presented an active and lively piece that constantly engaged the various speakers.
The film showed distinctive imagery throughout the movie that placed different auditory elements accurately within the spectrum and meshed them together nicely. Music provided strong stereo imaging, and effects popped up from the appropriate locations.
Quieter scenes displayed natural ambience, while the many action set pieces involved engrossing and vibrant imaging. It became tough to pick a favorite sequence, but the opening attack probably remained my favorite due to the sheer impact of its chaos.
Audio quality also seemed positive. Speech consistently appeared natural and crisp, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility.
Music sounded bright and dynamic as the disc neatly replicated the score. Effects packed a nice wallop when necessary, as these elements seemed clean and distinct at all times.
Bass response came across as deep and tight, and the low-end added a good layer of depth and oomph to the package. This was a soundtrack to challenge your subwoofer, as it really administered a heavy punch. I thought this was a consistently amazing soundtrack that earned a rare “A+”.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray from 2010? The Atmos mix boasted more involvement than its 5.1 predecessor, and visuals brought improvements as well.
The Blu-ray suffered from a surprising number of print flaws, but those vanished in the clean 4K. Definition, colors and contrast all got a boost, as this Dolby Vision presentation gave us a strong version of the film and made this a good upgrade over the somewhat disappointing Blu-ray.
No extras appear on the 4K disc itself, but we get a slew of featurettes on the included Blu-ray copy, and these start with Revisiting the Invasion. The seven-minute, 39-second piece establishes the format all its siblings will use, as we find a mix of movie clips, behind the scenes footage, and interviews.
Here we get comments from director Steven Spielberg, actor Tom Cruise, screenwriter David Koepp, and executive producer Paula Wagner. They discuss Spielberg’s childhood influences in regard to similar films, the decision to partner with Cruise again after Minority Report, what they did and didn’t want to include in this version, and some story points. A few decent notes pop up here, but the program seems too general to present much useful material.
In the six-minute, 34-second The HG Wells Legacy, we hear from Spielberg, grandson Martin wells, and great-grandson Simon Wells. We get a few notes about HG’s life and career as well as the enduring appeal of War. As with “Invasion”, a smattering of good bits appear, but there’s not much depth.
The eight-minute Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds includes comments from Spielberg, costume designer Joanna Johnston, senior visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, and actors Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. We learn a little about the 1953 War as well as its influence on the creators of this flick.
If you want to know about the 1953 flick, it makes more sense to check out its DVD. The information here isn’t more than a teaser, and the notes about how the film affected Spielberg and the others don’t tell us much.
Characters: The Family Unit includes information from Spielberg, Cruise, Koepp, Johnston, and actors Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin and Miranda Otto. In this 13-minute, 22-second piece, they discuss Cruise’s role and look, casting and the nuances of the various roles.
We find decent notes about the characters, and I especially like Koepp’s remarks about how he wanted to update Cruise’s parts from his earliest films. The best segments come from the on-the-set footage, though. Cruise makes a funny reference to another flick of his, and it’s also amusing to see Spielberg refer to Fanning by her character’s name.
As we go to Pre-Visualization, we find a seven-minute, 42-second look at that area. It features notes from Spielberg, pre-visualization supervisor Dan Gregoire, and producer Colin Wilson.
They talk about the use of pre-vis on War and how it aided the production. I like the glimpses of the pre-vis shots created for the film, and we get a nice impression of how Spielberg used them.
The next four featurettes all come under the banner of Production Diaries. These include “East Coast – Beginning” (22 minutes, 30 seconds), “East Coast – Exile” (19:39), “West Coast – Destruction” (27:29) and “West Coast – War” (22:20).
These feature information from Spielberg, Cruise, Wilson, Muren, Johnston, Wagner, Koepp, Fanning, Chatwin, director of photography Janusz Kaminski, producer Kathleen Kennedy, visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman, production designer Rick Carter, concept designer Doug Chiang, property master Doug Harlocker, stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong, special effects coordinator Daniel Sudick, digital production supervisor Curt Miyashiro, military technical advisor Major Joseph Todd Breasseale, model/miniature supervisor Steve Gawley, actor Tim Robbins, set decorator Ann Kuljian, compositing supervisor Marshall Krasser.
The diaries start on October 11, 2004 and progress through March 7, 2005. We learn about the rushed production schedule, location scouts, visual design, principal photography and some specifics of filming including stunts, props and practical effects, computer-generated and other visual elements, extras, clothes, and using real soldiers.
When we get to the West Coast, we learn about sets, scheduling, the Ogilvy character and that sequence, more stunts and visual effects, design of alien elements, battle scenes, and the end of principal photography.
With a program of this sort, I mostly expect lots of good footage from the set, and the “Diaries” offer that in spades. We get a great deal of fine “fly on the wall” material, and the comments embellish those images well. All of this adds up to an informative look at the filming that covers many different areas.
After this we get the 14-minute, seven-second Designing the Enemy; Tripods and Aliens. It includes remarks from Spielberg, Koepp, Chiang, Muren, Kennedy, Cruise, Simon Wells, ILM creature designer Ryan Church, associate animation supervisor Jenn Emberly, digital model supervisor Michael Koperwas, and animation supervisor Randal M. Dutra.
As you’d expect, this show covers decisions made in regard to the alien elements. We find out why they chose to depict the tripods and the aliens as they did.
The program goes over all these areas quite well and touches on the topics with reasonable detail and depth. Heck, we even get some background on the aliens, and Spielberg lets us know that they’re not Martians!
Scoring War of the Worlds lasts 11 minutes, 57 seconds and offers statements from Spielberg, Wilson, and composer John Williams. We learn how the rushed schedule affected Williams’ work and also what he wanted to convey with his music. This turns into another informative piece.
For the final featurette, we get the three-minute, 14-second We Are Not Alone. A valedictory program, it features comments from Spielberg, Kennedy, and Cruise.
They talk about what a great experience the film was and offer some minor connections to Spielberg’s other works and his life. The clip wraps things up in an innocuous but none too interesting way.
In addition to the film’s teaser trailer. Finally, we find four Galleries. These include “Sketches by Costume Designer Joanna Johnston” (nine frames), “Production Stills” (17), “Behind the Scenes” (20) and “Production Sketches” (30). The various artwork is pretty good, but the photos are a waste of time.
Note that while Top Gun got a 2020 upgrade on Blu-ray, War reused the same BD from 2010.
A thoroughly exciting and enjoyable action/horror flick, War of the Worlds lives up to expectations. I wouldn’t classify it on the level of Steven Spielberg’s absolute best work, but it’s definitely one of the strongest movies he’s made in years. The 4K UHD offers excellent picture and audio along with a nice collection of featurettes that embellish our understanding of the production. War comes highly recommended, and this 4K UHD becomes easily the best version of the film yet released on video.
To rate this film visit the prior review of WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)