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Black Panther (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Its slightly odd to be here writing a Blu-ray review for a movie that is not only still playing in theaters on its first run, but was STILL in the top 10 last weekend at the box office. A film that is going to cross 700 million dollars in the United States and has made over 1.3 billion dollars worldwide. But, here we are, in the middle of a phenomenon and at the home video demands and scheduling of modern times. Black Panther was a massive phenomenon and quite an unstoppable force in theaters pretty much all 2018 so far (Once February hit). Of course, there’s a new Avengers movie out right now, too, so you have to get Black Panther out on all formats so that the 5 people who didn’t see it can catch up for the big Thanos expedition. This 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray comes courtesy of Disney and comes piled with some really nice bonus features. Its available now, so grab yourself a copy and hopefully the Amazon link works, so you can grab yourself a copy and say Why So Blu sent ya!

Film 

After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

Aside from the obvious importance of what this film means in terms of representation, progress and diversity in cinema, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther almost plays almost as a culmination of everything we’ve loved about the Marvel Avengers canon. Sure, the film most definitely has its own sense of style and a rich set of unique well rounded characters to fill it out, but on this watch, I was looking at the core level and going beyond many of its other outside influences and took note. Or maybe I’m just silly and making stuff up.

T’Challa’s world is that of an Avenger paradise within its own self. Wakanda forever indeed. In a way its Earth’s own hidden Asgard. There is royalty, bloodlines, rituals and a world that feels somewhat of a futuristic/sci-fi version of a primitive culture. As a superhero T’Challa has a suit and power-ups that are all made very tech savvy. No, he doesn’t have a Jarvis and he doesn’t appear to be the smarts of it as that extends to his sister. Though, his super-hero side of things very much relates to how Tony Stark goes about things. And as for himself, his sense of honor and the way he leads very much compliments that of a Steve Rogers. No wonder those two get along so well. Hell, he’s even got bad ass cold blooded killer women to assist him in battle and protect not unlike Black Widow. Like I said, this is an Avengers remix, and it plays just as well and if not better than it at times due to its sense of style and cool that keeps the movies feeling like it has more of a personal touch to it.

Black Panther offers all sorts of excitement in many different forms. Whether it be actual action, character works, comedy and power plays, the film is quite an epic jaunt in our first full adventure in Wakanda. As much as the film can feel like an awesome James Bond film, it also delivers in delivering very Game of Thrones-like character building and dramatic arcs for the mythology. What’s cool though, is yes its a superhero movie, but most of the time we are here it never straight up feels like that, even with its action. Marvel delivers in tapping into the spy and fantasy genres here to give T’Challa his own unique stamp in the ever crowded Marvel Universe, let alone just the comic book and super hero ones.

With big thanks to Michael B. Jordan who plays Erik Killmonger, villain of Black Panther, the discussion has changed from “Marvel has a villain problem” to “Marvel no longer has a villain problem.” His character was the icing on the cake of a run of baddies with Ego, Vulture and Hela (Heck, I even think Mads Mikkelsen made good enough on Kaecilius, but understand if you don’t). Killmonger works really well because he’s villainous, but we truly understand the source of it all and kinda have to wince and admit that he’s not really wrong with all he’s worked up about. He’s just consumed too far from it and wants to take the drastic stance to make a difference. Best of all, as a villain, he’s one our hero truly learns from. This experience changes T’Challa forever. He has learned, listened, stepped back and realized things do need to change. And by the end, he’s applying it.

There are so many aspects of the film that have countlessly been analyzed, praised and championed in this movie and I really didn’t want to just say the same things over and over. But yeah, I agree on it; Boseman is great, the woman are frickin’ phenomenal and Wakanda rules. The movie really is a pretty significant touchstone, and I don’t even know if I can begin to imagine what a huge moment this is for people that adds a massive layer to how big this movie is. But, I don’t have to, to say how happy it made me to see this movie do so well and make an unforgettable mark on box office history, film history and pop culture. And, another great feature of Black Panther is that its one of the most stand alone Marvel films ever. You don’t need anything BUT Black Panther to enjoy the film (Very much like Doctor Strange many films before it). Hopefully they keep this angle up with T’Challa’s sequels, as his world has proven big enough on its own that he’s the only Avenger necessary and Wakanda has enough going on to keep our interests.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Black Panther was shot at 3.4K and finished with a 4K master. You’ll instantly see a nice jump in quality from the standard Blu-ray edition.  The amount of detail and sharpness of the image do look pretty impressive. However its the depth, color and blacks that truly rocket this one far ahead of the regular release. Overall, the picture ranges from solid to some really eye popping moments that’ll you be quick to want to show your friends.

Depth:  Background images having more detail and more sharpness around the actors really allows the depth of field to place with more spacing to the eye. Characters move a lot more natural without any sort of digital distortions. Camera movements also move with relative ease.

Black Levels: I may have found the work here on natural blacks to be much more impressive than in the theater. Nighttime scenes that seemed a little hard to see are no longer the case here. No crushing at all and the details on the suit and everything found in darkness or deep in color impressively shows its textures and patterns.

Color Reproduction: Wow, this movie looks beautiful when its colors show. All the outfits, markings and such have natural looks and radiant ones as well. Computer screens, lasers and displays all come out vibrant. Vibranium and the light emanating from caverns really glows. Don’t even get me started on the mystical realm. That sky is holy shit worthy and meshes with the blacks perfectly. The Busan sequence features plenty of eye candy (Including the awesome, almost glow in the dark quality of dress Lupita Nyong’o is wearing). Blues, purples and greens are the stars here.  HDR is utilized perfectly. This image is a nice burst now, and represents the best of the format when the film becomes a braggart shows off the goods.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintains consistency for the duration of the film. Texture and detail is comparable to the standard Blu-ray version, but it does show improvement, especially in the medium and longer shots.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), English 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese

Dynamics: Disney’s Atmos volume struggle is real. Once again, you’re invited to turn it up. However, I feel like this one was set a little bit higher than previous titles. This is a pretty inviting mix that is pretty well balance, with plenty of depth, layers and intricacies that make it a fun experience throughout. Where it seems to lack most (After turned up) is in the LFE, which I’ll touch upon below. As far as sound travel and clarity of the track, its quite well done.

Height: This track takes plenty of advantage of the ceiling speaker. Music in the score and in different interior/exteriors can pump through as a compliment or on its own. Aircrafts fly over, spears shoot, water roars, bullets zip by and much more.

Low Frequency Extension: Your regular, expected effects do get some bump, but its a rather weak bump for how deep you imagine the sound could go. It delivers a solid push, but this has moments where the room should be rocks with an explosion or hails of gunfire and its merely just “okay”. Which in the case of a movie of Black Panther’s quality is underwhelming.

Surround Sound Presentation: Like the 7.1 on the standard Blu-ray, Blank Panther’s mix has a full idea of what’s going on in every room and every exterior in the film. Side and rear speakers are more than just a chorus dancer, they have their own things going on and help carry the action or call over to action going on off screen as well as just little bits to help travel or make a scene come to life.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, always feeling a perfect part of the environment and always clearly audible.

Extras 

Black Panther comes with the Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film. All extras are found on the standard Blu-ray disc.

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Ryan Coogler & Production Designer Hannah Beachler

Play Movie With Director Ryan Coogler’s Intro (HD, 1:23) – He talks about his love of comics, trying to bring something he would want to see as a kid and would represent him to the screen and the themes of the film.

Featurettes

  • Crowning Of A New King (HD, 5:34) – This gives a background in all things leading up to this movie for Black Panther and bringing all his essential elements to life on the big screen.
  • The Hidden Kingdom Revealed (HD, 6:57) – Everything Wakanda here, from its rich culture and and mysticism to the people who inhabit and rule over it.
  • The Warriors Within (HD, 6:08) – In this featurette, we go over the women in the film and their relation to Wakand and strengthening the film.
  • Wakanda Revealed: Exploring The Technology (HD, 6:16) – This one is all about the Vibranium and how essential it has been to Wakanda and Black Panther himself. It also leads into how the film and Wakanda tie in to Infinity War.

Gag Reel (HD, 1:38) 

Deleted Scenes (HD, 6:53)

From Page To Screen: A Roundtable Discussion (HD, 20:27) – Comic book writers Christopher Priest, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Don McGregor, Executive producer Nate Moore, writer Joe Robert Cole and director/co-writer Ryan Coogler sit together and discuss the many aspects of Black Panther in this fascinating featurette. It begins with the history of the comic, the character’s influence and reflection on pop/political culture of the 1960s, how he fits in today, getting the film’s production right and placing importance on the characters who surround him as well as Chadwick Boseman’s performance.

Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years – Connecting The Universe (HD, 8:39) –  A quick run-through of the films up til know with Kevin Feige and stars of those films discussing what people enjoyed about each one, the love of the universe and finally unleashing Thanos in Infinity War.

Exclusive Sneak Peek at Ant-Man And The Wasp (HD, 2:26) – A goofy little fluff video that has generic fluff snippets from Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas and Peyton Reed with scenes from the trailer and a couple behind the scenes shots.

Summary 

Black Panther was a pop culture and film going phenomenon and wonderfully fun ride with rich characters and a great sense of style on top of some unique Marvel action. I found myself enjoying it even more this time around than I had before (And I liked it very well before). What’s going to hold this one up, as it typical of Marvel, is all the fun character scenes that populate the movie. This 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray presentation has lovely looking uptick in picture quality, but Disney is still underwhelming in the Atmos department (It’s fine, but c’mon, its one of the biggest blockbusters ever, this sucker should kick!). Extras are a little fluff, but plentiful. The roundtable featurette bumps that score up quite a bit as you should really check it out. Do I really need to recommend picking up this movie?

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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