Queen Of Katwe (Blu-ray Review)

Queen-of-KatweGlowingly reviewed by critics, but never finding an audience at the box office, Disney’s Queen of Katwe is making its way to Blu-ray.  Based on the vibrant true story of a young girl (Madina Nalwanga) from the streets of Uganda whose world changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.  I’m not sure what more could have been done, it did open on a rather stacked opening weekend.  Maybe a bigger marketing push?  Who knows what kept audience interest from seeing this one, but you’ll get a chance to catch it now on home video.

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Queen of Katwe is based on the vibrant true story of a young girl from the streets of Uganda whose world changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.

One thing that struck me during the opening credits was that this was an ESPN film.  Did not know that at all.  When I think of their productions, I’m mostly drawn to their super popular 30 for 30 documentary series or that short-lived TV show Playmakers (Which was very good, but the NFL didn’t like it, so ESPN showed it had no integrity and canceled it).  I’m not sure, but this may be their first feature film and its…chess?  Kinda like when the network started and it was highlighting bowling.

First off, I wanna get off my chest that I think this is a well done film.  Its primarily strengthened by dynamite performances from its leads.  Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo continue to carve out terrific careers in their post “lift off” roles.  Both are incredibly strong here and are becoming the type of performers that you just see a damn movie because they are in it.  Madina Nalwanga should not be forgotten, as the title performer of the film.   She’s very bold, strong and manages to bring a whole slew of emotion in what is a very understated physical performance.

The film manages to engage and really paint a picture of the poverish living situation and daily life for Phiona and her family.  Its downright depressing and really gives a feel of hopelessness.  Director Mira Nair really makes you feel it and then when we see fancier buildings and hotel rooms, its almost like you catch shock at such exotic luxuries.  And this is crazy because even the most “normal” thing to us is a crazy vault of wealth.  Nair does this really effectively and helps to make it a stronger film than most of its ilk.

Queen of Katwe is definitely a winner.  However, I didn’t find myself completely overtaken or in love with it.  Oddly, I just had the feeling I had seen this film done before, plenty.  There’s a set of beats and blueprint to this sort of story that this one ends up following to a T.  Its just really well done, and you can’t take that from it.  Katwe is one of the better “feel good” movies in years, its just more in the comfort food variety than being anything standout or a breakthrough.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Queen of Katwe comes to Blu-ray with a very stellar picture.  Its razor sharp, vivid and super crisp.  Details run rampant through out.  Its got plenty of water and sand which are challenges and it pull through and knocks them down.  This is pretty much the highest end of high end Blu-ray images.

Depth:  The film features a good solid dimensional look to it.  Characters move smoothly, freely and cinematically throughout the feature with no real blur or anything.  Some of the interiors carry a nice deep look to them.

Black Levels:  Blacks are a good highlight of this video transfer.  They are deep, rich and feature a good palette of darkness levels in shading and coloring.  Hair follicles, clothing textures and the like all keep mostly all details in any lighting and colors.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are quite beautiful here, and not in the typical primary fashion.  Yellows, greens and oranges are gorgeously represented here in bold, vibrant proportions.  Dirt brown and other rustic colors fill in and have many shades and tints that pull a variety of options to the screen.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones look a little more warm and maintain a constant appearance through the duration of the film.  Facial details like sweat, dried mud/dirt, sand, wrinkles, cracked lips all look clear as day in close up and medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: N/A

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics:  Queen of Katwe features a 5.1 track that does the trick real well coming at many angles.  The quiet chess scenes come together with good quiet ambiance an delicate chess piece moves while a storm sequence in the film fills your room with loud and rambunctious ruckus.  Music featured in the score/soundtrack bumps quite well when it takes center stage.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Music thumps, little huts come crashing and engines rumble when the sub gets to work and does a solid job.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This isn’t a film demanding of sound travel, but it does a terrific job in building atmospheres, utilizing the rear speakers. When action does occur though, it performs more than admirably.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is loud, crisp and features good diction clarity.

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Queen of Katwe comes with an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Mira Nair

Queen of Katwe: Their Story (HD, 29:39) – A 3 part featurette that follows the making of the film as well as the history of the story and the film’s director.

A Fork, A Spoon & A Knight (HD, 13:14) – Director Mira Nair’s short film about Robert Katende, a boy who grows up to transform a Ugandan city into a globally renowned chess sanctuary.


  • In The Studio With Alicia Keys (HD, 6:26) – A look inside the recording of her song in the film. Features an interview with her.
  • Alicia Keys “Back To Life” Lyric Video (HD, 5:01) 
  • Young Cardamon & HAB “#1 Spice” Music Video (HD, 3:55) 

Deleted Scenes with Introduction From Mira Nair (HD, 20:25) 

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Queen of Katwe is a really well done sports story about overcoming your geographical challenges in your upbringing while still being yourself.  Its quite good at what it does.  This Blu-ray gives one of the best presentations you could ask for and keeps a good little amount of bonus materials that compliment the film perfectly.  If you’re going to pick this up, you’re definitely going to be getting your money’s worth.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a 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. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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