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War Of The Worlds (2005) (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Paramount is unloading a trio of Tom Cruise headlining films on May 19, including Top Gun, Days of Thunder and the 2005 Steven Spielberg adaptation of War of the Worlds. No doubt these were ready to be released in anticipation of Top Gun: Maverick this summer, but alas that film has moved to December. Luckily these 4K Ultra-HD Blu-rays move on as originally planned. This review is covering War of the Worlds, a film I actually hold close to my heart as it has a special place for me. It was the first film I saw in the fabled Grauman’s Chinese Theater when I moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 2005. I enjoyed the film well enough then and more upon subsequent viewings, but regardless of its quality I will always carry that special memory with me. Nonetheless, as mentioned, it arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray on May 19th and you can land yourself a copy of it to hopefully be delivered as soon as it can using the Amazon Associates link following the review.

Film

Dockworker Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) struggles to build a positive relationship with his two children, Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and Robbie (Justin Chatwin). When his ex-wife, Mary Ann (Miranda Otto), drops them off at Ferrier’s house, it seems as though it will be just another tension-filled weekend. However, when electromagnetic pulses of lightning strike the area, the strange event turns out to be the beginning of an alien invasion, and Ferrier must now protect his children as they seek refuge.

2005’s War of the Worlds finds Steven Spielberg in one of his notable old school comfort zones. On the surface, the new adaptation of H.G. Wells legendary source material looks to be another one of those PG-13 summer blockbuster science fiction alien invasion action movies. Something like that of an Independence Day or what have you. But when indulging in the Tom Cruise-led film, its one of much more nightmare-ish proportions. The kind of film kids would watch and freak themselves out on being younger and live to tell the tale of sharing trauma when discussing it with a friend later in life. Similar Spielberg projects extend to the likes of Temple of Doom, Gremlins and Poltergeist from back in the 80s.

Spielberg utilizes the more recent tragedy of 9/11 to fuel his rendition of H.G. Wells novel. The events happening that day and how people in all different wakes of life reacted in the ensuing times are all explored in one family’s journey through catastrophic global event. The last thing War of the Worlds is, is fun. Yes, its thrilling and suspenseful, but its quite icky when seeing all too familiar visual references of a real dark time. Spielberg even infuses some of his World War II-type “horrors of war” things into the film. War of the Worlds is ugly and its angry. Seeing Tom Cruise race away from an alien attack covered in the dusty remains of fellow human, Dakota Fanning shrieking in horror to dead bodies floating down a river and the absolute human failure when their mini van is attacked by a horde of people. Hell, this movie has a sequence where a ship sprays the land with human blood. Yes, quite a bleak film.

A more adult blockbuster, the film is also Spielberg for the grimdark crowd too. While no, its not fun in a happy sense, the master craftsman still develops a thrilling film with plenty of memorable set pieces and visuals. Cruise also carries the film with such ease. Sure, its weird that it feels like this guy can’t catch a break and the aliens are singularly focused on he and his family, but without running into trouble ever so often, we really don’t have much of a movie here. Plus, this is an escape or chase movie. And its not the same alien, its many, they are everywhere and out for the eradication of humankind. And to the credit of the film, because of this, the film really kicks off and moves, feeling its over almost just as it starts.

Returning to War of the Worlds as told by Steven Spielberg and performed by Tom Cruise with Dakota Fanning and Morgan Freeman as “Narrator” 15 years later was an entirely new feeling and experience having grown up and being a different person than I was upon release. Things became immediately more recognizable, more horrifying and now having the weight and understanding of a parent it was definitely scarier. Mostly in the human interaction moments, be it the crowd or just alone in the basement with your ‘ol pal Tim Robbins. While maybe not Spielberg at his best, its certainly at him at some of his most effective reflections on humanity despite how angry or unfun it may be. A film I certainly appreciated and felt affected by even more now than I was in 2005.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Shot on film, War of the Worlds is a native 4K title transferring over to this new release. Unlike its Blu-ray predecessor, this one is opting for a 1.78:1 frame, likely opening up the matting (The previous was 1.85:1). But no worries. You could abbreviate the film as WoW as well as you could describe it as WoW! This is one of the best looking catalog titles you are going to find this year. Film grain is intact and the detail and vibrancy of the picture are quite a treat. Textures and depth are striking and every atmosphere, lighting is presented in expert fashion. Few catalog titles top a transfer like this, and Paramount has done an outstanding job.

Depth: Depth of field is aces here and wonderful three dimensional pushback is easily apparent in many of the interiors, especially as blown hold reveal exteriors on a much grander push. Exteriors really display a great sense of scale and feel larger than life in your smaller living room as opposed to the theater. Movements and camera work is very confident, smooth and natural with no blurring or jittering distortions at any moment.

Black Levels:  Blacks are natural and quite rich. They don’t sit heavy in grain either. Details find themselves quite clearly discernible on darker surfaces, hair follicles, clothing patterns and textures. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are very strong, varied and well saturated. Lights obviously take advantage of the HDR and pop with beams, car lights, neon signs and space craft lighting. Natural colors are quite bold too. But, perhaps the most beautiful thing this does is also the grossest, as the human blood sprayed territories come off quite marvelous in this transfer.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are slightly washed out, as per the films overall look, and consistent start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures like stubble, wrinkles, lip texture, crows feet, dried dirt or blood, bruises and more are quite crisp and crystal clear from any given, reasonable distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Czech 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Spain) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin America) 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Hungarian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Russian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, German, Greek, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Hungarian, Mandarin, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Roman, Simplified Chinese, Finnish, Swedish, Thai

Dynamics: As outstanding as the video is, the Atmos track on War of the Worlds lines up just as impressive. This is a HELL of an assault on your ears. A mix that really is working overtime and travels all over the room and blasts you right in the face. Its quite well balance and intricately layered with striking details and room building. Its a 36o degree experience with intense ambiance and superb attention to detail and accurate sound travel. Coupled with the video, you’re in for a beautiful experience as you watch the world go to shit and the ugliest of humanity.

Height: Oh yes, stuff flies overhead constantly, like lightning, blasts, debries, rumblings from above and much more. A very active mix, it always includes the ceiling for an exciting experience.

Low-Frequency Extension: There is some expert subwoofer precision going on in this mix with awesome varying degrees of accurate intensity. From stomping of giant ships to explosions, blasts, tanks rolling and more this really gives you quite a range of good booms and pulsating acting.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is an absolute carnival of fun for the senses. The mix here never leaves a speaker not busy and its absolutely awesome to watch every scene unfold and play around bouncing off the room and delivering life from any corner of the room. If you like a full experience, here it is.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear, crisp and everpresent no matter the action intensity without feeling overdone and only as part of the scene and in the moment.

Extras

War Of The Worlds comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a digital code. Bonus features are found on the standard Blu-ray disc, which remain the exact same being that its the same disc as when it was originally released.

Revisiting the Invasion (SD, 7:39) 

The H.G. Wells Legacy (SD, 6:34) 

Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds (SD, 8:00)

Characters: The Family Unit (SD, 13:22)

Previsualization (SD, 7:42)

Production Diaries

  • East Coast: Beginning (SD, 22:30)
  • East Coast: Exile (SD, 19:39)
  • West Coast: Destruction (SD, 27:29)
  • West Coast: War (SD, 22:20)

Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens (SD, 14:07)

Scoring War of the Worlds (SD, 11:57)

We are Note Alone (SD, 3:14)

Galleries (HD)

  • Sketches by Costume Designer Joanna Johnston
  • Production Stills
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Production Sketches

Theatrical Teaser Trailer (HD, 1:59)

Summary

Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is quite a nasty, bleak film with a hell of mean streak to it. Its also hits the beats of top tear popcorn entertainment with a nice blunt social reflection woven in. Paramount’s 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray upgrade is a doozy. Within 20 minutes, this was easily an all time favorite disc of mine with outstanding audio and video, top of the line for catalog titles. Unfortunately there are no new extras, but the original release carries plenty of lengthy extensive extras that don’t leave much to add. This is an easy pick up and imo, the best of the Cruise 4K trio coming out.

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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).

2 Responses to “War Of The Worlds (2005) (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Dan

    It’s “top tier” not “tear”. Damn spell check!

  2. Carol Edwards

    There is a nasty 30 hz filter employed on the LFE channel that is VERY apparent if you compare it to the blu-ray