Black Panther Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther,” the highly celebrated story of T’Challa, a young African prince who takes on the mantle of King and Super Hero.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

93

Details:

Studio and Year: Disney/Marvel – 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 134 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/Action

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos7.1.4/TrueHD 7.1, English/Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, 1080p Blu-ray: DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyongo, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis, Forrest Whitaker
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Music by: Ludwig Goransson
Written by: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: May 15, 2018

“Hero. Legend. King”

My Take:

In the acclaimed film, T’Challa returns home to the hidden high-tech African nation of Wakanda to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king, following the death of his father. But when a man named Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) appears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he’s drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Pitted against his own family, the king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and embrace his future as an Avenger.

Growing up, I read some of The Black Panther’s exploits in Marvel Comics. I generally enjoyed them but didn’t follow the character with any constancy. I recall liking him and the fact that he was a black superhero but, knew little about his background, powers, and affiliations. His appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe made a big splash, bringing the character to life in spectacular fashion. Giving him his own film was definitely the next step and co-writer/directior Ryan Coogler handled the project with aplomb, telling T’Challa’s story with emphatic cultural underpinnings that felt appropriate and thematically conjunctive.

Alongside the wonderfully played themes the narrative balances a cache of terrifically drawn characters that faithfully support its context. Most notably, the villain, played to near perfection by Michael B. Jordan. Serving as the crux of the film’s story which is more character driven than a typical superhero mashup, the interplay between Jordan’s “Killmonger” and T’Challa is spot on. In addition, there are a host of engaging moments shared between T’Challa and those in his inner circle that go very far toward enriching the story. The only element of the plot that I felt didn’t truly fit was the interjection of CIA Agent Ross and the large part he subsequently played in the proceedings.

The action and production elements aren’t anything we haven’t seen before but, I had a good time nonetheless. I saw Black Panther soon after it opened and thoroughly enjoyed it. This second viewing was no different. I appreciated the handling of his backstory and look forward to seeing more of T’Challa in the MCU.

Replay Value:4 Stars

Parental Guide:

The rating is for prolonged sequences of action violence and a brief rude gesture.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

 

Black Panther comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Disney/Marvel featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

For its presentation in Ultra HD it was rendered from a 3.4K source and finished on a 4K DI. Black Panther is a fantasy/action-based film that is boldly colorful, relying on stylized visuals that employ stark contrast, vivid chromatic elements and lots of CGI. I found that this Ultra HD rendering primarily makes the most of its elements.

With a discernible increase in detail the image has a pristine quality that enhances dimension. The sequence at the opening of chapter 2 with the flyover of Wakanda, followed later by the challenge ceremony, the detail in the native costumes, stone surfaces and physical features of the cast members are pristinely rendered. Close ups reveal oodles of fine detail and abounding textures. The spectrum of colors that make up the tribe specific ceremonial outfits look gorgeous. The beautiful earth toned colors, shimmering water, and stone facia set against the sunny sky look great as well. Primary colors such red, and blue, are pleasingly rich, while whites and grays appear gradational. Fleshtones are wonderfully natural with enriching tonal delineation that remains consistent throughout the presentation.

Wide angle shots and the contrasting cinematography, going from brightly lit exteriors to the variety of dark, shadowy sequences predominantly look great in Ultra HD. I did notice that the opening scenes that take place in the apartment during the 1992 flashback and, in the jungle where T’Challa reconnects with Nakia were on the dark side, crushing some details in the backgrounds. This wasn’t the case in the 1080p version. Otherwise I felt that scenes like the ones that take place at night on the streets of Korea, or in the Vibranium mine in Wakanda looked great.

I wasn’t bowled by the implementation of high dynamic range. Specular highlights during the extended chase/encounter in Korea or during the battle in Wakanda were scant. Blacks were rich and inky with excellent dynamic range which offset the various sequences that incorporated artificial light and brilliant color.

I found that the gap between the Ultra HD and the 1080p version isn’t as wide as I’d hoped. Part of the problem is probably attributable to the extensive use of CGI which softens many of the backgrounds. Of course, the higher resolution makes the seams in live action set against the CGI easier to see. Be that as it may this is a terrific overall presentation that looked great.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

I was anxious to see if the Dolby Vision presentation improved upon the already solid HDR-10 rendering. I found the presentations to be roughly the same in terms of color reproduction, and high dynamic range treatment. I did find that the aforementioned scenes that take place in the early parts of the film that crushed shadow detail, were handled better but, still had room for improvement. That’s a minor shortcoming I didn’t deduct for as this one looks great either way.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the active variety, which was welcomed. Its use of audio objects placed above is comprised of a mix of atmospherics, panning fills and discrete sounds. This is done to good effect when implemented and creates an enriching level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. Nearfield sound placement is noteworthy, providing an involving listening experience that emboldens the “being there” effect when applied.

During the various sequences that take place in the large venues, the track brims with environmental cues and discrete sound effects. The music is mixed over the platform so as to add natural depth to its orchestrated elements without drawing attention away from the thematic details of what is transpiring onscreen. While this mix doesn’t make constant use of attention grabbing audio object placement, I found myself completely involved when it mattered and found this to be an enjoyable audio presentation that absolutely complimented the source material.

** Here is another recent release from Disney that has instances of questionable dynamics. Early in the film during the sequence with the guerillas in the jungle, the machine gunfire as well as the variety of point to point physical contact between the Black Panther and the bad guys have little impact. The same is true during the altercation in the casino in Korea. During that encounter Klaue blasts T’Challa with his Vibranuim blaster and that as well as T’Challa’s landing afterward sound compressed. The extended chase that follows in the streets directly after has moments where things hit harder but, there isn’t substantial depth. Oddly, the soundtrack’s Hip Hop rhythms thump with palpable precision throughout.

However, later, during the large-scale battle in Wakanda, tactility and dynamics improve. This continues throughout the remainder of the presentation. Lastly, I found that I had to play this track back at roughly 10db above where I normally listen. YMMV. **

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

 

Audio: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 

 

Black Panther comes to Blu-ray Disc from Disney featuring 1080p AVC and DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound.

This film utilizes a variety of settings, visual schemes and cinematographic processes to create its world (s) and I had high hopes for its presentations on Blu-ray. I wasn’t disappointed. The video is sharp with a pristine quality that enhances its seemingly flawless rendering of detail. Images are gradationally adept and three dimensionally depicted so that wide angle perspectives, unevenly lit interiors, and shadow laden environs have a seemingly infinite level of depth. This presentation delivers some of the richest and velvety textured blacks that I have seen on Blu-ray.

Colors are vibrant, delineated and when called for, deeply saturated and warm, without appearing unnatural. The palette of secondary hues used throughout are eye pleasing and vivid. Flesh tones are lifelike with varying degrees of complexional separation among the cast. Contrast is well balanced and dynamic which energizes colors, empowers whites/grays and engages blacks. The video has a pleasing aesthetic that plays hand in hand with the film’s stark visual style, providing an incredibly entertaining experience that looks superb regardless of the size of your display.

The lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack has detail rich clarity and makes ample use of the entire surround platform to drive the film’s elements. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment is excellent. The low frequency effects channel is active as the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the bass and dynamic impact associated with the film’s music and action-based sequences (see below). Dialog is firmly planted in the center channel and renders voices and effects with noteworthy distinction.

** Here is another recent release from Disney that has instances of questionable dynamics. Early in the film during the sequence with the guerillas in the jungle, the machine gunfire as well as the variety of point to point physical contact between the Black Panther and the bad guys have little impact. The same is true during the altercation in the casino in Korea. During that encounter Klaue blasts T’Challa with his Vibranuim blaster and that as well as T’Challa’s landing afterward sound compressed. The extended chase that follows in the streets directly after has moments where things hit harder but, there isn’t substantial depth. Oddly, the soundtrack’s Hip Hop rhythms thump with palpable precision throughout.

However, later, during the large-scale battle in Wakanda, tactility and dynamics improve. This continues throughout the remainder of the presentation. Lastly, I found that I had to play this track back at roughly 10db above where I normally listen. YMMV. **

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Black Panther Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Black Panther Blu-ray
    Blu-ray:
    • Director’s Intro
    • From Page to Screen: A Roundtable Discussion – Delve into the film’s making
    • Crowning of a New King – Explore the world of “Black Panther” in all its color and complexity
    • The Warriors Within – Get to know Wakanda’s women and the actors who portray them
    • The Hidden Kingdom Revealed – Wakanda’s diverse people
    • Wakanda Revealed: Exploring the Technology
    • Deleted Scenes
     U.N. Meet and Greet
     Okoye And W’Kabi Discuss the Future of Wakanda
     T’Challa Remembers His Father
     Voices from the Past
    • Gag Reel
    • Exclusive Sneak Peek at “Ant-Man and The Wasp”
    • Marvel Studios the First Ten Years: Connecting the Universe
    • Director’s Commentary
    Digital Exclusives:
    • In World Wakanda Tourism Ads
     Come to Wakanda “Before”
     Come to Wakanda “After”
  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Black Panther is a well-executed fantasy action film that is among the best to come from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It comes to Blu-ray in this Cinematic Universe Edition from Disney featuring top notch Ultra HD video, solid lossless surround sound, including a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive listening experience and a fair supplemental package that is worth exploring. Black Panther is a thrilling and entertaining film that comes highly recommended.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems 


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