The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
As this review is intended to focus on the technical nuts and bolts of the new UHD format you'll forgive me if I direct you to my previous Blu-ray review of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for a longer write-up about the film itself. Having seen the movie again I stand by my remarks: when it's good it's very good, but when it's bad it's horrid. Garfield and Stone are a ridiculously cute couple and seeing Spidey come to life in all his wise-cracking glory is an absolute treat. The music's great too. But outside of that, almost everyone else is hamming it up horribly and the script borders on nonsensical at times which drags it down something chronic. Basically it's a frustratingly uneven experience, playing like some bastard hybrid of (500) Days of Summer and Batman & Robin.
The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Please note: this review has been carried out on a high-contrast Sony 4K TV which can display the Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) of UHD but not the specific High Dynamic Range (HDR) encoding of these discs, so they're being viewed in Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) via the Panasonic DMP-UB900 player and its excellent SDR downconversion feature, which retains a healthy portion of the expanded range. The screenshots seen here are from the 1080p Blu-ray and are not intended to be indicative of the UHD product.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits UHD in a 2-disc set from Sony which includes the standard 2D 1080p Blu-ray and also a UV digital copy. (This review disc is an American import, the UK version will be released on May 23rd.) The UHD disc is presented in 2160p and framed in the intended 2.40 widescreen aspect. As I noted in my prior review of the Blu-ray, the movie was shot on 35mm anamorphic (with a post-conversion for 3D) and, lord have mercy, it was actually finished in 4K resolution to begin with! There's a novelty. As such, the UHD has a tighter and more filmic look than the regular Blu-ray, with an abundant helping of grain and keener detail across the board. I never realised Stan Lee was wearing a very finely striped suit in his cameo appearance because the detail is filtered away in the 1080p Blu-ray but now it's fully resolved, and longer distance shots also profit greatly, with no overbaked sharpening to spoil the clean lines. The HEVC compression is also excellent, with no signs of any banding whatsoever and it easily handles the ever-present layer of grain.
The increased dynamic range brings with it the typical improvements in the brighter areas of the image, retaining more texture and definition on things like windows and skies, and it has a noticeable impact on Electro's blue visage with all that current coursing through it. He crackles with bright bursts of energy in UHD and his skin radiates that cold blue light in a way that the Blu-ray can't match. The Times Square scene also looks incredible, the digital signs almost burst off of the screen with their intensity. The wider colour gamut also makes its mark with deeply saturated reds and blues (great for showing off Spidey's outfit) and that same Times Square sequence also benefits, displaying more depth and range to the already-kaleidoscopic array of colour that's on show. Electro's energy bolts have a purplish hue on the regular Bu-ray but here they're an azure blue with subtle purple accents, which is more fitting for Electro's blue colouring in general. But it's not just about the big, bold colours as there's so much nuance revealed in even the smallest areas. The UHD makes what is a spectacular Blu-ray look somewhat pedestrian in comparison.
All of Sony's UHD releases thus far have come with Dolby Atmos audio, an object-based "immersive" audio system that places sounds overhead as well as to the front and back. My system is 'only' 7.1 however so I'll be reviewing the TrueHD 7.1 lossless core. The normal Blu-ray came with DTS-HD 5.1 audio that I was impressed with enough to award marks of 10/10, but the UHD 7.1 presents clear improvements. The sound design is similar so you can expect much of the same dexterity as Max's paranoia worms its way across the speakers but the bass is more intense, thudding into action where the DTS track seems a little sluggish. The rear sound field (which already sounded great in plain 5.1) has even greater precision, allowing for more accurate localisation of effects and dialogue that come from behind you.
The UHD disc comes with scant few extras aside from a few publicity photos and the existing audio commentary so it's left to the included 2D Blu-ray to cover the rest of the bases. I'll quote some edited comments from my prior review: "The extras are headlined by a 103-minute 'making of' documentary plus 23 minutes of deleted & alternate scenes, supported by an Alicia Keys music video and an 8-minute piece of Marc Webb talking about the music score. The documentary was made by DVD producer extraordinaire Charlie de Lauzirika and it's another fine piece of work, taking us through each phase of production with lots of behind the scenes footage, raw outtakes and interviews with all of the key principals. The commentary features writers Alex Kurtzman and Jeff Pinker, along with producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, and they cover a lot of ground. The deleted scenes (with optional commentary) feature some of the story strands which were cut from the film, including the surprise reappearance of Peter's father. The music video is what it is, and the short piece about the score is a nice extension to what's said about it in the main documentary". Not a bad haul at all.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on UHD is a worthy upgrade over the Blu-ray, revelling in the extra detail and range provided by the 4K format. The film may be less than amazing but this UHD version is top-drawer stuff.
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