Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Packed to the gills with magic, mystery, creatures and wizards
Yesterday, a wizard entered New York with a case. A case full of magical creatures. And unfortunately, some have escaped.Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Themstarted life as a preferred textbook in the first Harry Potter book (and film) The Philosopher’s Stone. It then graduated to an actual book for Comic Relief, written by J.K. Rowling and is now a film based on the idea of how the book came about, rather than the book itself, which is a reference. Eddie Redmayne takes on the protagonist’s role as ‘author’ of Fantastic Beasts, Newt Scamander, in a story which, rather than focus on his adventures gathering the information for the book he intends to write, follows him on a journey in 1920’s New York, where he innocently becomes embroiled in wizarding lawbreaking when the murder of a Statesman is wrongly attributed to his escaped magical beasts and what follows is a whodunit misadventure filled with wonder and spectacle.Helmed by David Yates (from the final four Harry Potter films) who has certainly proved his mettle within the ‘wizarding community’ as his adaptations are universally acclaimed by being able to convey the essence of the books, while simultaneously condensing them. With J.K. as the writer, the pair have managed to bring to life another facet of the ‘Potterverse’. Whilst prior viewing of Potter is unnecessary to enjoy the film, it does help when confronted with the wizarding world that lives alongside the muggle (or 'No-maj’) one. The film is full of set pieces; it twists and turns along at a furious pace but at the expense of character development and motivation. Even at over two hours it feels as if there is so much more to the story than we are seeing, which is perhaps the weakest element of the film.
Picture QualityFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was filmed digitally using Arri Alexa XT Studio cameras, with a resolution of 3.4K and finished using a 4K Digital Intermediate (DI), meaning we’re seeing the full native resolution on this UltraHD disc, presented in widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The disc uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
In terms of the picture there is nothing to complain about
The full 4K resolution makes for a stunning presentation; detail is sublime with usual staples like skin texture and clothing weaves being absolutely pristine, but more than that, everything has a sharp clarity that is palpable. The streets of New York, the brickwork of the buildings, the skylines, building interiors, posters, magical creatures, everything is stunning in its presentation giving rise to a sense of being enveloped within the frame.
Add to this the HDR and WCG and you have colours that beam out of the screen (when needed) while remaining robust and strong, as well as dark and dour but still with beautiful gradations when required. Black levels are stunning giving huge depth of frame and holding some magnificent shadow detail when needed, while the whites are heavenly. See outlines of bulbs in billboard signs for example (the 1080p image is just a white blob!) Skin colouring is good and natural while the fantastical elements hidden within the briefcase are out of this world.
There is nothing digital to complain about, indeed the transfer from the pristine source is immaculate. Stunning.
Sound QualitySimon Crust reviews the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track – Just as the visuals can immerse you with their splendour, so does this surround track that envelops you from the off. Effects are near constant with the surrounds being used extensively to place you in the centre of the action; whether that is magical creatures flying past, spells shooting through the room, or cars driving down a busy New York street. Dialogue is clear and precise, sounds good and natural and given plenty of directionality when needed. The score is very well layered into the mix adding to the overall wonder. Bass is wonderful: tight, deep and effective, with LF effects coming thick and fast during climax, rocking the foundations, but subtle enough during quieter moments to hold everything in the natural realm. An excellent surround environment is created that, along with the visuals, places you front and centre.
A fantastic Dolby Atmos soundtrack compliments the pristine images
Steve Withers reviewed the Dolby Atmos soundtrack on a 7.2.4-channel setup – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them boasts an equally fantastic (sorry couldn't help myself) Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The sound design is highly immersive and directional, from the opening scenes of Newt's arrival in New York with the bustling port and streets to the more action orientated sequences as Newt attempts to recapture his escaped beasts. Throughout the film the dialogue remains clear and focused on the screen, whilst the score is mixed across the front array and even into the sides, rear and above when appropriate. The the additional layer that Atmos offers with its overhead channels is employed very effectively during the scenes inside Newt's suitcase and the climax delivers incredibly precise surround effects thanks to the object-based format. The use of low frequency bass is also very effective, under-pinning the action scenes and adding extra weight to some the larger beasts. Overall this is a very well-designed and active Dolby Atmos mix that is sure to please fans of immersive audio.
ExtrasAll extras are found on the Full HD Blu-ray included in the set:
Before Harry Potter: A New Era of Magic Begins! – A fifteen minute feature that brings together J.K. Rowling, David Heyman and David Yates, amongst others, to discuss the film, its production, themes and returning to ‘Harry Potter’ in this new guise.
Characters – With a (play all) runtime of 25 minutes this is a series of five individual featurettes looking at the main players in the film with the usual talking head interviews and some behind the scenes filming. There titles are: The Magizoologist, The Goldstein Sisters, The New Salemers, The No-Maj Baker and The President and the Auror.
Creatures – With a (play all) runtime of 21 minutes this is a very similar set of features based around the magical creatures and how they came to be represented on screen. The titles are: Meet the Fantastic Beasts, Bowtruckle, Demiguise, Erumpent, Niffler, Occamy and Thunderbird.
Design – Similar format once again, this time looking at the production design of various locations with the usual cast and crew interviews and a runtime of 35 minutes. Titles are: Shaping the World of Fantastic Beasts, New York City, MACUSA, Newt’s Magical Case, The Shaw Banquet and The Blind Pig.
Deleted Scenes – Eleven in total for a (play all) runtime of 14 minutes. Titles are: Major Investigation Department, Jacob tenement, Newt’s case, MACUSA cell, Creocreatura, Tracking demiguise, Suitcase celebration, Skyscraper roof, Obscurus unleashed Pt1, Obscurus unleashed Pr2 and Newt goodbye.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictAnyone who has read any J.K. Rowling will recognise the story structure of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Anyone who has seen the any of the last four Harry Potter films will know what a terrific director and adaptor of the novels David Yates is. And together they have crafted a new facet to the ‘Potterverse’ in this new based on a throwaway line in The Philosopher’s Stone. Whilst the film is packed to the gills with set pieces, magic, mystery, creatures and wizards, the pacing is furious and never lets up, so character development and motivation tend to get left behind, meaning that even at over two hours, the film feels like it has so much more to say, but no room left to say it. I daresay this will be address in the up and coming sequels!
Fans of Harry Potter and Ultra HD Blu-ray will lap this release up
As a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray set, the package from Warner is pretty good. The UHD disc hails from a 4K DI meaning the image is at full 4K resolution, so the picture is stunning; detail is absolute, colours are bright and bold with a strong black level and astonishing whites. The sound is every bit as good providing an immersive envelope that paces you firmly in the centre of the action, with effects coming from every direction. The extras package covers quite a lot, with several featurettes that amount to a good deal of behind the scenes information. I’m sure both Harry Potter fans and fans of Ultra HD Blu-ray will lap this release up.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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