The Shape of Water 4K Blu-ray Review
There is a magic to the film, a wonder
Shape of Water Film Review
There is no profit in last week's fishPart monster movie, part romance, part fairy tale, part cold war espionage thriller and could aptly be called Creature from the Black Lagoon meets Splash, Guillermo del Toro’s highly personal film, The Shape of Water is an enigmatic look at love and acceptance through alienation, set in both the fantastical and the real world; something that he is not only adept at, but has become known for.
Elisa is a mute orphan working as a cleaner in secret underground laboratories during the early sixties, at the height of the cold war. When a government agent brings a human-shaped amphibious creature to be studied, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to it. Meanwhile Russian agents have their eyes on the same creature, both sides wanting it to improve their chances in the space race. The creature is chained up, tortured and scheduled for dissection, Elisa hatches a plan to rescue the lost soul and return it to the sea, only to find that her feelings for the beast are reciprocated. When conspiratorial forces from both sides close in and the outlook is bleak, the amphibian shows his true powers.
Del Toro is no stranger to the fantastic, every one of his films is shot through with spiritual ideas; and The Shape of Water is no different; told from the perspective of Elisa, a mute orphan who has morning rituals, of which water plays a large part, and who meets a fantastic creature that she not only instantly bonds with but that develops further to the point where the two might share a common ancestry. And all played out against the cold war conspiracies where everyone is a suspect and no-one can be trusted.
There is a magic to the film, a wonder – the screen is bathed in blues and greens, with shocks of colour (red) piercing through. Acted out with aplomb by all the respective cast, the film was nominated for and has won many accolades not least Best Picture Oscar; and it is easy to see why, such is the love and devotion given to this piece of cinematic glory.
Shape of Water 4K PictureThe Shape of Water was shot digitally using Arri Alexa Mini cameras with resolutions of 3.4K and 2.8K but ultimately finished as a 2K DI, which has presumably been used here for this Ultra HD Blu-ray release. The disc presents an up-scaled 3840 x 2160p resolution image in the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG), High Dynamic Range, and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec HDR10. We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of The Shape of Water on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Panasonic DMP-UB400 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Shades of green have much more substance, depth and verve
Despite being an up-scale the greater resolution afforded this UHD brings with it a modest but noticeable up-turn in detail; seen clearly in skin texture, both human and amphibian, clothing weaves, lab equipment, apartment décor and reflected light from water surfaces. However, it is with the WGC and HDR where the real benefits are seen. The blue/green of the image has a far more natural hue to it – teal is actually teal rather than a greeny-blue – indeed the shades of green have much more substance, depth and verve than anything the Blu-ray can reproduce; check out the plate of jelly from the key lime pie! The bioluminescence of the amphibian’s skin is wonderful.
Add to this the depth of black, there is a much punchier image; there is more going on in the shadows (the lab, the apartments etc.) which really pushes deep into the frame. Noted above the reflections of surface water on the walls of the lab are luscious. Reds also fare well, check out Elisa’s shoes for example. Flesh tones are natural enough considering the palette. The original source is a clean as a whistle, while digitally there is nothing untoward happening, save the closing scene where there is some light banding visible.
Shape of Water 4K SoundThe disc presents an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, which is something of a shame considering the scope there is for a really immersive surround track. The surrounds are used sparingly but to good effect when creating ambience, the open space of the lab, the sloshing of the water in the tanks or the bath-tub, and the torrential rain for examples.
Being under water is particularly well realised, and the water dripping through to the movie theatre (how good could this have been in Atmos?) works well as an effect. Bass is reasonable, keeping the low end in check and adding some weight to the sound field, but LF effects are, surprisingly, limited. Alexandre Desplat's score makes full use of all the speakers to engage the surround field, while dialogue remains centred to the frontal array.
Shape of Water 4K ExtrasAll the extra features are found on the (included) Blu-ray
A Fairy Tale for Troubled Times – A thirty minute making of feature that is split into four parts; contains the basic cast and crew interviews interspersed with behind the scene footage; covers all the bases even if it is somewhat aimed at ‘entertainment channel’ audiences as an ad for the film. Anatomy of a Scene: Prologue – Three minutes with del Toro going over the development of the scene from the storyboard to finished product; not exclusively about the prologue.
Anatomy of a Scene: The Dance – Much that same, but five minutes in length, this time includes BTS footage.
Shaping the Waves: A Conversation with James Jean – Five minute conversation with the artist and illustrator.
Guillermo del Toro's Master Class – Just under fifteen minute Q&A session, filmed at the Zanuck Theatre, with del Toro (and other crew members) answering various technical questions, with great enthusiasm.
Shape of Water 4K VerdictAptly named, Creature from the Black Lagoon meets Splash, del Toro’s The Shape of Water effectively looks at love and acceptance through alienation – essentially telling a fantastical tale set within real world paranoia; something he excels at. Winning numerous awards, and nominated for even more, the film is charming, moving and gorgeous; it is easy to see the accolades heaped upon it.
Charming, moving and gorgeous
The 4k UHD set from Fox is somewhat disappointing; the image is an up-scale, but having said that it is better than the Blu-ray in terms of finite detail and more importantly colouring and black levels which the 1080 image can’t hope to reproduce, AND the sound is a ‘vanilla’ DTS-HD MA 5.1 track – a real shame considering the potential of immersion given the subject matter – even if, as represented, it is actually a terrific surround environment with decent ambience and effects, while the extras are somewhat light in nature.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.