Updated: Dec 26, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“WESTWORLD SEASON TWO: THE DOOR”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD copy; 2018; TV-MA for extreme violence, gore, nudity, profanity, drinking and smoking; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube, Vudu
Best extra: The 10-part “Creating Westworld’s Reality”
Warner Brothers Home Entertainment provided us with a free copy of the 4K Ultra Blu-ray and Blu-ray discs, which I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.
THE ANDROIDS are taking over.
HBO’s award-winning “Westworld” series from Jonathan Nolan and his wife, Lisa Joy, continues. Season One ended with the start of a bloody revolution after droid/host Dolores, played by Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Evan Rachel Wood, killed her creator Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). The 10 episode Season Two story doesn’t get much further than that as it follows the war between the hosts, Delos security, and human guests trapped in the park.
Nolan and Joy discuss what they hoped to accomplish in the multi-part bonus features on Warner Brothers’ 4K Ultra and Blu-ray discs. His “Person of Interest” TV series, about a supercomputer that develops Artificial Intelligence and makes a break from those who would control it, is an obvious precursor. “Westworld” Season Two follows in POI’s digital tracks. Executive Producers J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk helped develop both series.
But even if you’re unfamiliar with POI, it’s easy to guess where “Westworld” was going. Brilliant as it is, there’s no way the park can earn enough to cover its expenses through entertainment alone. There must be another agenda and clever viewers picked up on it back in Season One. Nolan and Joy make the case for the droids’ humanity; they are victims of their marginalized status. Humans created their memory cores adding tragic events to make them more relatable to the guests. The hosts are raped, tortured and killed repeatedly, living out their stories again and again. Sometimes they’re placed into another “character,” where echoes of their past experiences continue to haunt them. Where’s the humanity in that?
The audience must buy into that to feel for these characters. If not, “Westworld” drags and it’s easy to lose interest. Season Two developed a huge schism between those who love it and others who don’t. It genuinely appeals to those who have grown up during a digital age, where gaming avatars/characters are constant companions.
“Westworld” continues to be one of the most striking series on cable today. Season One was a beaut, but Season Two on Ultra 4K and Blu-ray exceeds its prototype. Shot on 35mm film, it shows consistent film grain for a cinematic experience. Episodes were mastered in 2K because of ongoing visual effects, which are on a par with any blockbuster film today. Aspect ratio for 2160p and 1080p is 1.78:1.
Color is rich and vibrant, but very natural. You’re going to love it on Blu-ray, but the 4K’s HDR toning adds extra tone and dimension. Detail is razor sharp. Both formats provide excellent contrast between dark and bright highlights. It doesn’t matter if you’re pro-droid or human, “Westworld” is a stunner.
Season Two leaps into Dolby Atmos for those who have the system, and defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for others. These are both active, immersive soundtracks with clear dialogue – a lot of it heard amidst gunfire, explosions and screams. There are also more subtle, ambient effects providing a you-are-there experience. Composer Ramin Djawadi, who won an Emmy for his work on “Game of Thrones,” expands “Westworld’s” score mixing original themes with covers of Rolling Stones, Radiohead, Amy Winehouse, and The Cure classics.
Like “The Game of Thrones” presentations, HBO packs a load of bonus features into the package. They’re a fine blend of cast interviews with thoughts on the actors’ favorite and most trying moments. There’s story building and technical information, too. Two features contain mostly super-short segments, but are fun to watch – though it would have been more fun if there had been a “play all” option. Here’s the list:
The three-part “Bring Yourself Back Online” includes “Reflections on Season Two – Dolores, Teddy and Bernard”; “Of Love and Shogun – Maeve, Hector and Lee,” and “Journeys and Technology – Stubbs, Logan and Clementine.”
The 10-part “Creating Westworld’s Reality” includes “An Evocative Location,” “Fort Forlorn Hope,” “The Delos Experiment,” “Shogun World,” “Inside the Cradle,” “Chaos in The Mesa,” “Ghost Nation,” “Deconstructing Maeve,” “The Valley Beyond,” and “The Drone Hosts.”
Longer and separate featurettes include “The Truth Behind Delos” and “These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends.” Also “Return to ‘Westworld’” and “The Buzz: On the Red Carpet.”
There’s no denying “Westworld” is loaded with mind boggling effects and CGI; its picture and soundtrack are near-reference quality. It won three Emmys for Season One, including Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Thandie Newton (Maeve Millay), and received a slew of nominations including Best Drama and for several of its actors. Season Two will no doubt receive similar recognition.
— Kay Reynolds
WESTWORLD SEASON TWO