As noted in the standard Blu-ray review, Blade Runner 2049's cinematographer was the legendary Roger Deakins, a pioneer of digital cinema who personally oversaw the film's post-production on a 4K digital intermediate. Deakins also oversaw BR 2049's formatting in two aspect ratios, 2.39:1 for standard venues and a "taller" version for IMAX theaters framed at 1.90:1. As with the standard Blu-ray, Warner's 2160p, HEVC/H.265-encoded UHD contains the standard width (at 2.40:1), and it's an especially unfortunate choice for UHD, a home video format that, like IMAX, is touted for its detail, depth and color intensity. The added height of the IMAX version, which I saw theatrically, makes more effective use of Dennis Gassner's imposing production design, with its towering ruins and vast interior spaces. The omission of that version caused me to dock the video grade of the standard Blu-ray, and I am giving the UHD an identical video score for the same reason. But the 4K/HDR treatment is extraordinary.
Characters in BR 2049 say as much (or more) with their faces as with their words, and the UHD's increased definition and refined HDR grading reveal every line, wrinkle and flicker of reaction. The vast futuristic spaces are so finely rendered that you can almost feel the dust blowing through the wasteland where K locates Deckard or the sharp edges of the metallic piles where K's spinner lands roughly after an unexpected aerial encounter. The enormous grubs that Sapper Morton farms (and offers K as a snack) are revoltingly alive, and even though the shadows that frame K's encounter with the errant replicant are layered and deep, you can still see each adversary's face in the gloom as they prepare to do battle. The accumulated bric-a-brac in K's apartment and, later, in Deckard's hideout are sharply distinguished, as is the minimalist decor of Wallace Corp. The 4K presentation effectively expands the sense of space in the film's many long shots (e.g., the abandoned solar farms over which K flies at the beginning and the endless Wallace Corp. storage facility where he seeks critical records), while at the same time retaining a sharp focus on individual persons and elements in the frame. The promenade where K is first accosted by Mariette supplies a gorgeous and colorful interplay of dark and light that effectively recalls the street scenes of the original Blade Runner, and the false memories conjured by Dr. Ana are vibrantly alive. (The green forest she's editing when K first arrives is so gorgeous that it belongs in a BBC nature documentary.)
Film is an inherently visual medium, but the Blade Runner films are especially so. Both Ridley Scott and Denis Villeneuve created intricately realized worlds of imagination on which their cameras linger, inviting the viewer to take the time to look around and immerse oneself in the environments that shaped the films' characters and drive their actions. Warner's 4K presentation allows the home viewer to do so with incomparable intensity. Outside of an IMAX theater or a good (very good) standard theatrical projection, it's the best way to experience BR 2049.
The UHD disc offers the same excellent Dolby Atmos soundtrack that has been previously reviewed. Like the standard Blu-ray, it also offers the option, redundant in my opinion, of a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.
4K Bluray details
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (58.04 Mbps)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English: Dolby Atmos
English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
Note: English DD=narrative descriptive
English SDH, French, Spanish
4K Ultra HD
Two-disc set (1 BD-100, 1 BD-50
Digital copy expired
Slipcover in original pressing