A release like Cloverfield is going to prove controversial no matter the format. The movie doesn't look "good" in the traditional sense. It's a "found footage" movie, after all. It's raw, blocky, shaky, meant to look like it was shot at a lower resolution by amateurs on low-end consumer equipment. The question with these movies (and pictures like 28 Days Later) always revolves around whether a picture quality is "good" if it's aesthetically pleasing (not necessarily in this case) or whether it genuinely reflects the filmmaker's vision (true in this case). One would think that more traditionally oriented cinephiles would fall into the later category, happy if a release stays true to its roots, happy to watch the film as it was meant to be seen, while one can see the potential for videophiles to dismiss something like this because it's not pretty. And now, with 4K video and HDR (or Dolby Vision, as the case is here) color enhancements thrown into the mix, that question of authenticity to filmmaker vision seems ever more paramount.
With Cloverfield, it's easy to balk at a UHD release. 4K for this? Dolby Vision for this? UHD doesn't magically clean the movie up (and if it did it would be a dishonest bastardization of a release). It's still gritty and raw with rough-edged details and lots of noise. But the 2160p resolution does indeed boost the textural finesse of the image, to a small degree, and without fundamentally altering anything within it. Even with the relatively low-rez imagery, one can see, upon comparison between the UHD and the Blu-ray, minute degrees of increased sharpness. Textured walls, various city locations both indoor and out and all of the little details therein and around, the severed and scarred Statute of Liberty head, even skin textures on still close-ups reveal a small uptick in sharpness. It's not enough to really gush over, but it is a consideration, a point, albeit one without much value, in the UHD's favor.
The real benefit of the UHD presentation comes by way of the Dolby Vision color enhancement. While it's not a game-changer, there are perceptible and arguably even critical refinements that make the experience a bit better over the Blu-ray. Blacks appear firmer and deeper. As variable as they are throughout the film, there's a generally more sincere depth and sense of accuracy to them. Small lighting elements are more organically pronounced. A hanging fluorescent light inside a convenience store offers a more brilliant burst of light, which is comparatively dull on the Blu-ray. Orange fireballs are likewise deeper, more vibrant, more alive. Even the color bars seen at the beginning of the film appear with greatly improved saturation, brightness, and zest. These color positives do add up and, over the course of the film, help bring the viewer close to the film, as close as one can feel when watching this style of film.
The big disappointment on the UHD disc is the failure to modify the soundtrack to a Dolby Atmos configuration. If any release screams for it, particularly on UHD and accompanying a movie that wasn't going to boast traditionally presented mind blowing eye candy visuals by its very nature, it seemed like an essential point of upgrade to upsell the release, no matter how fantastic the 5.1 track may be. And the 5.1 track is killer. It was in 2008, and it still is today. For a full review, please click here. Note that this UHD does, if nothing else, offer expanded language and subtitle options over the original Blu-ray.
4K Bluray details
Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Upscaled 4K (2160p)
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1
French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
German: Dolby Digital 5.1
Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1
English, English SDH, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish (less)
4K Ultra HD
Two-disc set (1 BD-66, 1 BD-50)
Slipcover in original pressing
4K Blu-ray: Region free
2K Blu-ray: Region free