The Shining 4K Ultra HD Bluray
What a difference 12 years can make. Warner Bros.' outstanding new 2160p transfer is easily one of the most film-like and natural 4K presentations I've seen for a catalog title to date, and obviously represents a giant leap beyond their own 2007 Blu-ray. The restoration was sourced from a new 4K scan of The Shining's original 35mm camera negative conducted at WB's Motion Picture Imaging facility, with the updated press release also stating that filmmaker Steven Spielberg and Kubrick's long-time personal assistant Leon Vitali were very closely involved during the entire process. The key differences here are image detail and color, both of which have improved greatly: textures and overall image stability are now rock-solid, immediately evident by the opening sequence's breathtaking helicopter footage and further highlighted in the Overlook Hotel's cavernous but cozy interiors. Natural light filtering through its windows offers yet another improvement, aided greatly by the new remaster's much more refined contrast levels and greater amount of shadow detail. Even the film's snowy climax looks better, largely due to its slightly more muted hue -- the Blu-ray was noticeably pushed towards cyan, which now looks quite a bit more artificial in direct comparison. HDR is a prime factor here: it tastefully tweaks certain scenes in subtle but noticeable ways, from the interiors of Dick Halloran's Miami apartment during a nighttime phone call to the searing red interiors of the Overlook Hotel's restroom.
Film grain is another of this disc's most valuable features. It's not overbearing but is clearly there from start to finish, with no obvious signs of excessive noise reduction or the chunky appearance of the Blu-ray's grain, which gave that older disc a distinct "video, not film" appearance. That, combined with almost no discernible compression artifacts, truly give this new 4K presentation of The Shining an appearance identical to -- or even better than -- original theatrical showings. Overall, it's simply a spotless and unquestionably film-like picture that's often jaw-dropping in its level of organic quality; a perfect match to The Shining's stunning and frequently hypnotic cinematography.
A word about aspect ratios: One slightly controversial element of this 4K restoration (which also extends to the included Blu-ray disc*, as as well as Warner Bros.' 2007 Blu-ray) is its 1.78:1 framing, which is very common for WB catalog releases theatrically framed at 1.85:1. In comparison to that older Blu-ray, this new remaster also appears slightly zoomed-in by a factor of less than 5%, but nothing of great interest is lost. Take all this with a grain of salt, obviously: many home video releases presented The Shining in unmatted 1.33:1, which often ruined some of its more claustrophobic compositions, while some fans have even argued for 1.66:1, AKA "European widescreen". (The excellent Stanley Kubrick Archives squashes that argument, showing a handwritten Kubrick note explaining that his films are composed for 1.85:1 but protected for 1.33:1 TV broadcast.) So while it's disappointing that The Shining doesn't keep its theatrical aspect ratio, this seems to be a fair compromise; after all, 1.78:1 is the new television standard.
The audio is also not without is own bit of controversy, as the film's original mono mix -- again, like several earlier home video editions, including the 2007 Blu-ray -- is again missing in action. This stings a little bit more, of course: it's one thing to *ahem* overlook the absence of multiple aspect ratios on a single release, but this 4K disc's massive amount of storage space allows more than enough clearance for one measly lossless mono track. For that reason alone, I have to dock the audio rating a solid half-point -- ignoring the original mix is just lazy under the circumstances.
With that out of the way, let's talk about what we do get here: a suitably immersive DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix that likewise offers clear improvements over the older Blu-ray's 16-bit LPCM 5.1 track. Although both are technically lossless formats, the new restoration of The Shining's source material improves its audio as well: dialogue has a bit more weight to it, while not-so-subtle background touches (such as the continuing "heartbeat" that stars just after the 90-minute mark) also sound more robust. My only complaint here is that certain music cues -- most notably, the electronic-infused main title that plays during several outdoor and establishing shots -- are mixed slightly louder than normal, which is probably fine for your average theatrical showing but not as ideal for smaller home theaters. (Long story short: you might have to adjust the volume a few times.) Other scenes are dialed back, and it's here where The Shining's original mono mix still survives: these sound more narrow in direct comparison, which gives the entire 5.1 mix a slightly "patchwork" quality. As a whole, though, this is still a wonderfully effective mix at times and often suits the main feature like a glove...so even with the absent mono track in mind, things could be much worse.
Optional subtitles are included during the main feature in a variety of languages -- more than a dozen, actually. The film and all bonus features on the included Blu-ray only feature optional subtitles in English (SDH), French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Polish. All are formatted nicely and do not suffer from any obvious sync issues.
4K Bluray details
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (74.26 Mbps)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10+
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
German: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
Polish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Thai
Note: Japanese is hidden
4K Ultra HD
Two-disc set (1 BD-100, 1 BD-50)
Slipcover in original pressing
4K Blu-ray: Region free
2K Blu-ray: Region free