After screening Disney’s recent 4k of the live action / CGI Mulan, I was reminded that Niki Caro had directed
the wonderful Whale Rider, all the way back in 2002. And that I’d never seen the Blu-ray.
Many people don’t know this, but there are at least two, and possibly more countries in the area where this
film was shot.
And that New Zealand, and Australia are actually different nations, although both have minimal histories
when it comes to motion pictures.
Australia, for example is probably best known for a 1927 production, For the Term of His Natural Life, and
later jumps to the 1971 with Walkabout, the 1975 Picnic at Hanging Rock, and The Piano (1993).
New Zealand has seen even fewer productions, the most important being the early ethnographic works of
Colin McKenzie in the early twentieth century, and then Whale Rider (2002), a beautiful film about a
young girl and her place in a male-centric world, controlled by the customs of her people.
As far as I’m been led to believe, there are still no proper film production facilities in New Zealand, which
is a pity, as Ms Caro was forced to travel outside of the South Pacific for Mulan.
There are so many delicate pleasures to be found in Whale Rider, none the least it’s lead, played by
native born Keisha Castle-Hughes. She’s been seen in a number of films since, inclusive of one in which
she plays a Queen of some sort.
I was interested in seeing what this Blu-ray looked like, and how it compared to it’s earlier DVD
variant, released by Sony, just after the film’s theatrical.
While the new Blu-ray doesn’t appear to be created from a new transfer, color is magnificent, which
is essential to the film. Imagery is a bit soft, but only so, if pixel-peeping, and black levels are fine.
Bottom line, it’s one of those releases that, while not up to current standards (it was released in 2017,
presumably from an extant master), it’s just fine, especially from a normal seating distance.
Image – 4
Audio – 5 (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Pass / Fail – Pass
Upgrade from DVD – Yes
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