Warner Bros. Home Entertainment brings the third season of the HBO series Westworld to 4K UHD Blu-ray with a very good transfer. I wish I could say the same about the season.
The Production: 3/5
*** Spoilers Ahead ***
As the second season of Westworld came to a close, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) had escaped to the real world following the massacre at the island theme park, leaving viewers wondering what was in store for the third season. Dolores has made copies of herself in various different forms, taking on the identities of Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and several other fringe characters as she tries to mount a revolution against the humans. Apparently, the real world is not all that different from the theme park, as Delos’ main competitor, Incite, has created an AI known as Rehoboam that controls the world’s population by predicting and implementing the fates of its citizens. The head of Incite, Serac (Vincent Cassel), is maneuvering a takeover of Delos to insure Rehoboam’s success and obtain key technology Delos used in its hosts, with some assistance from acquired (?) host Maeve (Thandie Newton), who is on the hunt to take out Dolores. Dolores is able to get some assistance from a human, former military and current mercenary Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul), and his involvement in this revolution is not really made clear until nearly the end of the season finale. Meanwhile, Bernard and park security head Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) are also trying to track down Dolores for reasons again not clear to the viewer until the very end of the season. Delos executive William aka the Man in Black (Ed Harris) makes a few eventual appearances.
One of my many problems with the third season of Westworld was the pacing. There felt like a lot of padding in the story arc to draw it out to eight episodes, making this season feel more like a typical Netflix series (at least back when the revolutionary streaming service mandated a 10-episode season on shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones). I also found the story structure even more confusing than previous seasons, not due to time shifts, but more due to the writers holding back on key plot points throughout the season. Then there is the story itself, an unfortunate victim of bad timing that is no one’s fault as no one could have predicted all that would happen in the world this past year, with the riots and eventual bleak look at the future making this season hard to watch after the fact.
3D Rating: NA
This season of Westworld was for the most part shot on 35mm film and each episode completed as a 4K digital intermediate, despite airing on HBO in 1080i and available on-demand in 1080p. This 4K UHD Blu-ray release features a nice 2160p HEVC-encoded transfer that includes both Dolby Vision and HDR10 high dynamic range. There is a noticeable improvement in contrast, fine detail, and color control on the UHD discs when compared to the included Blu-ray editions. I did notice some minor color bleeding, especially red, in a few shots on the Blu-ray that are not evident on the UHD. Contrast is also better controlled on the UHD version, providing deeper blacks that retain distinct shadow details that often show up as crushed blacks on the Blu-ray, and much of this season takes place at night on city streets.
As was the case with the first and second season releases, only the UHD version contains a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that also includes a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible core. The Blu-ray, unfortunately, contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that still sounds very good, but this is not typical of other Warner releases that have duplicated the Atmos track on both UHD and Blu-ray. The Dolby Atmos, when played back in a 5.1.2 configuration, offers a more pronounced low end while opening up the soundstage with additional height channels that allow for more precise placement of audio, such as flying drones and transport vehicles and various instruments in the shows’ score.
Special Features: 3/5
The special features can be found on both the UHD and Blu-ray editions.
Escape from Westworld (1080p; 1:53): A recap of season two and preview of what’s to come in season three.
Creating Westworld’s Reality (1080p): EPK behind the scenes looks at each episode – Parce Domine (6:36), The Winter Line (7:18) and The Absence of Field (6:05).
Exploring Warworld (1080p; 3:56): A behind the scenes look at the World War II era theme world.
Creating Westworld’s Reality (1080p): EPK behind the scenes looks at each episode – Genre (3:54) and Decoherence (4:48).
We Live in a Technocracy (1080p; 13:44): Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy compare data mining and algorithms in today’s world to the “real” world of the series.
A Vision of the Future (1080p; 14:09): The season’s production design.
RICO: Crime and the Gig Economy (1080p; 7:07): A look at the app used by Caleb to find work.
Westworld on Location (1080p; 11:20): Shooting in Spain and Singapore.
Welcome to Westworld (1080p): Actors pair up to have some fun discussions in Evan Rachel Wood and Aaron Paul – Analysis (3:46), Evan Rachel Wood and Aaron Paul – Who Said It? (3:43), Thandie Newton and Tessa Thompson – Analysis (3:22), and Thandie Newton and Tessa Thompson – Who Said It? (2:57).
Creating Westworld’s Reality (1080p): EPK behind the scenes looks at each episode – Passed Pawn (4:09) and Crisis Theory (9:03).
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy in HDX on Vudu.
Bad timing, through no one’s fault, may have tainted my review somewhat as this third season of Westworld would ultimately mirror our current society a bit too closely shortly after it aired on HBO, but that’s no excuse for the slow timing and often convoluted writing.
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