West Side Story (2021) – 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

West Side Story

I’m not much of a fan of musicals—especially musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood. I was first introduced to 1961’s West Side Story in my high school English Lit class because of its close resemblance to Romeo & Juliet. I didn’t like it then, and after rewatching it recently, I still don’t like it now. So, it must be a shock to you that I highly enjoyed Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story. Spielberg’s version won me over with its exhilarating and enticing craftwork alongside Story‘s expertly assembled cast.

Of course, we should’ve never doubted Spielberg. After all, he’s been waiting to do a musical for ages now. The closest he’s ever gotten to directing a musical is the opening scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. So, Spielberg puts a lot of tender, love, and care into the creation of Story. At the same time, he implements his entire arsenal of filmmaking skills to create cinematic excellence.

Be that as it may, the film is excellent, but it’s not perfect. For one thing, Ansel Elgort is miscast as Tony. His performance is stilted, and he has no chemistry with Rachel Zegler whatsoever. Hence, we aren’t as invested in their relationship because we can’t see the romantic connection to begin with. Fortunately, he’s the only outlier in an otherwise stellar cast. Ariana DeBose, Rachel Zegler, Mike Faist, and Rita Moreno all give electrifying performances in their respective roles.

Overall, West Side Story won’t be a film that’ll convince non-musical fans to give the genre a try. However, it may change the minds of those who didn’t like the original (like me) or appease fans who believe that you cannot remake perfection. It’s no easy task, but if anyone could do it, it’s Spielberg. 

Movie Rating: 4/5 atoms

West Side Story - Paloma Garcia-Lee, Mike Faist, David Alvarez, and Ariana Debose

Video

West Side Story hits Ultra HD Blu-ray with an HDR10 transfer and a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video transfer features a rich contrast, which brightens the light areas and darkens the shadowy areas. It’s something you can see in nighttime scenes with an intense light source. So, elements like the highlights and Spielberg’s use of lens flares appear brilliant. Not to mention, there’s also a wonderful inky black that permeates the screen throughout. 

There’s so much use of colors in West Side Story that the HDR brings this out beautifully. Even though Spielberg has recently been using lookup tables (LUTs) to give the picture a particular tint and coloring, the palette still looks vibrant on screen. The Ultra HD Blu-ray release of West Side Story comes in a native 4K transfer, which means that the video is crystal clear.

Video Rating: 5/5 atoms

West Side Story - Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort

Audio

West Side Story hits Ultra HD Blu-ray with a Dolby Atmos and a core 7.1 Dolby TrueHD Master Audio track. This review will reflect West Side Story‘s Dolby Atmos track. As a whole, the mix is on the low volume side, so you may have to raise the volume more than your usual listening level. There aren’t a lot of moments in West Side Story where it immerses you during non-musical sequences. However, the audio mix does have immersive moments that happen when the scene calls for it. Then again, since the movie is 90% musical numbers, don’t expect it to occur often. At the same time, there aren’t many audible atmospheric effects in the mix. Be that as it may, the musical soundtrack, as it should, completely encapsulates the soundstage. The instruments are separated and have a dynamic sound, which can be heard across all channels. Of course, the singing voices also take priority and are still audible even with the music. 

Audio Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

West Side Story - Mike Faist and David Alvarez

Special Features

West Side Story‘s Ultra HD Blu-ray disc doesn’t have any special features on it. However, you can find the following special features on the 1080p Blu-ray disc:

  • The Stories of West Side Story
    • Opening
    • Prologue
    • Sharks & Jets
    • Dance at the Gym
    • The Romance
    • America
    • Gee, Officer Krupke
    • Cool
    • From Quintet to the Rumble
    • I Feel Pretty
    • Somewhere
    • Finale
    • Tribute
  • The Songs
    • Prologue
    • La Borinqueña
    • Jet Song
    • Something’s Coming
    • The Dance at the Gym
    • Maria
    • Balcony Scene (Tonight)
    • America
    • Gee, Officer Krupke
    • One Hand, One Heart
    • Cool
    • Tonight (Quintet)
    • The Rumble
    • I Feel Pretty
    • Somewhere
    • A Boy Like That / I Have a Love
Features Assessment

Although it may not seem like there are a lot of features here, trust me when I say this release has a lot of stuff to offer. First of all, “The Stories of West Side Story” is a lovely and thoughtful hour-and-thirty-six minute behind-the-scenes featurette that’s split into the different parts of the film. Of course, the featurette starts from the absolute start of the project to the end of filming. 

One of the most fascinating aspects of the documentary came from the beginning when we find that even legendary director Steven Spielberg still had to fight and prove to those that own the rights to West Side Story that he could do justice to the new adaptation. Overall, “The Stories of West Side Story” is on the same quality level as the Star Wars sequel behind-the-scenes documentaries.

“The Songs” is precisely the kind of feature you think it is. Each musical number is separated and available to watch for your viewing pleasure in one handy section.

Special Features Rating: 4/5 atoms


Overall, West Side Story is nothing short of cinematic excellence. Spielberg has always wanted to create a musical, and with Story, he unleashes his entire arsenal of filmmaking skills for our viewing pleasure. The video and audio are both exquisite, and the quality of the (limited) bonus features is outstanding.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

West Side Story hits stores on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on March 15th.

This Blu-ray was reviewed using a retail/advance copy/unit provided by Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

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