4K Blu-ray review: “Overlord” (2018)

“Overlord” (2018) 


Running Time: 96 minutes

Written by: Billy Rayand Mark L. Smith

Directed by: Julius Avery

Featuring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Gianny Taufer, Pilou Asbæk, and Bokeem Woodbine

Chase:[as his veins and arteries begin mutating] “Oh my god! What did you do to me? OH MY GOD!”

Critical Commentary

Released this month on 4K Blu-ray is the latest J.J. Abrams produced, Bad Robot production in the form of the World War II horror/action movie “Overlord” (2018) which while in early trailers hinted at being a part of their ‘Cloverfield’ franchise of movies is definitely something different as it has nothing to do with those movies that have been a mixed bag at best. In particular it was the dumped onto Netflix “The Cloverfield Paradox” (2018) that, has for now anyway, sealed the fate of that particular quasi-franchise. So it was with baited breath that genre fans were hoping that “Overlord” would offer some kind of original horror movie that could perhaps improve on those past Bad Robot genre movies. Alas while trailers offered audiences some hope what actually was produced was a very mixed bag indeed with major issues in terms of tone as well as what the movie was actually about in that it was a period piece that attempted to mix some real events with genre tropes. These felt extremely out-dated as well as redundant which is a shame as some of the talent assembled now seems to have been wasted completely.

Make no mistake the aim of this movie was to create something that crossed genres in a natural way, it seems to have been the idea of the filmmakers to do this almost narratively similar to the Quentin Tarantino written and Robert Rodriguez directed (now classic) “From Dusk till Dawn” (1996) which mixed a thriller/heist movie with a vampire movie that really has dominated this kind of movie even though it has been attempted many times. What “From Dusk till Dawn” did and why it was so successful was that the final act is a complete U turn and never lets up, while many others attempt to merge the genres and in so doing they dilute the narrative so that they end up becoming bland. One of the more recent as well as more successful cross genre movies is the excellent “Colossal” (2017) that merged the narratives of horror and comedy but ended up being about something real and had payoffs that seemed realistic, in respect to the fact that it is a movie. In terms of “Overlord” the decision is made to more less split the narrative down the middle with the war movie taking place within the first half then introducing a horror element after that halfway mark, unfortunately what makes this movie struggle is that the characters are not interesting at all, as well as the fact that they are as trope laden as a genre movie could get which spells doom for audience interest. Not only that but the actual horror element does nothing to flesh out the plot at all, it actually is not thought out or given any real weight so I was left not only waiting for this movie to end but the supernatural elements were too familiar yet all surface. The idea of having Nazi zombie like creatures might sound like  agood idea on paper but the execution here is way off the mark.

“Overlord” is based on the eve of D-Day, a paratrooper squad is sent to destroy a German radio tower in an old church. Their plane is shot down and crashes, with most of the squad killed either in the crash, or, by German soldiers. Five survivors remained: Corporal Ford and soldiers Boyce, Tibbet, Chase, and Dawson, who is killed by a landmine shortly after regrouping. From here the plot moves along as one might expect with the added complication that they eventually learn there is darkness in a local village that they all must contend with in order to complete their mission.

This movie has been co-written by experienced as well as Oscar nominee Billy Ray who while is no stranger to genre movies; he has mostly been responsible for adapting real events into excellent dramatic films. Here Ray along with co-writer Mark L. Smith is not able to create a backstory or anything realistic for the horror parts of the movie, which do not work at all on a genre level. The World War II aspect works fine in the nuts and bolts of the war movie genre but again the actual characters are not drawn well at all, the only hint of any characterisation is given in clumsy dialogue and interactions with the villagers, which seem to added on in a very orchestrated way. Directed by Julius Avery who has only directed one other full-length feature seems a little lost with this genre piece which to be fair is not his fault. When directing a genre movie a director has to not only be aware of the script that is his source material but has to also be able to being a spark so that the material is elevated into something that not only feels original (even if it is not) but also feel relevant, some of the greatest genre directors do this, think about one of the greatest John Carpenter whose movies could be considered pulpy but are mostly all great movies.

The movie is cast very well with some talented character actors that have appeared in genre movies previously however where they are all let down in “Overlord” is with the material which means they have very little to work with in presenting characters that are not only believable but also in keeping an audiences interest which they do not. “Overlord” is a missed opportunity for all of these actors as it may have been a positive for them to appear in a genre movie where over the top performances as well as interaction with very different actors and a storyline would have opened doors for them. 

To be honest “Overlord” is not a movie I would add to any collection it would only be worth viewing on a streaming service or as a rental, it is unoriginal, botches a narrative that could have been interesting wasting all its actors completely, especially actors that all normally have so much personality. 

Technical Commentary

Paramount Home Entertainment brings Overlord to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The dual-layered UHD66 and Region-Free BD50 discs sit on opposing panels of a black, eco-vortex case with glossy slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken directly to a static screen with the usual selection along the bottom and music playing in the background.

Video Review

“Overlord” arrives on Ultra HD with a very good, occasionally stunning HEVC H.265 encode, outfitting the movie with an excellent upgrade over the Blu-ray. The movie was shot entirely on HD cameras capable of up to 3.4K resolution, but that data was later mastered to a 2K digital intermediate. Still, the upscaled 2160p transfer lands with a notable uptick in overall definition.

The 4K video also boasts considerably brighter contrast, which may not be immediately apparent when almost the entire movie takes place at night. Nevertheless, the pitch-perfect whites are crisper and a bit more brilliant without the slightest hint of blooming. Specular highlights offer the more noteworthy improvement, giving the edge of metallic surfaces a more realistic polish. Brightness levels have also been given a generous boost, bathing the war against the dead in inkier, obsidian blacks while most of the picture seems darker than its HD peer.

Audio Review

“Overlord” has a reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack that immediately erupts into action as a swarm of planes fills the room on the eve of D-Day. Each plane can be distinctly heard flawlessly panning between the surrounds, the three front channels and across the overheads, instantly throwing viewers into the thick of war. When shifting inside with our heroic squad of paratroopers, the loud rattling of the plane’s metallic interior clinks, clanks and jingles everywhere, establishing a fantastic hemispheric soundfield as aerial explosions and eventual skirmishes on land add to the immersion. In the small French village, heights and surrounds continue to be employed by subtle atmospherics in the distance, voices and screams echoing in the Nazi lab, and gunfire reverberating all around. 

Special Features

  • Death No More (HD, 12 min): A closer look at the makeup and practical special effects, along with some discussion on the weapons.
  • Creation (HD, 11 min): Typical EPK-like piece with cast & interviews extensively talking about the overall production, the plot, characters and the various themes.
  • Death on the Ground (HD, 9 min): More interviews focused on historical accuracies, believable characters, the movie’s central antagonist and Mathilde Ollivier’s performance.
  • Death Above (HD, 7 min): A detailed discussion on the opening battle sequence.
  • Death Below (HD, 6 min): Similar to the above, only on the story’s switch from war to horror.
  • Brothers in Arms (HD, 5 min): Cast & crew praise Julius Avery and J.J. Abrams.S

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