Directed by Kieth Merrill
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:11080pVC-1 codec
Running Time: 39 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
MSRP: $ 24.98
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Review Date: April 27, 2009
Taking his Imax cameras deep within the Amazon rainforest to film some of the mysteries and miracles that lie within that vast area, director Kieth Merrill has fashioned an entertaining travelogue/documentary with Amazon. With Imax films being notoriously short of running time, these documentaries can never quite explore in depth any of the areas that they traverse. Still, with such awe-inspiring visuals to hold one’s attention rapt, Amazon accomplishes its aim of educating and entertaining using one of the world’s natural wonders as both a backdrop and a focal point.
Director-writer Kieth Merrill and writer Loren McIntyre have fashioned their exploration of the expansive South American territory using two characters, both on journeys to the Amazon forest basin to find exotic plants for use in medicinal production. An Inca shaman named Julio Mamani from a remote Andes region and ethno-botanist Dr. Mark Plotkin take different routes to the basin of the Amazon rainforest, and as they travel, we go along with them witnessing all manner of plant and animal life in gorgeously sharp, eye-poppingly colorful detail, only a fraction, of course, of what lies within the two million square mile area of Brazil and Bolivia.
In addition to their stories of quests for plants and potions which may have beneficial healing properties not yet discovered, we’re also introduced to Sydney Passuelo, a sociologist whose main mission is insuring that the area’s over four hundred tribes, some of which have never been discovered let alone photographed, are allowed to live their lives free of fear of encroaching civilization. Some scenes of the naked tribesmen in their native habitat make for some of the documentary’s most unusual footage.
Narrated by Oscar-winning actress Linda Hunt, Amazon offers fascinating glimpses of one of the Earth’s most enigmatic areas. If only these documentaries could be twice the length. They only seem to be getting to the meat of their explorations before the running time is over.
The picture has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. Image quality is unquestionably superb with vivid clarity and rich color which pops from the screen. The lush greens of the forest, the reds, oranges, and blues of native garb, birds, fish, snakes, and other natural wonders are brilliantly presented. No digital artifacts mar the pristine quality of this Blu-ray presentation. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio mix offers excellent, exciting placement of sound throughout the available channels. Waterfalls thunder with appropriate roars, a train pans across the soundfield impressively, and storms rage in the surrounding channels to stirring effect. The LFE channel is used at appropriate moments to give real body to the audio mix. Alan Williams’ score also adds notable richness to the natural sounds of the region.
A trivia quiz on the facts presented by the movie is available for the family to play together. It’s a multiple choice quiz offering ten questions and the option for second guessing if you happen to get an answer wrong the first time.
A 7 ½-minute documentary on the history of the MacGillioray-Freeman Films gives a brief tour of the company’s work from its initial Imax features including To Fly through their most recent efforts filming in Arabia. It’s presented in 1080p.
The disc offers thirteen trailers (including the trailer for Amazon) in 1080p. The disc offers a “Play All” function along with allowing each of the trailers to be viewed individually. Each lasts from 1 ½-2 minutes.
The disc is BD-Live enabled though when I visited, all that was presented were sales sites for other DVDs in the Imax series and some additional trailers.
Nominated for the Academy Award as the Best Documentary Short Feature of 1997, Amazon is a beautifully produced but frustratingly short look at one of the world’s most fascinating regions. Those who love such documentaries as Planet Earth will greatly appreciate this effort though there is a slight plot mixed in with the nature footage here that does take some time away from seeing more of the natural splendors to be found in and around the world’s longest river.