Ocean Wonderland 3D (Blu-ray)
Directed by Jean-Jacques Mantello
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 41 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 English, Italian, French, Spanish, others
Subtitles: SDH, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, others
Region: no designation
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Review Date: June 14, 2011
After saturating the world with astounding footage of nature in its infinite majesty, television documentary series like Planet Earth and Life have made it difficult for other nature documentaries to astonish. What can documentarians do to up the ante for a viewer? Well, how about adding 3D to the mix? And what if the documentary has a narrator that’s a member of the community being surveyed? In the case of Jean-Jacques Mantello’s Ocean Wonderland, both of these motifs are utilized and to good effect most of the time. It’s hard to go wrong when showing us the many wonders of the undersea world, and putting us right into the world in three dimensions adds another bit of majestic awe to the experience. If the narration is occasionally too precious or a bit lacking in detailed information about what we’re seeing, it serves as an easy entry for families with people of all ages to view the film comfortably.
In the film’s forty-one minutes, we’re mostly focused on great coral reefs throughout the world, particularly the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the coral reefs in the Bahamas. In both spots, the clear water and the teaming sea life make the experience exhilarating as all manner of sea creatures swim and glide before our eyes. The different kinds of reefs (boulder reefs, fans, whip corals) themselves are a marvel, and the assortment of fish that inhabit these waters (over 4,500 different species) gives the viewer plenty to watch. Our host is a lumbering sea turtle (voiced by Geoffrey Bateman) who points out bat fish, puffer fish, angel fish, clown fish, sting rays, surgeon fish, trumpet fish, deadly sea snakes, potato groupers, eagle rays, and, of course, dolphins and sharks aplenty, all inhabiting the warm waters of the reefs in great prufusion and with their usual startling splendor.
The film occasionally turns to some lectures on environmental issues: the thinning of the shark population due to the million kills each year and the deaths of some coral reefs (with accompanying images which are most disturbing) due to man’s pollution and the growing problem of global warming, but the majority of the film is rather lighthearted and carefree as the turtle trundles his way around the globe showing us things that impress him. A climactic shark attack as the school of fish feed is the only disruption in an otherwise sedate and amusingly unchallenging experience.
3D implementation – 4.5/5
The image has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Shot on high def video rather than film, the picture is crystal clear (except when stirrings of fish make the waters temporarily murky) and sharp as a tack. Colors are bright and bold, sometimes even fluorescent depending on the fish under observation, but the colors never bloom and always seem under control. Black levels are quite impressive the few times blacks enter the picture. The film has been divided into 8 chapters.
The 3D images are wonderfully realized for the most part. The infinite depths of the sea get seemingly extended by the use of 3D and while the photography doesn’t quite exploit the multiple planes of the underground experience as well in some other documentaries, there certainly are some instances of this phenomenon. Projections at the viewer are more frequent with small fish and air bubbles floating before our eyes fairly regularly, coral shelves, the tips of whip coral, the stingers of the sting and eagle rays, the dolphin snouts, and shark fins all poking our eyes with some frequency.
The DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 sound mix manages to completely immerse the viewer in the sweeping music of Christophe Jacquelin with orchestrations that feature wonderful use of the split surround channels throughout the film’s brief running time. There are a few split effects scattered through the presentation, and Geoffrey Bateman’s delicate narration has been beautifully recorded and resides broadly in the center channel.
There are no bonus features on the disc though the film can also be played in any Blu-ray player in 2D if one is not 3D equipped, and the images are just as gorgeous in 2D (without that extra added “wow factor” that good 3D can provide).
4.5/5 (not an average)
While the list price for the set is very high for a mere 41 minutes of high definition, 3D video, the journey to this Ocean Wonderland is very enjoyable and certainly worthy of a rental. It’s an experience the entire family can appreciate.