Sharks 3D (Blu-ray)
Directed by Jean-Jacques Mantello
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 42 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 English, Italian, French, Japanese, others
Subtitles: SDH, French, German, Spanish, others
Region: no designation
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Review Date: June 15, 2011
In 2003, director Jean-Jacques Mantello took his high definition cameras to the great coral reefs of our oceans and presented a bracing documentary Ocean Wonderland focusing on the plant and animal life found there. That film concluded with a look at the shark population which inhabits the reefs of the world, and two years later, he devotes a 3D documentary especially to sharks in all of their impressive but frightening majesty. Truth to tell, the documentary doesn’t just focus on various types of sharks, and that’s part of its problem. It gets sidetracked midway through the film with detours into other fish found in waters where sharks live and breed. While the images are awesome, one feels it’s not time well spent when the genesis and focus of the film was supposed to be with one of the sea creatures who occupies the top of the food chain and is sometimes called “the lion of the seas.”
The 42-minute film once again utilizes a friendly sea turtle (voiced by Geoffrey Bateman) who serves as our undersea tour guide into the wonders of the deep. With sharks existing for over four hundred million years, the film shows us some of the more interesting species of shark, species which, we learn in a disturbing coda to the film, are all now listed as endangered or critically endangered. We’re introduced to the sand tiger shark, the silvertip shark, the great white, the hammerhead, the reef shark, and the whale shark. All are impressively different from one another though we’re given scant information about their eating and mating habits (we do get one impressive vision of a feeding frenzy that makes us glad to be within the confines of our home theaters). The school of hammerheads that the cameras shoot is stunningly large which makes their inclusion on the list of critically endangered species especially shocking. The film also goes out of its way to emphasize the disinterest that most sharks have in human flesh and stresses the reality that sharks feed relatively little in comparison to their size, often with months in between each feast.
As for those side trips which the filmmakers take midway through the film, we’re treated to entertaining glimpses of huge schools of sardines swimming in packs for protection, the unusual sawfish, the incredible width of the manta ray, and some playful sea lions and a few dolphins. At one point, a bit of tension is developed as a shark approaches a female dolphin with her cub, eyeing the smaller creature for its dinner, but a male dolphin comes to the rescue to thwart any possible danger. While these fish are certainly fascinating to watch, their ties to the shark population aren’t overtly established and constitute the film’s real weakness. Better that the time had been spent decrying the 80% reduction of the shark population which has happened in the last half century and providing some suggestions for removing these essential elements in the sea’s chain of life from the endangered species list.
3D implementation – 3/5
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Unlike Ocean Wonderland which was filmed in the clear blue waters of Australia and the Bahamas, the images here vary in clarity depending on the locations for shooting. Images can be very crisp, and color is solid if rather less impressive than in the earlier documentary. There was just the slightest sign of banding in one or two shots, but otherwise the high definition images are all one would expect from being filmed in high def video. The film has been divided into 8 chapters.
The 3D effects here are not as creatively used as in the earlier film. Apart from the sawfish’s long snout and some random bubbles, there is very little projection from the screen outward. 3D does enhance the feeling of infinite depth in the ocean though, as in the earlier film, the use of multiple planes seems dissipated by filming underwater.
The DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 sound mix is aggressively surround stereophonic in nature with Christophe Jacquelin’s music sometimes quite overpowering in its effects through all of the available channels. Occasional sounds of bubbles and the enveloping sound of underwater pressure is also introduced into the soundfield on occasion. The narration has been excellently recorded and exists in the center channel. The overall volume level might be a bit loud for most family viewing, but tastes on its loudness may vary.
There are no bonus features included with this disc, but the film may also be watched in 2D to great effect if one is not yet 3D capable.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Not as impressive as his previous documentary Ocean Wonderland, Jean-Jacques Mantello’s Sharks is nevertheless an entertaining trip under the sea with some startling images well produced if not overly inspiring in 3D.