Polar Bears 3D: Ice Bear prowls onto 3D Blu-ray in an edition that spotlights some beautiful cinematography for a deceptively simple documentary. Over the course of one hour, the movie shows the passage of several polar bears across Hudson Bay in Canada during the warmer months of the year, which are getting longer due to climate change. Some of this material is fairly ordinary – some of it is spectacular. The same notion applies to the Blu-ray and the 3D material on it. For people interested in the subject, this is certainly a lovely presentation, albeit laced with some potentially disturbing footage of what can happen with and to the bears along the way.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/MVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: Spanish 5.1 DTS, French 5.1 DTS, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Other
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 50 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 11/12/2013
Polar Bears 3D: Ice Bear is a documentary running about an hour long that deals with the current situation with Polar Bears in Canada’s Hudson Bay. As the climate warms, the summer season is getting longer, which means that the ice pack melts earlier and the polar bears must find another place to live until the next winter freeze. This documentary mostly focuses on the journey of one adolescent bear, the title Ice Bear, on his own for the first time in his life. We watch in thrilling 3D as he swims for days to an area he only remembers from his younger childhood and then must fend for himself until winter comes again. Along the way, we are also presented with a young mother bear and her cubs, as well as several other polar bears, but the primary focus is on the Ice Bear, and how he deals with the various challenges. We are shown some surprising material, including one moment where Ice Bear accesses a steep cliff just to forage a few bird chicks to keep himself going. Another clip shows a craftier bear sneaking into the resting area of a large group of walruses to grab a young pup for himself. This is the result of the bears being forced by environmental changes to move farther south for longer periods in order to keep themselves alive. Near the end of the journey, as winter finally returns, later than ever, another series of disturbing shots feature the Ice Bear wandering past a large group of tourists taking photos of him. At one point, the footage includes a situation where Ice Bear takes some solace in the company of a group of dogs. This is an ongoing problem, as current events tell us about the Hudson Bay Polar Bears. This movie combines some spellbinding footage of the area and the bears with disturbing visuals of how the problem is manifesting. Viewers interested in a fascinating travelogue of Hudson Bay, as well as some immersive 3D imagery may get a little more than they bargained for here. There’s some frank and potentially disturbing footage of dead animals included here as part of the journey. To the filmmakers, this footage was simply part of the voyage. To the untrained observer, such footage can be shocking. It’s only fair to caution the reader that it’s part of this presentation.
The Production Rating: 3/5
Polar Bears 3D: Ice Bear was released on Blu-ray on November 12th. The Blu-ray edition contains both a 3D and 2D version of the movie, along with a couple of extras in high definition..
Polar Bears 3D: Ice Bear is presented in a 1.78:1 1080p MVC encode (@ an average 24/17 mbps) that mostly provides a pleasing effect of a window into the arctic world. The basic menu and the initial moments of the piece are a bit more “poke in the eye”, but the meat of the documentary is more immersive than it obtrudes into the viewer’s eyestrain zone. There are some truly lovely moments along the way, and some gripping 3D vistas. Some wilder views are attained via the use of a miniature helicopter and a miniature rover, equipped with what look like dual mounted Go-Pro cameras. When the 3D works well, it’s quite expressive. When it doesn’t, it can be a little too close to the viewer for comfort – but that’s only in the early stages of the piece. This is obviously not the same thing as a high budget 3D CGI fest, given that this is a presentation of HD camera footage by a limited crew of real time events. But there are many spectacular images here, particularly as the footage goes into a time-lapse effect. As a nature documentary, this is the most effective 3D presentation I’ve ever seen. Again, a 2D high definition version of the movie with an AVC encode is also included in the event that the viewer doesn’t have a 3D television.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: 4/5
Polar Bears 3D: Ice Bear gets an English DTS-HD HR 5.1 mix (@ an average 3.2 mbps), which effectively conveys the music, narration, and whatever natural sound the filmmakers choose to include in the track. The Blu-ray also carries DTS 5.1 tracks with narration in French, Castilian Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in Latin American Spanish, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian and Polish. There is also a listed option to view the movie with music only, and without any narration.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Polar Bears 3D: Ice Bear includes two special features on the disc.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Deleted & Extended Scenes (10:03 Total, 1080p, MVC) – Three sections of footage are included here in 3D. One section involves the sparring between Ice Bear and another adolescent Polar Bear amidst falling snow. (One would think after this that Ice Bear would figure out that it doesn’t work to start bear wrestling when on the downslope of an icy hill, as you tend to get knocked down and slide down the hill…) One section just involves a bunch of footage of the walrus group at their resting point. The final section involves footage from the little rover camera, showing both a third person perspective of Ice Bear looking confused at this little toy, and then the rover’s perspective as Ice Bear decides to simply ignore it. Most of the footage here is seen in the documentary proper, only here we see all the shots, including material that wasn’t used. There is no narration here, but there is a lot of frankly distracting music. There is no menu option to view these three sections separately, but you could fast forward or skip ahead if you wish.
Behind the Scenes: The Making of Polar Bears 3D: Ice Bear (13:34, 1080p, AVC) – This is a short featurette about the work of Adam Ravetch and his team to assemble the footage for this piece over a year at Hudson Bay. This featurette is presented in 2D, and mostly consists of interview footage with Adam Ravetch as he discusses the various footage they’ve been able to catch. One astonishing moment finds Ravetch and his camera casually filming the Ice Bear swimming across the bay, with the camera boat a foot or two away from the bear as it paddles along.
The movie is subtitled in English, Spanish (both kinds), French, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese (both kinds), Bulgarian, Arabic, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, and Hungarian. The usual pop-up menu is present, including a complete chapter menu.
Polar Bears 3D: Ice Bear is both an informative travelogue about the current situation with Hudson Bay Polar Bears and a great demo reel for scenic 3D shots in snow and water. Some of the 3D is a bit too far forward for me, but the overall effective is pleasing and immersive. Some of the footage in the movie can be quite disturbing for uninitiated observers, but there are some spectacular vistas along the way. 3D enthusiasts and climate change students will both want to see this piece, each for their own reasons.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Kevin EK
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