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Kingdom of the Blue Whale(TV) (2009)
Big Blue sets out on an expedition to discover the secrets of the blue whale, and reveal its unknown calving and breeding grounds. National Geographic has supported the research of the worlds top blue whale scientist for years. Now, by working with them, we go on a mission around the globe. We dive deep under the surface with blue whales to discover what they do at depth. We use satellite tags to reveal their mammoth migrations. We identify individual whales to understand populations. DNA analysis reveals gender related behavioral differences. We explore the sea floor and water currents to uncover blue whale feeding strategies. Hydro acoustic microphones reveal whale song and whole dialects in blue whale communication. Ultimately we follow the California population of blue whales to a remote area of open ocean off Costa Rica . If we and our scientists are right, we will reveal the secret calving and breeding grounds of blue whales.
For more about Kingdom of the Blue Whale and the Kingdom of the Blue Whale Blu-ray release, see Kingdom of the Blue Whale Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 3, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Kingdom of the Blue Whale Blu-ray Review
Or, as I've come to call it, Boat of the Beleaguered Biologists...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, April 3, 2009
Few creatures on Earth are as awe inspiring, as entrancing, or as mysterious as whales. From their haunting songs to their complex social behavior, these fascinating marine animals seem to exist in a world all their own, having survived endless assaults from mankind and nature. Blue whales, in particular, are even more intriguing. Estimated to be the largest animals to have ever existed, scientists have toiled in futility to learn about the species' feeding patterns, migratory instincts, mating rituals, and calving practices. In fact, after decades of intense study, only a handful of the most persistent biologists have began to understand anything at all about the blue whale, its lifecycle, or its day-to-day existence.
I suppose that's why National Geographic's unexpectedly monotonous Kingdom of the Blue Whale nearly put me to sleep. Having eagerly approached the production with the hope of excising extensive information about an animal I knew very little about, I found myself growing steadily disenchanted with the filmmakers' focus on the scientific team tracking the whales instead of the beasts themselves. Sure, the camera spends a decent amount of time swimming alongside the majestic giants beneath the waves but, more often than not, it lingers above the water with a battalion of biologists who, despite their respected standings in individual circles, seem more excited by the prospect of hearing each other talk than in studying the blue whale. Worse still, while their numerous questions and theories are compelling enough to con viewers into sitting through ninety minutes of redundant conjecture, their search fails to provide any significant or satisfying answers. It quickly becomes apparent that the film was greenlit in anticipation of capturing more substantial discoveries... only to flounder as fewer and fewer mysteries were actually solved.
It doesn't help that writer Sue Houghton's repetitive script and narrator Tom Selleck's bland delivery rarely inject any life into the proceedings. Between Magnum's sleepy intonations, Sharkwater-lite breakaway sessions, and a neutered collection of dry factoids (which may as well have been assembled from Wikipedia and Google), I started to question if anything would hold my attention or draw me in. Before long, I gave up and concentrated on the at-times attractive photography. Every time I looked longingly at the Chapter Skip button, a gorgeous shot of a whale cresting the waves or lifting its fin into the air would keep my finger at bay. In that regard, Kingdom of the Blue Whale is a moderate success that may just win favor with patient marine life enthusiasts or biology teachers looking for a documentary seeped in the ins-and-outs of scientific methodology.
I could drag this review on for another two or three paragraphs (before I got bored of my own increasingly disgruntled rant), but allow me to sum up everything in one concise sentence: skip Kingdom of the Blue Whale altogether and spend your time with more engaging, more thorough, and more revealing undersea documentaries.
Kingdom of the Blue Whale Blu-ray, Video Quality
Like many low-budget nature documentaries produced for television, Kingdom of the Blue Whale arrives on Blu-ray with a problematic 1080i/VC-1 transfer that is never able to overcome the inadequacies of its patchwork visuals. Don't misunderstand, I'm more than capable of shrugging off shortcomings associated with the standard definition footage strewn throughout the film, but I can't overlook the troubling technical flaws that haunt its HD-sourced scenes. While the palette is generally bold and vibrant -- especially the deep blue hues of the rolling ocean, the stark orange and yellow coats worn by the biologists, and the multi-colored array of crates sitting atop several shipping freighters -- blacks are left unresolved, contrast occasionally wavers, and dimensionality is inconsistent. Even the CG inserts and interview segments are often soft, fuzzy, and indistinct. More distressingly, persistent artifacting combines forces with severe banding and frequent aliasing to create a variety of issues. There isn't a shot in the film that doesn't suffer from some manner of noise, ringing, or artificial sharpening. To its credit, the high definition footage boasts fairly commendable detail and effectively rendered textures.
Had the proficiency of Warner's transfer matched the documentary filmmakers' penchant for beautiful photography, the Blu-ray edition of Kingdom of the Blue Whale would at least have one redeeming factor. Sadly, it's as much a technical mess as it is a conceptual one.
Kingdom of the Blue Whale Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Kingdom of the Blue Whale features a 448kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track that isn't remarkable or involving enough to salvage Selleck's recording sessions or the documentary's terribly dreary, altogether front-heavy sound design. Despite air hiss, a few audible pops, and other environmental hindrances, voices are at their best during topside interviews and interior exchanges. Almost every line of narration is muffled and underwhelming, leaving very little to get excited about when it comes to the conversational nature of such a chatty documentary. LFE support doesn't lend any weight to effects, ambience is subdued to the point of being completely contained, and the track's dynamic range is as narrow as they come. Even when Selleck isn't speaking, the overall clarity of the mix is extremely poor, the soundfield (if that's what you want to call it) isn't immersive in the slightest, directionality is a joke, and just about every element of the soundscape sounds condensed and overly compressed. Simply put, the entire sonic experience is a bust.
Kingdom of the Blue Whale Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Kingdom of the Blue Whale features a negligible supplemental package that includes a mediocre, shoddily-encoded featurette that runs just under seven minutes; a series of previews for Six Degrees Could Change the World, Shipwreck: Captain Kidd, and Extreme; and a trio of promos for National Geographic's broadcast network, website, and organized efforts.
Do subtitles count as a special feature? No? Well then, move along...
Kingdom of the Blue Whale Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Even though nature documentaries usually leave me perched on the edge of my seat, Kingdom of the Blue Whale had the opposite effect, leaving me wondering when it would finally be over. Alas, the Blu-ray edition isn't much better. Its middling video transfer, weak audio track, and laughable supplemental package join one of the most tedious documentaries I've endured to produce an utterly forgettable disc.
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Kingdom of the Blue Whale Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Kingdom of the Whale Announced - December 31, 2008
National Geographic in conjunction with Warner Home Video have announced that they will bring 'Kingdom of the Whale' to Blu-ray on March 31st, day-and-date with the DVD release. Technical specs have yet to be announced at this time, but you can expect 1080p VC-1 ...
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