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To the Arctic 3D(2012)
A journey into the lives of a mother polar bear and her two seven-month-old cubs as they navigate the changing Arctic wilderness they call home.
For more about To the Arctic 3D and the To the Arctic 3D Blu-ray release, see To the Arctic 3D Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 25, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Narrator: Meryl Streep
Director: Greg MacGillivray
» See full cast & crew
To the Arctic 3D Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 25, 2013
There are sweeping and enriching natural history documentaries and series, brimming with splendor and awe, and then there are educational exhibition documentaries. Those hurriedly shot, haphazardly assembled, celebrity-narrated short features parents feel obligated to drag their children to see while visiting IMAX-equipped museums, aquariums and zoos. (Guilty as charged.) To the Arctic is unfortunately one of the latter; a 40-minute docu-snooze so unremarkable that even Meryl Streep, a 3D presentation and the cutest, cuddliest polar cubs can't prevent it from slipping beneath the icy waters of familiarity and mediocrity.
Imagine walking through a crowded science center. Your kids are an hour past bored and feigning exhaustion. One is on the verge of a nervous preschool breakdown. The other is chewing on the sleeve of his hoodie, begging to stop at every overpriced snack kiosk in sight. Suddenly, you spot it: salvation! A bastion for the weary parent: an IMAX 3D theater. Entertainment, popcorn and a quick fix for those waning attention spans are just a few costly tickets away. You desperately scan the list of available movies, your eyes falling on the following description: To The Arctic takes you on a never before seen journey into the lives of a mother polar bear and her two seven-month old cubs as they navigate the changing Arctic wilderness they call home. Captivating, adventurous and intimate footage brings moviegoers up close and personal with this family's struggle to survive in a frigid environment of melting ice, immense glaciers, spectacular waterfalls, and majestic snow-bound peaks. Eureka, you cry! Crisis averted. The afternoon salvaged! Right? Right?
To the Arctic isn't without its gorgeous white vistas, semi-fascinating tidbits of information and brief awwww-inspiring mother-cub bonding, I'll admit, nor is it quote-unquote unwatchable in the least. Sadly, problems arise almost from the outset. Director Greg MacGillivray and writer Stephen Judson aren't quite sure what theme to hone or what tone to strike: dark doomsaying, for the Inconvenient Truth set, or light and family friendly, for the grade-school crowd. Rather than choose just one, the documentary navigates the rough waters in between; one minute smearing the blood of a polar bear's fresh kill across the ice, the next minute watching mama nuzzle her cubs, the minute after that watching a poor, starving creature swim toward oblivion because so much of her hunting ground has melted away. The "journey" of the polar bears initially feels like a weirdly ominous funeral dirge, only to be supplanted by a tacked on happy ending for our oh-so-personable polar pack. Along the way, we leave the bears altogether, focusing on other wildlife for the bulk of the proceedings.
The misguided tour of the Arctic doesn't end there either. MacGillivray enjoys cutting away to older documentary footage and alternate camera angles via a smaller, centered inset window, an ongoing distraction that only highlights the film's paint-by-numbers editing and limited polar bear coverage. And then there's the time actually spent with the polar bears (most from afar), which reveals little that hasn't already been hashed and rehashed by dozens of better documentaries, BBC Earth series and other IMAX productions. Worse still, the overarching narrative that emerges is disjointed (if I'm being kind), Streep is at one point all but replaced by another speaker for a long stretch of film, and viewers looking for anything beyond the occasionally breathtaking shot or harrowing survival sequence will feel the distinct sting of disappointment early and often. Too harsh? Not when there are far more engrossing, entertaining and educational Arctic documentaries to be had.
To the Arctic 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
To the Arctic 3D at least looks the part thanks to the IMAX feature's lovely 1080p/MVC-encoded 3D and 2D presentations. Neither is perfect -- faint macroblocking disrupts the skies, negligible banding invades the deep seas and light noise occasionally mingles with the refined grain field -- but, for the most part, Brad Ohlund and the filmmakers' snowcapped photography fares incredibly well, without any debilitating issues of note. Whites are stunningly bright, primaries pop, shadows are deep and satisfying, and contrast is vivid and reliable. Detail isn't hindered or diminished either, although mild but inherent softness does limit clarity every now and then. Fur and fine textures are surprisingly well-resolved and edges are crisp and clean. And the 3D experience? Depth and dimensionality are reasonably convincing, the image isn't prone to aliasing or crosstalk, and the only flat imagery to be had is the vintage documentary footage and alternate camera angles presented at various points via a framed inset window. I'd even go so far as to say the 3D experience is more commendable than the technical encode itself, although each one shares the same minor issues. All in all, though, both presentations are pleasant and proficient.
To the Arctic 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track offers a solid sonic experience. Narration is intelligible, perfectly centered and prioritized, and snuggly grounded in the mix at all times, seasoned with crystal clear ambient effects and nestled within an immersive Arctic soundfield. Snow crunches beneath polar bear paws, waves slosh as animals slide in and out of the water, ice sheets crumble into the sea and cold winds rise without fail. The LFE channel steps forward wherever low-end weight is required (particularly as the ever-receding landscape shifts and changes), the rear speakers are mischievous and above all assertive, and dynamics are noteworthy. Moreover, Paul McCartney and Steve Wood's music surges and relents with ease, making for a relatively full and enveloping documentary soundscape.
To the Arctic 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
To the Arctic 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
To the Arctic left me wanting and my son fidgeting, neither of which tend to occur when the two of us sit down and take in a family friendly documentary, particularly a 40-minute IMAX feature. Cobbled together with a celebrity voiceover, the film struggles to strike a consistent tone, devotes too much time to vintage footage, retreads familiar ground and is more akin to a fraying patchwork quilt than a cohesive and compelling documentary. Ah well, at least Warner's Blu-ray release keeps its head above water. Yes, the film's slim 19-minute supplemental package doesn't amount to much. But between the quality of its video encode, the prowess of its 3D experience and the immersiveness of its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, the lack of extras is soon forgotten.
To the Arctic: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with To the Arctic 3D (2 bundles)
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To the Arctic 3D Blu-ray, News and Updates
• To the Arctic 3D Blu-ray - January 25, 2013
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced the 3D Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet Combo Pack release of To the Arctic 3D, an IMAX documentary directed by Academy Award nominee Greg MacGillivray and narrated by Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep. The film arrives ...
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