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Wild Ocean 3D(2008)
Wild Ocean is an uplifting cinematic experience capturing one of nature's greatest migration spectacles through the magic of IMAX. Plunge into an underwater feeding frenzy amidst the dolphins, sharks, whales, gannets, seals and billions of fish. Filmed off the Wild Coast of South Africa, Wild Ocean is a timely documentary that celebrates the animals that now depend on us to survive and the efforts by local people to protect this invaluable ecological resource. Hope is alive on the Wild Coast where Africa meets the sea.
For more about Wild Ocean 3D and the Wild Ocean 3D Blu-ray release, see Wild Ocean 3D Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 28, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Directors: Luke Cresswell, Steve McNicholas
» See full cast & crew
Wild Ocean 3D Blu-ray Review
This 3D IMAX film is as exciting as it is educational.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 28, 2010
What can we do to keep our oceans alive?
Brimming with underwater excitement, filled with educational value, and boasting a 3D presentation that's about as good as any out there, Wild Ocean 3D is an exceptional documentary that's both entertaining and informative as it takes viewers on a journey of discovery that reveals an ecosystem quite unlike anything else found on Earth. Narrated by South African native John Kani, Wild Ocean 3D brings to life the happenings in the natural food chain along South Africa's southern and eastern shore line where shoals of sardines maneuver towards the wild coast where they are the source of protein for any number of predators, including dolphins, sharks, and man. Though a natural occurrence and an event that's played out hundreds of times over, the damage done both by shifting climates and man's overabundance of catches threaten to disrupt the phenomenon and break the food chain that's sustained life both in the waters and on the land of Africa's coastline for centuries. Directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, Wild Ocean 3D offers a worthwhile exploration of nature at its most amazingly rudimentary level while also cautioning as to the repercussions of the natural and manmade threats that could disrupt or, worse yet, destroy this fragile but necessary annual pilgrimage of sardines.
It's one of the great events in nature: the migration of shoals of sardines up the eastern seaboard of South Africa to the waters of what is known as "the wild coast," one of the last great bastions of what the ocean once was and could be again. Every winter, a great natural phenomenon of beautiful coordination, amazing acts of nature, and deadly predatory violence converge in Africa's waters as tropical predators hunt their newly-arrived cold water prey. Every year, the cold waters off the tip of southern Africa carry uncountable numbers of protein-rich sardines up the eastern coast of Africa where they encounter warmer waters -- and their fate. The tiny sardines are the nutritional centerpieces for any number of underwater predators many times their size, not to mention targets of gannets that observe the shoals from high above the water's surface, only to shoot into the water at high speeds and achieve great depths in search of a snack. The tiny sardines aren't completely defenseless, though; they form a tightly-packed mass called a "bait ball" that is meant to fool predators into believing they are facing a large, singular creature rather than a swarming collection of delicious sardines that otherwise stand no chance against darting dolphins, waiting whales, starving sharks, and dive-bombing birds.
The great dangers posed to the sardines from their natural predators are not the only threats the species faces. Man has put a premium on the capture of sardines, and every year, he waits with his tools of the trade in hand in hopes of scooping from the water hundreds of thousands of the tiny fish for sale and consumption. Though man -- like the dolphins, sharks, whales, and gannets -- requires the proteins and other nutritions offered by the sardine, his ever-improving techniques at capturing the creatures are depleting their supply at an alarming rate. Worse, changing water temperatures are reducing or even canceling the sardines' annual pilgrimage to the wild coast area, pushing them further from their expected destination, disrupting the food chain and threatening the stability of an entire ecosystem and exposing the predators to a season without their much-needed sustenance. The sardine is key to the survival of many species, and Wild Ocean posits that it's up to man to reduce his intake of sardines and to do all he can to ensure a balanced and natural environment where nature may continue to take its course and allow a fragile ecosystem that may soon be on the brink to recover and thrive once again.
Wild Ocean may be a film built around drawing attention to a cause, but the film is at its more superficial level a spectacle of sight and sound that doesn't have too many equals around the world of modern-day Documentaries. As if the gorgeous underwater photography and the lush African coastal landscapes weren't enough to attract audiences, Directors Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas chose to shoot the picture in 3D, giving it a grander, even more spectacular look that only accentuates the visuals and, by bringing the audiences closer than ever before to the wild ocean off the coast of Africa, imparts a greater sensation as to the timeliness and importance of the message at hand. Wild Ocean is loaded with unforgettable underwater visuals that are supported by the enchanting African scenery that lives above the surface. Still, there's no denying the film's visual strength lies in the grandeur of witnessing thousands of sardines forming their bait balls and all moving almost as one, as if they were some kind of mechanical rather than natural entity connected to a central computer. The film's most spectacular scene comes late in the movie as every element in the ecosystem works simultaneously against the sardines; it's nothing short of a war for survival as dolphins-as-torpedoes, sharks-as-missiles, and birds-as-dive bombers simultaneously attack the shoal of sardines aided only be their numbers and singularly unique defense mechanism.
Wild Ocean proves itself a worthy documentary for not only its spectacular visuals and quality narration but for the delicacy with which the subject material is handled. The film offers a pertinent analysis of the current state of the food chain and balance within the ecosystem that exists off the shores of southern Africa without overplaying its hand or too aggressively suggesting that radical changes need to immediately be implemented. The film argues for greater care by man to limit his intake of sardines and to set aside a percentage of coastlines and offshore areas as preservation sites to ensure the survival of what has become one of the last refuges of the ocean as it once was. The picture's pleas are delivered concisely and within a context that allows audiences to understand the importance of maintaining a balance within nature, and the film smartly foregoes the temptation to lay down an ultimatum rather than a request, which would effectively destroy the message. On the flip side, some viewers might find Wild Ocean's message a bit too abstract and inconsequential next to some of the other pressing issues similar documentaries attempt to illuminate. Wild Ocean doesn't fail in highlighting the importance of maintaining the status quo or, perhaps better said, returning to an older and more stable version of it, but no doubt this is a cause that exists outside the mainstream consciousness of everyday people who might shrug their shoulders at the mere thought of another potentially destructive event for which there simply may be no hope. Wild Ocean seems more like a first step towards bringing awareness to its issue than the last word on the subject.
Wild Ocean 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
Wild Ocean sports a wonderfully rich and nearly faultless 1080p Blu-ray 3D transfer that easily ranks as one of the finest among the admittedly limited full HD 3D titles currently on the market. For live action titles, the list is even more narrow and Wild Ocean even closer to the top, if not the current champion. The film actually opens with a brief animated short that encourages energy conservation and recycling; though the animation is rather crude and the colors limited, the 3D effect proves dazzling with every passing frame, sporting an incredible sense of depth between the different layers of the animation process. This little piece makes for a fun diversion and an excellent demo of 3D's capabilities, particularly considering its unique look amongst the currently-released Blu-ray 3D titles. As for Wild Ocean proper, it excels at every turn. The film's detailing is exceptional; underwater shots lack precision detailing and colors are, of course, influenced heavily by the water's blue tint, but both attributes prove breathtaking during the many surface and land sequences. Various sand sculptures showcase almost infinite detailing; the 1080p transfer reveals the texture of the shaped sand to an extraordinary level, not to mention the sense of depth afforded to each shape by the immaculate 3D visuals. Such strong detailing remains throughout; whether roughly-textured rock formations, cliffs, grasses, or manmade objects such as boats, clothes, and netting, there's no shortage of eye-catching and pristinely-rendered detailing around the frame. Colors are also well-balanced, seen primarily in clothing and boats. The image reveals some light banding, slight shimmering on one metallic object, and some chunky but minimal blocking around the darker corners of the underwater imagery. Otherwise, Wild Ocean excels in its traditional attributes, and the 3D elements allow this transfer to soar.
One of the first shots in Wild Ocean features old sepia-toned and black-and-white photographs set against a static background; the images seem to literally hover off the screen while the background remains relatively flat, giving off a breathtaking layered appearance that's one of what are to be many interesting and jaw-dropping 3D moments crammed into the 42-minute feature. The above-ground shots seem almost too easy to compliment; one would only expect an overhead shot of a great waterfall to appear as if the water was rushing deep down into the bowels of the television set, or that various coastal environments -- including wonderfully-shaped and dimensional waves -- would offer an easily-discernible sense of depth in 3D. There's no questioning that Wild Ocean excels during its many out-of-water segments; the true test comes when the cameras are submerged and tasked with filming aquatic life with the same sense of spectacle and awe the 3D imagery affords to the surface shots. Fortunately, Wild Ocean easily accomplishes this task and offers 3D viewers some exceptional underwater footage that's probably the next-best thing to strapping on a tank and scuba-diving off of Africa's southeastern shores. Shoals of sardines -- particularly while in "bait ball" formation -- appear with extraordinary depth and spacing, even as they swim rapidly around the frame. Larger sea dwellers, such as the dolphins and sharks seen throughout the film, appear to swim straight out of the television set as their elongated bodies hurtle towards the camera, giving them a breathtaking feel of great length and size.
Perhaps best of all, and adding to the true sense of space that's evident with every underwater segment, is another one of those more nuanced elements that truly brings the 3D effect to life. Small, inconsequential bubbles often float around the frame, sometimes in large clusters close to the camera, and at other times only several individuals floating about at some distance. Either way, their size and shape allow for some of the more fascinating 3D elements in the movie. They enhance the sense of depth and natural space around the screen, and those larger clusters closer to the screen seem to float on by well in front of the television screen for what is arguably the most satisfying 3D effect in the entire film. With only a minimal "ghosting effect" visible on playback utilizing Panasonic's first-generation equipment, Wild Ocean is an unexpected frontrunner for best live-action Blu-ray 3D image of the year. Please note that all screenshots presented in this review are captured from the 2D version of Wild Ocean that's included on this 3D disc.
Wild Ocean 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Wild Ocean's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack understandably takes a back seat to the impressive 3D visuals, but this is a quality audio presentation that in several instances is the match for the 1080p Blu-ray 3D transfer. This mix is loud and entertainingly aggressive though it occasionally plays as ever-so-slightly mushy, particularly around the low end of the sometimes thunderous tribal beats that enchant the listener while playing primarily off to the sides and giving the sound equipment a punishing workout. Narration is crisp, effective, and consistently centered about the middle front portion of the soundstage. Bass tightens up a bit as several powerful effects -- such as crashing waves pounding on coastal rock formations -- send plenty of precise and focused energy into the listening area. The surround channels come alive in support of screeching birds, various underwater elements, and the general pressure that recreates the sensation of the below-the-surface settings. The back channels are used extensively but not purposelessly, supporting various environments and effects without dominating the experience. The added sound effects that replicate something akin to a battle scene from a War film are nicely reproduced during one of the picture's climactic segments as various species lay siege to the shoal of sardines; sound zips and zooms all over the soundstage to mesmerizing effect, and it's the perfect compliment to the amazingly insane visuals. It's easy to become lost in this disc's exceptional visuals and forget all about the soundtrack, but just when the 3D has taken over, Image's wonderful DTS-HD MA 5.1 track pulls the audience right back in for some more quality listening.
Wild Ocean 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Wild Ocean contains a nice assortment of complimentary and, primarily, 2D extras. Interview with Directors (1080p, 15:56) features Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas discussing their careers as filmmakers and moving on to share the history of their work on Wild Ocean, including the challenges of the shoot, the process of shooting in 3D, the history of sardine runs around the world, and the importance of the messages delivered through the film. Kwazulu Natal During the Run (1080p, 6:31) offers viewers a candid glimpse into life in the African province during the annual sardine run. Behind the Scenes (1080p, 8:39) more closely examines the process of shooting Wild Ocean. This supplement features no narration or interview clips and consistes of only raw on-the-set footage. Next is Recording 'Wild Ocean' (1080p, 2:23), an all-too-short glimpse into the process of scoring the film, again sans interviews or narration. Shooting 'Wild Ocean' (1080p, 7:13) delivers a series of still photographs chronicling the shoot. Also included is BD-Live functionality; a pair of 2D (1080p, 1:46, 3:33) and one 3D (1080p, 1:46) trailers for Wild Ocean; 2D and 3D trailers for Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs (1080p, 1:54 & 1:52, respectively); a 2D trailer for Dinosaurs Alive (1080p, 1:22), and a 2D trailer for Pulse (1080p, 1:56).
Wild Ocean 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Who would have though that a 42-minute Documentary on the life of migratory sardines could make for such captivating moviemaking? Wild Ocean does just that, the picture an exhibition of everything that makes the modern Nature Documentary such an amazing technical, thematic, and entertaining feat of cinema. Accentuated by a superb 3D presentation and delivering an even-handed message about the importance of maintaining balance in a delicate ecosystem, Wild Ocean proves to be a worthwhile watch on several fronts; whether for its strong visuals, captivating story, or timely plea for help, most audience members should find something to love about this rich IMAX 3D presentation. Image Entertainment's Blu-ray 3D release of Wild Ocean sports one of the best high definition 3D images around, supported by a quality lossless soundtrack and a fine assortment of extras. Best of all? It's not tied to any hardware; 3D owners of any brand may purchase this disc through Amazon exclusively until December 7, 2010, and it will afterwards go on sale at most other major retailers. Highly recommended.
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