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Wild Pacific(TV) (2008)
The Pacific includes some of the most remote spots on the planet - yet there's not a single island that has avoided colonizers, whether it be plants, animals or humans - and generally all three. Go beyond clichéd images of swaying palms and idyllic beaches to explore this immense and surprising ocean as it has never been seen before. One ocean, 25,000 islands, half the water on Earth.
For more about Wild Pacific and the Wild Pacific Blu-ray release, see Wild Pacific Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on July 16, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Wild Pacific Blu-ray Review
A powerful series struggles with a flawed AV presentation...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, July 16, 2009
Earlier this year, thousands of eagle-eyed documentary enthusiasts stumbled across a minute-long YouTube teaser that instantly made the BBC Natural History Unit's South Pacific one of the must-see series of the summer. That single clip not only encapsulated the tone and vision of the six-part oceanic trek, it confirmed what most viewers already knew: that the NHU filmmakers are, without a doubt, some of the most talented and accomplished documentarians in the industry. Time and time again -- be it our humble Planet Earth, the Galapagos, the Ganges River, Wild China, or Nature's Most Amazing Events -- the NHU has unraveled the natural mysteries of our world, providing access to indescribable sights and wonders, and revealing the inner-workings of the diverse ecosystems scattered across the globe. In South Pacific, dubbed Wild Pacific for its US release, they not only capture some of the most stunning imagery I've encountered, they mine fresh and exciting material sure to thrill and entertain would-be explorers of all ages.
Written, directed and produced by Huw Cordrey, Mark Brownlow, Chiara Bellati, and Jonathan Clay, with narration by award-winning English actor Benedict Cumberbatch (Hawking's Stephen Hawking, Atonement's Paul Marshall, and The Other Boleyn Girl's William Carrey), Wild Pacific begins its journey toward the heart of Oceania with the aptly titled "Ocean of Islands," a fitting introduction to the region that examines the beautiful, oft-times volatile chaos of the Pacific. We learn about the remote islands dotting the never-ending expanse, the unique cultures of the region's human population, and the amazing animals that share their shores and food supply. From there, "Castaways" hones in on the isolation of the various islands, and the astonishing survival stories of their resilient wildlife. Creatures great and small have thrived amidst all odds, continually calling to mind Ian Malcolm's mantra: life finds a way. "Endless Blue" brings the first half of the series to a close, focusing on the Pacific's underwater natives -- sea turtles, whales, tiger sharks, dolphins, and countless other species -- as well as the trials and tribulations each one faces in such a perilous ecosystem.
"Ocean of Volcanoes" expands the scope of the series, turning its attention to the genesis of the islands and the powerful forces that brought each one to be. From fields of coral to some of the most startling species on the planet, the fiery birth of land in the Pacific has produced an assortment of strange and wonderful creatures that defy the imagination. As the series begins to draw to a close, "Strange Islands" delves into the unpredictable nature and deadly realities of life in the Pacific. Investigating species and cultures that have risen and fallen over the ages, this somewhat unsettling episode makes one thing abundantly clear: no island is safe from the temperamental wrath of the sea. And last but certainly not least, "Fragile Paradise" identifies the region's second deadliest force: mankind. Fishing fleets, illegal culling, and disregard for international law has brought many species to the brink of extinction, and this somber closing digs into every ugly truth of the situation. But it's not all doom-n-gloom. Cordey and Clay take time to introduce the conservation and preservation movements that are, slowly but surely, making a difference in the region.
Through it all, Wild Pacific's astute documentarians paint an all-too-vivid picture of life and death amidst the region's 20,000-plus islands, as well as the precarious relationship between the native cultures, their outside influences, and the many species that inhabit their waters. Whether lingering on a beach to catch a rare glimpse of an endangered creature or plunging beneath the waves to demonstrate the split-second upheavals that affect the entire ocean, Cumberbatch and the NHU crew transform each moment into dramatic clashes of unstoppable forces and heart-wrenching tragedies of epic proportions. Moreover, the series' six, hour-long episodes are perfectly digestible: the documentarians don't overstay their welcome, meander in one place for too long, or rush away from a subject before giving it the attention it deserves. Simply put, Wild Pacific is just about as engrossing and mesmerizing as they come. Documentary junkies and nature fanatics alike owe it to themselves to track down this fantastic series.
Wild Pacific Blu-ray, Video Quality
Wild Pacific features an attractive but problematic 1080i/VC-1 transfer that occasionally succumbs to the limitations of its various sources. The series palette is easily the highlight of the presentation, bolstering the absorbing blues of the Pacific Ocean with stable colors and vibrant contrast. Black levels are notable as well (despite the troubling fact that some of the deep-sea photography is plagued by persistent artifacting and crush), and dimensionality is, more often than not, quite convincing. Detail is spotty -- edge enhancement is used throughout each episode, fine textures aren't nearly as consistent as I had hoped, and the standard definition footage that pops up from time to time is an eyesore -- but the majority of shots look as if they'd be right at home on Planet Earth, Galapagos, or Ganges. The only significant cause for concern? The technical image sometimes struggles to keep up with the series gorgeous visuals. Banding, macroblocking, and source noise haunt several undersea locales, and aliasing is a regular offender. Even so, the Blu-ray edition of Wild Pacific trounces its DVD counterpart, makes a commendable effort to reach the high bar set by its BBC brethren and, in the grand scheme of things, looks pretty good.
Wild Pacific Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Unlike many NHU documentary series available on Blu-ray, Wild Pacific soars with a meaty DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track; one that plunges Cumberbatch's measured narration into a world teeming with spectacular wildlife and natural wonders. Not only is his every word crisp and clear, his pauses grant the soundscape ample opportunity to surge forward and dominate the proceedings. LFE output releases a convincing cavalcade of crashing waves across the floor, satisfying rear speaker support spreads flocks of birds and flittering sea creatures across the soundfield, and crystal clear fidelity transforms the overall experience into a strong and stable joy. Better still, directionality is polished and precise, and pans are slick and smooth, making Wild Pacific stand out amidst other documentary releases limping by with a standard stereo mix. The episodes themselves still amount to a fairly chatty series, but BBC Video's excellent lossless track elevates the presentation and adds significant value to the release.
Wild Pacific Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
As is the case with BBC Video's recent release of Nature's Most Amazing Events, the 2-disc Blu-ray edition of Wild Pacific includes six, ten-minute behind-the-scenes featurettes -- one at the end of each episode. Not only are they surprisingly informative and engaging, they offer almost an hour of additional content. While it isn't the greatest supplemental package I've tackled, it is a solid one (particularly for a television documentary series). Be sure to stick around for each featurette.
Wild Pacific Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I don't think I could ever grow tired of the BBC Natural History Unit's remarkable productions. They never cease to amaze, and they rarely make a misstep in their exploration of our planet's awe-inspiring wonders. Even with a somewhat problematic video transfer and a relatively trim supplemental package, the Blu-ray edition of Wild Pacific will still make for a solid addition to your home theater library, especially with such a remarkable DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track humming beneath the hood. Arguably minor shortcomings aside, documentary fans should give this release some serious consideration.
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Wild Pacific Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Wild Pacific Announced for Blu-ray - May 26, 2009
BBC Home Entertainment in conjunction with Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the documentary 'Wild Pacific' to Blu-ray on July 14th, day-and-date with the DVD release. The 300 minute series spans over two BD-50s, with video presented in 1080p ...
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