Blu-ray Review: Wild Ocean (2009)

Now Available to Own

At the start of the absolutely breathtaking 2009 award-winning IMAX Blu-ray, Wild Ocean, I became positively convinced that Paul Thomas Anderson's trusty cinematographer Robert Elswit a.k.a. the master of the constantly moving camera had been tapped to explore the Wild Coast of Africa.

Of course, screening Wild Ocean in the same week as two new Anderson HD upgrade releases no doubt led to that analysis but the style was there all the same.

In this gorgeous slice of nature, cameraman Reed Smoot takes us on a cinematic thrill ride that abandons Anderson's Los Angeles for the coastal section of South Africa where the westerners meet the Zulu, swooping over cliffs like birds, moving faster than a race car through the terrain until we feel as though the water fall we plunge through will consume us, pouring offscreen.

Obviously with the transfer of the overwhelming IMAX size, things have changed a bit from the original presentation in 3-D and/or 2-D yet not that much from the 2-D one as “state of the art scanning technology” ensured we wouldn't lose too much of the scope or perspective of the 15/70 IMAX version on the 1.78: 1 widescreen aspect ratio.

Also available in DVD with enhanced sound yet minus the Master 5.1 HD that was so tuned in that I could hear the individual hoofs of animals run in the opening sequence to tantalizingly real effect.

The 1080 pixel Blu-ray award-winner immerse you in both Smoot and underwater cameraman D.J. Roller's remarkable photography brings Africa to your living room for a scientific exploration of the oceanic landscape and its circle of life. Yet honestly, at the same time, the work is also ideal for relaxation and made me wish that the authentic drumming and musical sounds of the region had garnered their own audio track along with our narrative one to use the informative film to also establish the right frame of mind needed in yoga or meditation by sound and sight alone.

For, despite the soothing tones in the voice over completed by John Kani, Stomp creators and directors Steve McNicbolas and Luke Cresswell's work that chronicles the various participants in the oceanic food chain including sardines, dolphins, sharks and human beings, suffers a major flaw. Namely, in Wild Ocean, a lot of the information is lost because of the whisper-like low audio of Kani's voice combined with the strength of his charming but overpowering accent.

Hence, the result of the narration and complete lack of subtitles of closed captioning (at least on my TV and player) from the disc which didn't include the option on any extra feature, left me questioning at times which one of multiple word choices that sound alike he was using during the sparse 40 minute running time.

Still, despite this unfortunate decision in not emphasizing the narrator's voice on the audio track or adding in the industry standard of closed captioning, would nonetheless make a wonderful disc for school age students to see in science classrooms.

From surfers who flock to the coast to fish who swim with various water temperature patterns, it's also a timely but brief reminder of how important it is to preserve or protect our oceans. And this is certainly true since a tiny fraction of the globe's waters are treated as thus to ensure future generations will be able to see the circle of oceanic life, it's effect on our own lives, as well as the amazing opportunity to be transported to areas like The Wild Coast that many of us can't afford to explore on our own... all from the comfort of our own home.

Of course, upon visiting the locale "where Africa meets the sea," it's important to take notice of the reminder that what we're staring at is what oceans may have looked like in the past and with our help, preservation and protection, what oceans may possibly look like again in the future.

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FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.