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OCEANS
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Narrator: Pierce Brosnan
Directors: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Disneynature
Features: See Review
Length: 84 Minutes
Release Date: October 19, 2010

Film **1/2

Oceans is a most beautiful film to behold, but also surprisingly disengaging. It's a high definition romp through the waters of the world, but presented really as just a series of clips that don't follow each other in any logical fashion. They bring the pictures, but not the story or the drama.

It seems ever since the eye-popping Planet Earth inspired the entire world to 'ooh' and 'ahh', nature documentarians have been inspired to follow suit in trying to make their movies even more of an event. The advent of high definition is a definite plus, and films like Oceans boast amazing camera work and visual imagery.

The trick is turning however many thousands of feet of footage into a coherent film, and sometimes, like in the case of Oceans, the hope is obviously that the awe of the imagery will withstand any narrative scrutiny. Frankly, just one shot after another, however impressively done, becomes a bit of a bore after a while, like being forced to watch some insipid film strip in grade school where your only escape from the tedium was being the student picked to actually run the projector.

The ham-handed narration from Pierce Brosnan tries to lend a sense of cohesion, but only serves to give the proceedings an unintentionally amusing bent of melodrama. And the music score borders on hyperbolic parody as it strains toward the likes of Carmina Burana.

Of course, it wouldn't be complete without the obligatory “man is ruining everything” lecture, blah blah blah, but even that is half-hearted. I'm guessing since the lid was blown off the global warming hoax last year, it's getting hard to maintain any real passion for the cause.

Still, the film mostly exists to invite you in to a wondrous and breathtaking world of beauty, and there are definitely some images I'll never forget. No matter who you are, you can't see a living blue whale in the ocean and not gasp with delight. I don't know if there's a sight on the planet more awe-inspiring than the sheer size and majesty of those gentle giants.

The dolphins at play are a joy to behold, and the ingenuity of otters as they rest rocks on their bellies and use them to crack open their dinners will put a smile on your face. There are creatures shown here that I'd never even heard of before, and I've often considered myself an aficionado of marine biology.

But in the end, all you get is clip after clip after clip, with no real connection from one to another. We're in one place looking at one life form, then another, then another. No attempt seemed really offered to bring this amazing footage together in some kind of narrative way. A bit more effort in the editing room would have gone a long way.

But fans of high definition will probably get out of this what they most want, which is a chance to show off their home theatre proudly. So without further ado...

Video ****

This is really why you're here, isn't it? If so, you won't be disappointed. You were guessing that underwater photography and high definition would be a perfect match on Blu-ray, and you guessed right. Disneynature is a wonderful company for showcasing what this format is capable of, and Oceans is as beautiful and sumptuous as you could expect. The colors and details from start to finish are simply amazing, and I won't lie...while watching, I found a quiet “wow” escaping my lips more than a few times. This is as realistic an experience as you can get without scuba lessons.

Audio ****

The DTS HD audio is really integral, bringing the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle sounds of the oceans to vivid life in your home. As creatures swim by, the discreet channels follow the sound, which again make you feel like you really are there. Sound, we are told, travels further in water than in air, and you get a feel of that with this amazing recording. Yes, the score is a bit campy, but dynamic, so the overall listening experience is just as good as the viewing one.

Features ***

This combo pack brings together both a Blu-ray and a DVD edition of the movie. The Blu-ray's coolest feature is the Living Menu, which showcases an interactive globe and 9 hot spots around it that change at the beginning of every month. You can select each one for some current information, or sometimes even see some extra videos regarding the sea life there. The menu also showcases your current location and time. All of this works via internet, so make sure your player has ethernet hookup to enjoy this extra!

You can watch the film with annotations from the filmmakers on how the shots were done, sometimes with picture-in-picture to go along with the commentary. There is the “Friends For Change” music video featuring Disney Channel stars led by Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas, bonus videos, and a featurette on preservation.

Summary:

Oceans is a film of great beauty and minimal substance, but one that will thrill the home theatre fan who wants to experience the most their high definition system has to offer.

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