Director : s Jacques Perrin & Jacques Cluzaud
Screenplay : Christophe Cheysson, Jacques Cluzaud, Laurent Debas, Stéphane Durand, Laurent Gaudé, Jacques Perrin, François Sarano (English translation by Michael Katims)
MPAA Rating : G
Year of Release : 2009 (international) / 2010 (U.S.)
Oceans, a French documentary distributed stateside by Disney as part of its ongoing series of ecologically minded nature documentaries that coincide with each year’s Earth Day, is a beautiful--at times breathtaking--visual examination of the undersea world, whose seemingly limitless potential for surprise and amazement refuses to be exhausted despite being the subject of more documentaries than you can count. The vastness of what lies beneath the ocean is inherently fascinating, inviting our awe and tickling our imaginations even as we are reminded of how its grandeur is balanced with the ferocity and violence of survival. It is an old adage that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the ocean depths of our planet, and even seasoned documentary hounds who absorb every underwater program the Discovery Channel can throw our way will likely find something new here. As Oceans’s narrator Pierce Brosnan intones, “Here, it is as if nature has tried everything.”
Co-directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, who also gave us Winged Migration (2001), Oceans is not heavy on factual information; in fact, it could have easily played without any narration whatsoever and probably still had the same visual and emotional impact (which is precisely what Luc Besson did in his extraordinary 1991 undersea documentary Atlantis). The imagery, as it is, largely speaks for itself, helped at times by clever editing, such as when the filmmakers slowly reveal that what looks like outer space is in fact tiny larvae floating through the blackest ocean depths (the idea of the ocean as its own galaxy is a recurrent theme). The English-language narration, translated by Michael Katims and spoken with a kind of generic eloquence by Pierce Brosnan, fills in a few informational gaps here and there and provides the names of the strange creatures we see floating through the depths, but otherwise it is little more than background noise. The real show here is what we see, shot in glorious ’Scope widescreen with high-definition cameras that give us the kind of detailed, tactile imagery that truly draw us in. The film’s tendency toward anthropomorphizing is blessedly limited, although when used it is quite effective, especially in the film’s signature awwwww moment that finds a mother walrus cradling her baby in a way that makes it impossible to imagine they don’t feel that thing we call love.
The result of four years of filming in all five of the planet’s oceans, the film shows us numerous undersea oddities, including a fiercely defensive shrimp, a rock fish that looks like something out of a nightmare, a blanket octopus whose flowing body is a thing of nearly surreal beauty, and a showdown between two armies of crabs that takes on the epic aura of a battle sequence in The Lord of the Rings. Some of the imagery you have probably seen before--massive blue whales hurtling their 120-ton bodies out of the water with majesty befitting their enormity, a great white shark gliding through the depths, dolphins leaping in unison, waddling penguins morphing into graceful swimmers once they hit the water, and the always adorable, puppy-doggish sea lions basking in the sun on a pristine beach.
Even the familiar, though, is slightly defamiliarized, even if only via the impressiveness of the cinematography; the grace of the camerawork is particularly remarkable, as it uses the weightless, directionless aura of the undersea world as inspiration for its movements, whether it be tracking behind a gliding octopus or staring in rapt fixation at schools of shimmering sardines forming and reforming into perfectly molded shapes. The film’s explicitly articulated ecological concerns--human garbage cluttering up the ocean floor, massive nets ensnaring animals that will be simply thrown away, and satellite imagery of pollution streams flowing out of rivers into the oceans--constitute a less effective rhetorical device than the simple power of the beautiful imagery, which reminds us that, however much we think we know about our world, it’s never enough.
|Oceans Blu-Ray + DVD 2-Disc Combo Pack|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Distributor||Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||October 18, 2010|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|As Oceans was originally shot on high-definition video, I assume that the uniformly excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded image on this Blu-Ray is a direct port. The image is sharp, clear, and beautifully detailed, giving us luminous images of the ocean depths and the creatures that inhabit them. Contrast is strong, and the depths of the blue hues of the underwater world are spectacular. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel surround soundtrack is also great, with good immersive effects to draw us into the alien undersea world and give aural life to the creatures. While much of the soundtrack focuses on the minute details of underwater sound, there is also plenty of low end to give crashing waves (both above and below the water) a rattling intensity.|
|The primary supplement on the Blu-Ray (and the only one with any real value) is the Filmmaker Annotations playback option, which allows you to watch the film with a picture-in-picture window that includes interviews with the filmmakers and various environmental experts, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and pop-up facts. The other two supplements are the 7-minute self-congratulatory “Disney and Nature: Caring for the World We Share” featurette, which focuses on Disney’s various environmental outreach programs and conservation efforts, and the 2-minute “Make a Wave” Friends for Change music video, which features current Disney stars Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato cavorting on a beach. The accompanying DVD also includes several short bonus videos about the ocean.|
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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