Sony // 1991 // 78 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 29th, 2003
A world beyond words.
Come along as French director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Messenger) and composer Eric Serra (Goldeneye) take you on a magical, mysterious adventure through the blue depths of the ocean's water. From vast caverns to long dead shipwrecks, icebergs to seaweed clusters, viewers will get a momentary glimpse of some of the most unique and wondrous creatures imaginable. Graceful moray eels, deadly great white sharks, playful porpoises, and tiny crabs show up along the way, all to the enchanting tune of Serra's bouncy music score. It's a time and place that you won't soon forget...
For those of you who can't get enough of the National Geographic Channel, Atlantis is your cup of chum. Not to be confused with the animated Disney version starring Michael J. Fox, Atlantis is Luc Besson's love letter to the ocean and its infinite beauty. Capturing wondrous footage with his trusty underwater camera, Besson has crafted a startling, awe-inspiring work for both the young and the young at heart (the bitterly cynical need not apply). So, is this any different than all those other underwater documentaries floating out there on DVD? Yes and no. 'Tis true that it includes the typical footage of eels squirming along the ocean floor and sharks attempting to eat anything they come into contact with. That type of footage you'll find on most discs of this nature. What you won't find is Eric Serra's music score, which is often haunting and delicately soothing (I think I nodded off a few times while watching manta rays glide -- I can't really remember). Like a better version of Yanni, Serra's score is worth the listen even if it's just on a CD. Hey, just be thankful the filmmakers couldn't afford Kenny G. Otherwise, there's nothing overtly new to this documentary -- all the usual suspects are here (schools of fish, sea lions, et cetera) plus some great footage of an underwater blue hole (you gotta see it to believe it). Even if it's all been seen before, the ocean's majesty should still capture moviegoers' attentions faster than anything CGI could ever create. The only thing I wasn't thrilled with was the cheese ball French narrative in the opening sequence (featuring such paraphrased hooey as "...and man was awakened from a dream and found himself among the Gods of the deep, cooing at his backside and bathing in his loins..." or something like that). Clocking in at nearly an hour and a half, Atlantis sometimes goes on a bit too long, but when you're entranced by an octopus gliding through seaweed, who notices?
Best use of the DVD: put it on as make out music and smooch the one you love while a giant whale shark passes you by.
Atlantis is presented in a very attractive looking 2.40:1 widescreen transfer, enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. This is a great looking image that sports a ton of blues (this is the ocean we're talking about, after all) as well as vivid reds, greens, and yellows. The footage (shot on a video medium) looks very clear without any major imperfections marring the transfer. Kudos to Columbia for releasing this motion picture in its original aspect ratio, and not some hacked pan and scan version. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in French (English subtitles are also available). There is a small amount of dialogue in the first few moments of the film and the rest is Eric Serra's worldly music score. I was a bit surprised at how full and vibrant this mix sounded -- though it's only music, most of the speakers sounded well engaged and dynamic. The soundtrack is very apt for the film it's supporting, and features little to no distortion or hiss.
All that's included on this disc is a theatrical trailer for the film, as well as a trailer for Besson's Joan of Arc flop The Messenger.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Theatrical Trailers