Warner Bros. // 1990 // 42 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // August 16th, 2007
From 200 miles above Earth's surface, we see how natural forces -- volcanoes, earthquakes and hurricanes -- affect our planet, and how a powerful new force -- humankind -- has begun to alter the face of the Earth. From Amazon rain forests to Serengeti grasslands, Blue Planet inspires a new appreciation of life on Earth, our only home.
I've already discussed my childhood space infatuation and won't bore you with it again, but instead of looking first at the highlight for this Blu-ray disc, which is the IMAX feature Blue Planet, I first wanted to look at The Dream is Alive, a slightly shorter film directed by Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt. In this film, produced in 1985 and shot by the NASA astronauts and supporting crew, you get a good idea of just some of the preparation involved when getting ready for a shuttle mission like the one that recently launched. Narrated by Walter Cronkite, you are an intimate viewer into the lives of the astronauts before and during a mission.
A couple of postscripts to this experience; the first being that the camera footage of the astronauts is extensive, perhaps too much. Watching the astronauts sleep is an experience that is part creepy and part surreal. Imagine sleeping in a sleeping bag, but not having control of your arms. It's like throwing a mannequin into a lake and watching it sink, its pose frozen as it descends. Not that I've done that or anything, I've just heard. The other postscript is slightly more serious, which is that the astronauts that can be recognized and/or heard over the course of the feature. One of whom is Sally Ride, also known as the first American woman in space, so bully for her. The other is Dick Scobee. While the name might not be instantly familiar to most, he was the last voice from the Challenger shuttle before its 1986 explosion. To see Scobee in more pleasurable times doth have a morbid overtone to the feature.
Moving on to Blue Planet, released in 1990, with a clever blend of footage shot from outer space, along with amazing shots of nature in its splendor and glory. One has to wonder whether or not the folks who created the excellent Planet Earth miniseries took their cue from this. There are shots that really show off the beauty in nature, not to mention the fury. There is a bit of time devoted to the carnage in the wake of 1987's Hurricane Hugo, and some split screen footage showing the affect on man, beast and nature. In what becomes a recurring (and annoying) part of the disc, some of the environmental sounds are clearly recorded in afterwards. While Blue Planet is eerily similar to what was seen on Planet Earth, it seems to take the message of conservation and preservation to a new level of rhetoric. Planet Earth let the scenery speak for itself, save for a couple of pro-environment statements here and there by the narrator. Here, it seems that more attention is paid to the dialogue than to the scenery, and it dampens the intended impact in this man's opinion.
Both films are presented in the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen format, with Blue Planet getting the nod to quality, as The Dream is Alive's picture quality is hampered not only by time but also by a fairly distracting film grain that hampers blacks and reduces image clarity. Blue Planet also appears through a fish-eyed lens at times (perhaps that was an issue with reformatting the aspect ratio of the initial feature), but the image looks great on Blu-ray. It's not demo-worthy, but it's a solid case to upgrade to the latest and greatest video format. Both films are come with TrueHD tracks, with Blue Planet possessing a slight edge again, due to time. Both features possess a lot of environmental affects and each offers a shuttle/rocket launch designed to give your subwoofer a chance to do what it likes to do best.
It's clear that with either The Dream is Alive or Blue Planet, you're going to be getting a pretty impressive visual show for forty minutes or so. The problem with both features is that they dazzle you a bit too much. The voice of "the most trusted man in America" is vastly underused in the first film, and I felt in the second like I was being guilt-tripped into flushing twice instead of once, it was that preachy to me. Regardless, fans of either feature will be happy to see these appear not only on one disc, but as a Blu-ray disc where it's presentation has never looked better.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 42 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "The Dream is Alive" Bonus Movie
* IMDb: Blue Planet
* IMDb: The Dream is Alive
* Official IMAX Site
* Official NASA Website