PBS // 2011 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // April 9th, 2011
No one can see them coming.
Earthquakes and their shattering aftermaths are dominating the news these days. The recent disaster in Japan reminded us all that predicting these devastating events is still pretty much impossible, despite major advances in technology. Focusing on the terrible earthquakes in Haiti and Chile back in 2010, PBS's recent program Nova: Deadliest Earthquakes takes a closer look at what causes these dangerous disasters and what experts in the field are trying to do to break the big secret that would develop an adequate system to predict killer quakes, potentially saving many lives.
Clocking in at about an hour, Deadliest Earthquakes spends some time revisiting the areas directly affected by the big quakes in Chile and Haiti, offering viewers yet another glimpse at how powerful and deadly these earthquakes can really be. The program's real focus though is the tricky research seismologists are continually engaging in to one day develop a system that will help predict quakes before they happen. As of right now, we're told, researchers and geologists only know for sure that more major earthquakes are imminent, but what they don't know is when exactly these catastrophes will occur.
Interestingly enough, besides offering spectators a crash course in how quakes form and work, the program also devotes a significant amount of time zeroing in on Southern California, which is sure to fall victim to a gigantic earthquake sometime in the not so very far future. Analysts take a closer look at both why this is a vulnerable area and what is being done to work toward a breakthrough in predicting the quake. It's pretty safe to say the result of this analysis paints a pretty scary picture. Watching these seismologists explain their techniques and research is fascinating.
That said, if you're already pretty familiar with how earthquakes work, Deadliest Earthquakes won't teach you anything new, although this certainly doesn't downgrade the program's compelling structure and content. The filmmakers behind this documentary stuffed a lot of information into this short hour, keeping it interesting throughout and avoiding segments that drag. Thankfully, the footage we get to see here goes a step further than the traditional earthquake coverage we get to observe on the news.
The DVD is equipped with a solid widescreen transfer of the program, including a decent stereo track that helps make this a pleasurable viewing experience. I can't say the picture quality is overwhelmingly fantastic, but it certainly does the job in regard to the subject matter. Don't expect any bonus features, though; the only extra you're getting here are English subtitles.
Nova: Deadliest Earthquakes reminds us that big quakes can occur at many populated places all over the world. Researchers are working hard to find a solid way to predict them, but the fact that this remains a tough nut to crack is cause enough for concern. If anything, the program educates viewers about the origins of earthquakes and the powerful waves of destruction they can bring with them. That's at least a small start in pushing us to do whatever we can to prepare for the next big one.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site