Inception Media Group // 1998 // 40 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // May 11th, 2011
The world's greatest sights -- remastered and remarkable!
You won't find many negative reviews of IMAX nature documentaries. That's partially due to the fact that such documentaries are generally pretty solid, and partially due to a general temptation to simply give attractive nature flicks a pass. It's pretty! It's nature! It's educational! Who wants to beat up on wholesomeness like that? I certainly don't, but every now and then I'll encounter a half-baked little film like The Greatest Places.
The documentary opens with narration from Avery Brooks (American History X), who informs us that we're about to look at a series of places. "They are...The Greatest Places," he intones. Okay, then. Over the course of the next forty minutes, we wander aimlessly from Madagascar to Tibet to Greenland to the Namib Desert to the Okavango Delta to Iguazu Falls to the Amazon River. That's all well and good, and the images we're shown are certainly lovely.
Unfortunately, during this travelogue we're given precious little reason as to why these places are supposed to be The Greatest Places, as Brooks simply unspools a series of relatively banal facts about each place before abruptly switching to the next one. It feels like we're watching a series of cheesy prologues that ought to be preceding a considerably more substantive examination, but all we get is pointless prologue. While some of the locations featured offer self-explanatory images of greatness (the stunning Iguazu Falls in particular), others look considerably less marvelous than plenty of other regions of the world.
Basically, if you're going to make a documentary called The Greatest Places, you at least owe the audience a solid argument for why these places are so great. You need Werner Herzog talking about how the Namib Desert is a lost fleck from the soul of an angry God, or at least Avery Brooks talking about the fact that Madagascar was a great source of inspiration for Charles Darwin (instead, Brooks simply notes that there are a lot of interesting lemurs in Madagascar).
The documentary concludes by not only re-asserting that these places are unquestionably The Greatest Places, but also by stating that Earth has the most great places of any planet in our solar system...nay, the entire Universe (then again, Avery Brooks did encounter a lot of other worlds on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, so I guess he would know).
At least the doc looks awfully lovely on Blu-ray, boasting an attractive 1080p/1.78:1 transfer which allows viewers to soak in the many splendid images this film has to offer. Detail is terrific throughout, though I was surprised to note quite a few scratches and flecks during some of the shots. Blacks are deep and rich, but for the most part this is a bright, colorful film. Audio is quite strong as well, with Brooks' narration coming through with clarity. The music receives a rich mix, though I found the score a bit too derivative of Hans Zimmer's work on The Lion King. There are no supplements on the disc.
The Greatest Places is good-looking, but all of these IMAX movies are. Unfortunately, it's one of the most undercooked films of its sort I've seen.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Inception Media Group
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 40 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated