Universal // 2003 // 41 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 26th, 2011
Hold your breath and plunge.
Courtesy of Jean-Michael Costeau, a 40-minute trip around Australian's Great Barrier Reef. Costeau takes his camera and commentary into one of the world's richest sub-sea level locales, and comes back with genuinely eye-pleasing stuff. From the ornate coral arrangements to dolphin hijinks to lollygagging sea turtles, the rich -- albeit brief -- IMAX feature offers a sumptuous buffet of undersea exploration.
The imagery is staggering, but what I really appreciated about the program was Costeau's unintrusive running commentary. He chimes in here or there to talk about the ecosystem or point out interesting facts about whatever ocean-going beastie that's taking up the screen at a given time. For the most part he recedes into the background and lets the visuals take over. In that way, Ocean Wonderland is more of an experience than a documentary, as the imagery, joined by the relaxation music, provides a way to kick back and let it all wash over you. The fact that you can watch it all in 3D lends credence to this observation; enjoy Ocean Wonderland as the A/V theme park ride it was meant to be. And in the process, you can get your learn on.
One demerit: Costeau acts the buzzkill at the end. After taking you and anyone else in your living room through a mesmerizing tour through the ocean, Costeau brings the right hook, shifting suddenly to scenes of a dead, decaying part of the reef. This godforsaken landscape, we're told, is the result of pollution and reckless tourism and deforestation and any other manner of human initiated seagoing malfeasance you can conjure. Then there's the haymaker: global warming! So, kids, unless you want to turn the Great Barrier Reef into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, turn the faucet off between tooth brushing sessions.
The Blu-ray looks great, as you'd think, but falls short of becoming true eyeball pornography. The 1.78:1, 1080p (AVC-encoded) transfer pushes sharp details that give the layered sea life, well, life. Colors are myriad underwater and the video quality does the scenery justice. The presentation is just kissing that high-end HD sheen, keeping the visuals from truly popping off of the screen. The 5.1 DTS-HD HR Master Audio is properly enveloping, yet subdued thanks to the easygoing aural nature of the composition. No extras.
Not Guilty. But way to bum me out, Costeau.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Dutch)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (German)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Italian)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish, Castilian)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Czech)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Polish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Russian)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish, LA)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 41 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* 3D Version