This is our home…our only home.
From the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum comes Blue Planet, a documentary about our world seen both from space and from the air. Beautiful shots of space collide with not so pretty shots of what humans have done to the planet, and provide a cautionary tale about the dangers we live with everyday, from both natural and manmade disasters. This 41-minute documentary was filmed for IMAX and has been shown in theaters for the last 10 years. Now it is available on DVD with a fine technical presentation but a disappointing lack of meaningful extra content.
The opening shows a view of Earth rising as seen by our astronauts on the moon. The awe-inspiring sight leads right into the beauty of our planet as seen from space, with many shots from the space shuttle and others from various satellites. Often the shots from space cut to shots of the area on Earth we were just looking at from space, which provides an interesting contrast in perspective.
But this is more than the usual "view from space" program; it endeavors to tell us how our planet works. From the tectonic plates we see how volcanoes and earthquakes form, and how the earth recycles the air, water, and even base rock on a daily basis. We see how plants and animals live together in symbiosis; as we breathe out carbon dioxide the plants take it and give us back oxygen. In 15 minutes there is a better explanation of how nature works on our planet than I've seen in many school textbooks.
From here the program takes another turn and shows the effects we humans have had on our world, as seen both from space and from up close. The pollution we've spread can be seen even from space. Lands that were once covered in ancient forests have been clear cut for farms, resulting in huge losses in topsoil erosion that washes down river. The chemicals we put in our soil (and living on a farm I know these chemicals well) also washes down rivers to the ocean. One striking example was Madagascar, once a deep forest and now almost clear cut. The soil erosion has totally blocked off the rivers and turned them into lakes, all clearly seen from space. Global warming is discussed next, though they don't try to claim exact knowledge of the effects on the planet. This is meant more to be a caution, to make us think. There are real issues that we as a species need to deal with, from the many species that have become extinct to the over-fishing of our oceans.
This is a 10 year old program, and the DVD image shows some hints of age. But colors remain vibrant, from the deep blues and turquoise of our oceans to the lush greens of the rain forests. Some softness in the picture remains, but it is still quite beautiful to see. The audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track consisting almost entirely of narration from Toni Myers and synthesizer type music from all channels. Occasionally the rumble of a volcano or the roar of a fierce hurricane breaks up the usual sounds. Everything is clear and pleasant, though the music is mere background and easily forgettable. It is a nice soundtrack with few demands on your sound system. Unfortunately extra content consists only of an IMAX trailer that advertises for several films including Blue Planet and The Dream Is Alive, another IMAX film on DVD I recently reviewed.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I'm sure viewers will be polarized by the program itself, though the visuals should please just about anyone. Environmentalists will nod and agree wholeheartedly with the information provided, while those who see a forest and think instantly of how much money they can make from the lumber will disbelieve and call it propaganda. As usual, I think the truth isn't to be found at the extreme ends of views on the subject; the lunatic fringe isn't to be trusted whether they are eco-terrorists or pollution-friendly businessmen. But this isn't the place for a serious debate on the subject. I listen to the science, which is where my own educational training lies.
The only real complaint I have about these IMAX discs is the short running length of the programs. A DVD can hold much more information than one 41 minute documentary needs, and there is little extra content to take up the slack.
IMAX fans will be happy with the DVD, and those who like beautiful shots of the Earth will enjoy it as well. Most will probably prefer a rental to owning the DVD for repeat viewings, though those who want to show it to friends and talk about the issues raised will be glad to add Blue Planet to their collection.
None of the parties involved with the film or disc are guilty of wrongdoing, and the case is dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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