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Case Number 11880: Small Claims Court

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Blue Planet (IMAX) (HD DVD)

Warner Bros. // 1990 // 44 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // August 16th, 2007

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All Rise...

After watching Blue Planet Judge Brendan Babish is thinking about canceling his membership in the Flat Earth Society.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Blue Planet (IMAX) (published June 28th, 2001) and Blue Planet (IMAX) (Blu-ray) (published August 16th, 2007) are also available.

The Charge

A new appreciation of life on Earth, our only home.

The Case

Blue Planet is a 40-minute IMAX documentary that provides a new perspective of Earth—this one from 20 miles up in the sky. The film—directed by Ben Burtt, sound designer for the Star Wars franchise—was culled from footage shot from space as well as several terrestrial shots of the varied ecosystems this planet supports. It was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, the Lockheed Corporation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

With all these major players behind Blue Planet, it's no wonder Burtt was able to compile such an array of dazzling and even awe-inspiring shots of our world. The most striking is probably footage of the planet taken from outer space. We see astronauts floating in their space stations, pressing their faces against the window, gawking as continents float by. Certainly, over the years images of our planet taken from outer space have become more commonplace; but they never failed to captivate me. Since most of my natural environment now seems dominated by fast food restaurants and mini malls, this global perspective helps remind me that our world is not so naturally garish.

Interspersing footage from space with some of the planet's nature wonders—such as the African Serengeti, the bottom of the ocean, and arctic glaciers—reinforces how dynamic and beautiful this world really is. However, Blue Planet is not merely a 40-minute portrait of our environment; the film has a message. After setting us up with brilliant shots of the planet, we learn that there are holes in the ozone, the earth is heating up, and overpopulation is threatening many indigenous species of plants and animals.

Of course, this shouldn't be news to most of us. The environment—which was practically a fringe issue at the turn of the century—is now a cudgel the Democrats are using to beat Republicans over the head with. So in a sense, Blue Planet, which was produced in 1990, is out of date: its diagnosis of the planet's health is nearly two decades old; we've added over a billion people since then, and endured not only the Bush administration's laissez-faire environmental policies for the past six-and-a-half years, but also the industrial rise of India and China, two countries that are no strangers to pollution. Yet despite this, concern about the environment still seems alarmist to some; sadly, this makes Blue Planet still relevant and essential viewing for those who still see no problem in treating Earth like a rental car.

That said, Blue Planet was clearly created for an IMAX movie screen, and there is something lacking when you watch it at home (unless of course, you had an IMAX screening room installed in your house). In an IMAX theater, these images of our planet are probably enough to captivate an audience; on my 46-inch screen they look great, but not always enough to overcome a rather pedestrian narration.

As a bonus on the HD DVD (as well as Blu Ray) release, Warner Bros. has included another IMAX documentary: The Dream Is Alive. The Dream Is Alive is a 37-minute film detailing the process of launching a spaceship into orbit. Though it is narrated by Walter Cronkite, this movie is far quieter, and relies almost entirely on its images to tell its story. It was created in 1985, so the quality is slightly less impressive than Blue Planet, but it does serve as an interesting preamble to the HD DVD's main feature.

Both Blue Planet and The Dream Is Alive were created in IMAX's standard 1.44:1 aspect ratio, and then recomposed to 1.78:1 for its DVD release. Their pictures have a 1080p/VC-1 encoding, and they're the most impressive I've seen on HD DVD yet. The array of brilliant colors on display here are bright and spotless, and the contrasts are incredibly sharp. Though I still can't help but wonder how this film would look projected on an IMAX screen, this is definitely an HD DVD you can use to show off your new home theater to friends.

However, for a nature documentary, the surround sound is rarely utilized. In fact, most of the sound comes from the narrator and the subdued score. There are a couple moments, such as the launching of a space shuttle, that will give your subwoofer some action, but there's nothing very impressive here.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 44 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Bonus IMAX movie: "The Dream is Alive"


• IMDb
• IMDb: The Dream is Alive

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