"Her name is Fifi, and our friendship has lasted over forty years."
It's been many a long year since I've seen an IMAX movie, which is quite a shame as there are two IMAX theaters within ten minutes of my home. The overwhelming grandeur of a film on that large screen with its massive speaker system is a wonderful experience. There is nothing more awe inspiring and remarkable than to watch a film in such an environment. Hence, it surprised me a few months back to start seeing IMAX movies making their way to the DVD medium. How could these short films possibly be the same on a TV? Anyone who's seen them in their original glory would certainly know that it won't even be close to the same. What would be lost? Would it still be worth viewing? Obviously, IMAX films are more than video and aural excellence, for they present fascinating and educational topics in a highly fun and enjoyable fashion. They most certainly are still worth viewing.
Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees is among the latest batch to make it to DVD, and it is my first experience in this series. Wow, have I been missing out! I love the outdoors, nature, or however you wish to categorize it, and this film reminded me of how great our world is and how great it looks when filmed correctly. An IMAX film is a rich exploration of a topic, and who knew that Goodall's study of chimpanzees would be so captivating? This film is simply brimming with information, and you are immediately enamored with the amazing work this woman has done for over forty years. I learned so much in such a short time, this film was better than I thought possible. And, best of all, this doesn't feel like a documentary. It's simply beyond words what this film conveys. The raw beauty of the remote Gombe Stream National Park, filled with tantalizing sites and remarkable animals, left me mesmerized. You instantly understand how Goodall dedicated her life to these incredible animals. You understand how important her work, and the work of all naturalists, is in protecting and documenting the remarkable diversity of our planet.
This disc is a fitting tribute to Goodall and the IMAX experience. While the video is a bit soft (perhaps due to the conversion from the large film stock?), it nonetheless captures the astounding beauty of Africa. Enhancing that is a flawless and powerful DTS audio track that is among the best I have ever heard. (There is also a 5.1 Dolby Digital track that is quite good, but it assuredly lacks the range and dynamics of the superior DTS track.) Not only is the dialogue excellently produced, not only are you immersed in a jungle atmosphere with an abundance of directional effects, but you also get fantastic African music. The music by Johnny Clegg and Amin Bhatia is superb and wonderfully captures the heart of Africa. It is a brilliant accompaniment to the film.
As I sat back in awe at the end of the presentation, smiling from ear to ear, I was delighted by the brisk and fascinating film. And then to my surprise was the bounty of bonus materials. While the IMAX film runs only 43 minutes—not the 75 as listed on the package—there is another true 75 minutes of bonus materials to look through. I was quite impressed by the abundance of materials for this film. There's an excellent audio commentary with the director that sheds even more light on Goodall's work, the chimpanzees, and the IMAX process. This commentary was obviously prepared to be read in sync with the movie, which I presume was done to ensure the maximum amount of information could be relayed during the short film. After that is a fifteen-minute behind-the-scenes feature that presents even more information on the topic. You may ask how much is there to tell?, but remember Goodall's work is forty years in the making. This featurette is a casual examination of the film that is only marred by the director's narration, which is simply an edited version of the full-length commentary from the film. Fortunately, in both instances, the commentary does relate to what is on the screen. You then move on to "Jane's Message," a four-minute promo for her institute. This is a personal appeal from Goodall to motivate the audience to work to protect the chimpanzees, and nature in general, from the ravages of mankind. The last major bonus feature is an insightful ten-minute documentary on the making of the music. As the music is so good, this is a highly welcome feature. Rounding out the bonus materials are a chimpanzee trivia game, some trailers, and an informational promo for Science North, a COSI-like museum in Sunbury, Canada.
All in all, this is a fantastic disc. Brimming with information, bonus materials, and excellent transfers, you would do well to add this to your collection if you have any interest in nature or IMAX films. After this experience, I fully intend to reacquaint myself with my local IMAX theaters; I encourage everyone to do the same.
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