Judge Jake Ware may be a haole, brah, but damn if he can't nail an ariel barrel roll.
The quest to find the perfect wave-riding experience.
First things first: despite being marketed as a surf film via the surfing imagery on the Blu-ray cover, Kelly Slater's name, and the title of the film itself; The Ultimate Wave Tahiti is NOT a surf film per se, but rather a film about Tahiti with a surfing bias. Surf fans out there going into this film expecting another Billabong Odyssey are in for a gnarly wipeout. There are only a few short surf sequences spread throughout the film, and the big wave surfing sequence does not appear until two thirds in and is all too brief. However, those with reasonable expectations just might dig The Ultimate Wave Tahiti.
The Polynesian island of Tahiti literally sprang out of the ocean floor in the South Pacific. Its geographic location placed it in the path of much of the Pacific Ocean's climatic turbulence, creating conditions ideal for big wave surfing. On Tahiti's south coast, the village of Teahupo'o is regarded by the surfing community as one of the world's best surf spots with some of the most dangerous big swells. A shot toward the end of the film of half buried surf boards that double as tombstones illustrates the dangers of surfing big waves over a shallow reef, the combination found at Teahupo'o.
The Ultimate Wave Tahiti takes us on a tour of Tahiti with 10 time Surfing World Champion Kelly Slater and local surfing guru Raimana Van Bastolaer as our guides.
The film is divided into various segments all focusing on Tahiti, and joined by a surfing theme. There are travelogue segments focusing on Tahitian history, culture and traditions. The information is of the sort found in travel guides. A more scientific perspective is taken to look at the volcanic origins of Tahiti, the source of oceanic tides, the origin of the local coral reefs and the physics of wave formation. The science segments are interesting and accompanied by beautiful animation illustrating simply the science that is being narrated. Several scenes show off some of Tahiti's exotic aquatic wildlife, its mountains and coral reefs, and there is even a segment that offers an environmental message, and that is always welcome. These various segments are intertwined with beautifully shot surfing sequences.
Slater and Raimana are both laid back, affable dudes, and charming hosts to this film. They effortlessly ooze the carefree surfer vibe that is so much a part of surfing culture. They are joined by a supporting cast of friends and Tahitian locals who fill in the gaps. The bikini clad girls and hunky shirtless guys that populate the film give it a '60s beach party movie vibe.
An interesting contrast is drawn between the different approach to surfing by the competitive Slater and the laid back family man Raimana. While Slater draws strength from competing, using it as a way of pushing his own limits, Raimana surfs to make a connection with the spirit of the sea.
The cinematography is gorgeous and includes stunning aerial and underwater scenes. The picture is super crisp, and the colors vivid. The ocean and the mountains are so clearly rendered that one almost feels they are part of the landscape. The Ultimate Wave Tahiti comes to Blu-ray with an almost pristine transfer with only occasional grain.
The real star of this disc however is the film's sound design and mix. Crisp sounds ebb and flow within a surround sound system offering a completely immersive experience. For instance, as the film shows a local custom of twirling flaming batons so the sound of the fire traveling through air moves from speaker to speaker drawing you deeper and deeper into the experience. Needless to say, the sound of the big waves featured in the film is as close to being there as one gets. It's better in fact, as the mix is clean and ambient noise free. The film's mix is complemented with a catchy soundtrack influenced mostly by '60s surf music of bands like The Shadows.
The Blu-ray disc contains the film in both the 2D and 3D editions. While the 3D edition offers the extra bang, both versions of the film are stunning visually and achieve an amazing audio mix that will thrill your surround sound system.
The film is offered with English, French or Spanish narration. However, there are no subtitles.
The extras included on this disc could have been better. The vignettes are too short to offer depth about any topics they cover, and their footage is of varying quality. Still, it's good to have them as extra filler for the main feature. My only complaint is that they do not have a play all function. The short 5 minute film Beyond The Wave, is really just an tourism infomercial for Tahiti, a shameless plug and the kind of fare you might get as part of flight programming on airplanes flying around that part of the world. There are eight trailers that bizarrely do come with the play all function so missed in the vignettes. The disc also comes with BD-Live functionality which I did not check out.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The astute viewer will not take too long to realize there is an inordinate amount of product placement in the film. It will come as no surprise to them that the film was partially funded by Suzuki, a variety of whose vehicles are inserted without subtlety throughout the production. Likewise, Tahiti Tourism, the marketing office for Tahiti, contributed to the production and this can be seen in the travelogue-esque vibe of some of the film's sequences. If one can get past this cheese, The Ultimate Wave Tahiti becomes a whole deal more enjoyable.
The Ultimate Wave Tahiti is first and foremost a film about Tahiti, its history, culture and natural beauty. Of course, it's hard to talk about Tahiti without mentioning surfing just like one does not bring up Switzerland and its alpine landscape without mentioning skiing. So, The Ultimate Wave Tahiti did well to include a good dose of surfing and to get a couple of world famous surfers to act as the film's guides. Those looking for a surf film though, I'd suggest you rent before buying.
That said, the picture and sound quality of this Blu-ray release are both gorgeous and those who buy this DVD will use it for quite some time to show off their home entertainment systems, especially those with a good surround sound and 3D set-up.
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