Oceans (Disneynature, 2010)
We seem to be living in an unusually prolific time for nature documentaries — I think this is the third underwater doc I’ve reviewed for Dadnabbit in the past year or so — but who’s complaining? We know next to nothing about the world around us, particularly the ocean, and between filmmaking innovations and the advent of hi-def home theaters, exploring the planet from the comfort of your couch is more fun than ever. For their follow-up to Earth, Disneynature decided to plunge into the sea with directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, and the movie they fished out — the appropriately titled Oceans — is another worthy addition to your HD wildlife collection.
Synopsis: Disneynature, the studio that presented the record-breaking film Earth, now brings Oceans to the screen. Nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, and Oceans boldly chronicles the mysteries that lie beneath. Directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud dive deep into the very waters that sustain all of mankind –exploring the playful splendor and the harsh reality of the weird and wonderful creatures that live within. Featuring spectacular never-before-seen imagery captured by the latest underwater technologies, Oceans offers an unprecedented look beneath the sea in a powerful yet enchanting motion picture.
Video: Movies like this are all about the picture, and with Oceans, Disneynature extends the impeccable track record they started with Earth. It is, in a word, dazzling. Perrin and Cluzaud take a meditative approach to their filmmaking, never forceful or showy, and it’s the perfect approach for this beautifully photographed film; they let their subjects — and the breathtaking levels of detail their cameras capture — speak for themselves. This is showroom stuff, the kind of thing you can take out and turn on to impress your non-HD friends.
Audio: You might not think Oceans‘ audio would matter much, but the filmmakers clearly disagreed, putting together a deeply immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that takes advantage of each channel to surround the viewer. The narration is usually the worst part of these movies, but Pierce Brosnan acquits himself admirably here, and while he takes up the center, the sounds of the ocean and its residents blend with Bruno Coulais’ beautiful score to fill in the rest. It’s soothing, oddly hypnotic, and altogether impressive — one of the best I’ve heard, really.
Special Features: You don’t really look for tons of special features in movies like Oceans, and the selection here is typically slim — a smattering of bonus videos, a self-congratulatory Disneynature profile, and a deeply unnecessary music video from Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato take up the bulk. But the one feature worth accessing is really pretty terrific: the picture-in-picture “Filmmakers Annotations” track that adds interviews, trivia, behind-the-scenes clips, and other footage to the movie. When your kids ask to watch Oceans again (and they will), do it with this turned on.
Bottom Line: It’s easy to be cynical about any major corporation that undertakes a public greening campaign, and Disneynature is no different. But there’s no arguing with the quality of the studio’s offerings, which also include the flamingo documentary Crimson Wing (to be covered in another post). In a kids’ entertainment landscape littered with noisy cartoons and crappy toy tie-ins, there’s a lot to be said for a movie this quietly contemplative, and one that makes such a carefully considered effort to teach viewers about the interconnected (ahem) nature of life. Dive in.