I'm a sucker for nature docs, and as a fish enthusiast, documentaries about the world's oceans and the inhabitants that live in them always resonate with me. Understand that I'm biased towards this subject already. I love the ocean; I've studied marine life, and I have a great appreciation for what the ocean does for our planet and the entire human race. Plus, looking at the creatures of the sea in HD is just amazing (I'll never tire of watching schools of fish swirl and dance in the water).
Disney started it's DisneyNature series with 'Earth,' which was basically a different cut of 'Planet Earth' that was reedited and given a new narration in order to focus on three distinct animal families and their harrowing journeys of survival in the harsh wilderness. Here DisneyNature takes on something of greater scope, the entirety of the earth's oceans. Where 'Earth' was footage from 'Planet Earth,' here most of the footage seems completely original. I say "most," because there are some shots that look like they came from the BBC documentary 'Life.' The swordfish scenes in particular. I've looked all over and can't find out if they did indeed reuse footage from 'Life,' but since they've already done it with 'Planet Earth,' it's a possibility.
'Oceans' is a grand sweeping look at the creatures that inhabit our oceans. There's no way they can cover everything, so they focus in on specific creatures. Pierce Brosnan narrates. I like the narration here, because instead of explaining everything that's happening, Brosnan is given a few words to introduce the scene, and then it plays out with a rousing accompanying score. We're left to figure out exactly what is happening and to appreciate the majesty of it all. For example, one of my favorite scenes in the movie is the feast that commences when numerous groups of animals discover a school of sardines. Dolphins dart through the school snatching fish while birds from high above dive bomb, piercing the water's surface, and grabbing fish on their way down. Sharks and whales also join in. It's a feeding frenzy and the film crew is able to get some stunning shots of the action with a bird's eye view.
The beginning of the documentary features a boy staring out to sea as Brosnan explains what we're about to see and why it matters to the young boy. It feels like 'Oceans' is made more with children in mind, which is okay, but the young boy staring listlessly out into the great ocean blue seems to overdramatize it.
'Oceans' spans the globe and encounters some amazing sights. Some we've already seen before, like the Great White Sharks in Southern Africa that burst from the ocean snagging seals that are passing by. The footage of the Blue Whales, however, is marvelous and inspiring. Watching a Blue Whale, the biggest animal to ever live, feed is something to behold. Witnessing the regal Blanket Octopus gliding through the water was another "wow" moment.
'Oceans' does have its conservation message, which isn't very detailed, but does show, via satellite imagery, how pollution is seeping into our oceans at an alarming rate. It shows heartbreaking footage of fish and other animals, that aren't supposed to be there, getting trapped in nets. Watching the Whale Shark struggle in the net was awful, just awful. The conservation message doesn't get in too deep about what we as humans can do to help, instead it only calls our attention to what's happening. This isn't like 'The Cove,' but it's still as sad in some areas.
'Oceans' is a great nature documentary for people who want to witness some of the awe-inspiring events that take place in our oceans. While docs like 'Life' or 'Planet Earth' may, at times, get too graphic for children, 'Oceans' is beautifully filmed and can be shared with the whole family.
Whenever I see a nature documentary make its way to Blu-ray, I can't help but feel that these make for some of the very best HD experiences out there. The 1080p picture from 'Oceans' is tremendous. From the bird's eye view shots that feature every ripple and wave, to the close up shots that give us details of every fin, claw, and flipper, these images are demo-worthy. Every minute hair on the seal's face is visible. When the movie gets to the part about the beautiful, but deadly, Mantis Shrimp its hard to pull your eyes away. It's so colorful, but just wait until the close up of the shrimp's eyes. For a split second black pulsates like a pupil is there at one moment, and then gone. You get to witness it all, and it's amazing in high-def. Cuts, scrapes, and scars pepper dolphins, whales, and sharks. The details that show age and experience shine through here. Blue is a dominant color here and it's rich and plentiful. It never takes over though, instead it offers a splendid backdrop to the colorful world of the ocean. Blacks are marvelously deep, but at the same time they define perfectly. Crushing is never an issue. When the film talks briefly about the crabs and other animals that come out during the night, the footage is just as clear and just as defined as the daytime scenes.
I can't say enough about this video presentation. This is how a documentary about the ocean should look. I did notice one, just one, a single instance of aliasing/shimmering on a Sea Fan as the camera panned across a coral reef. Other than that, this presentation is technically and visually brilliant.
This a booming, sweeping, swirling example of an engrossing 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. From start to finish this mix doesn't stop churning out sounds that engulf you. When waves crash, the feeling is overwhelming. Your room is transformed into a sea of sound. LFE is constantly throbbing with deep, unforgiving bass that crashes every time a wave plows into a high rock wall. The narration is front and center, is produced with clarity and is never overwhelmed by the constant action on screen. Directionality and panning effects are smooth and seamless. You can actually hear a wave start on the right side of your room and quickly, but smoothly, move to the left side of the room until it ends with a booming collision of rock and water.
Since sound is amplified and travels so well in water, the sounds they are able to reproduce are exquisite, especially the high-pitched squeals of the dolphins as they communicate with each other before a hunt. I enjoyed the fact that 'Oceans' doesn't see fit to populate the sound mix with phony sounds, which 'Life' had a problem with. The mix also does a great job at transitioning from scenes with an endless parade of crashing waves and deep resonant bass, to scenes that are almost completely silent.
One word of caution, when you get to the scenes where it shows a variety of ships taking on some extremely violent seas you may need to turn it down if you have close neighbors. When those ships hit the waves, the bass will rumble the walls.
I loved 'Oceans,' but I was predisposed to love it. Marine life has always been a passion and hobby of mine. I grew up studying and keeping fish and other animals. It's something I'm passionate about, and 'Oceans' is another great entry in the chronicles of ocean documentaries. The filmmakers do a great job capturing footage that's unique to their movie, and it makes you realize just how abundant life in the ocean truly is. The video and audio are superb, really they are. They couldn't be any better than what they are now. They could both be used for demo material. The features are a little scarce, but the Living Menu is a very neat HD extra. Overall, DisneyNature's 'Oceans' comes highly recommended.