This dazzling IMAX adventure features Greenland’s massive icebergs, Madagascar’s unique inhabitants, the Namib Desert’s sprawling dunes, the lustrous Okavango Delta, Tibet’s ancient plateaus, the roaring Iguazu Falls and the mighty Amazon river.
A tour of our planet’s most natural wonders, featuring remarkable wildlife, mighty natural feats that will make you gasp, natural land formations and brilliant topography … all captured in beautiful detail for a rich, vibrant experience you will never forget!
Another brief documentary from the IMAX days of old. 'The Greatest Places' was filmed in 1996 and takes us to a few of Earth's most stunning landscapes. Before we start our journey though, we see Earth as it once was hundreds of millions of years ago. Pangaea slowly breaks apart and we watch as the land masses of today finally settle in.
We fly around the globe. We visit Madagascar and learn of its unique life and the challenges and advantages of being a such and isolated land mass. It's a brief overview of the place, never nearing the detail that BBC's 'Madagascar' attempts. With 'The Greatest Places' being on 40 minutes long narrator Avery Brooks ('The Big Hit') has to hurry through short descriptions of what we see on screen.
From there we fly over to the Himalayas and discuss the cataclysmic earthquakes as the tectonic plates smashed together creating to tallest mountain range in the world. Here we peer into the lives of Tibetan Buddhists and some of their rituals.
After that we take off to the Amazon. From the world's tallest mountains to the world's largest river. We see what life is like on the Amazon for the inhabitants that live there. We get to witness what the river is like during its flood stages which come around every year like clockwork.
We then head on over to check out the Namib Desert in the ultimate contrast of two extremes. From the lush Amazonian jungles to one of the driest most arid places on the planet. Even being one of the hottest places around the Namib still manages to procure moisture from dense fog.
Next on the list is the Arctic Circle, more specifically Greenland. The frozen tundra is home to snow-covered expanses, humongous icebergs, and a shaman from the local community.
After Greenland we visit the final stop on the tour of the Earth as we stop by Botswana Africa. Here we take in a few stunning shots of nature coupled with aerial shots to show us just exactly how immense Botswana is.
There isn't much to 'The Greatest Places'. It's a 40 minute tour of some of the Earth's more diverse locations. It doesn't go into much detail on any of the stops, because it's got to breeze through them for the sake of time. Again, this is one of those IMAX films that, in the time when IMAX was first making a name for itself would have wowed audiences with its visuals instead of its information. It's true that this one is better than some of the other IMAX movies that we've reviewed, but in the end, it lacks substance and focus to make it a really interesting nature documentary.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Greatest Places' is packaged in a standard Blu-ray case and is housed on a 25GB Single Layer disc.
Truthfully, I haven't been too impressed with the video quality of the IMAX movies that I've reviewed. Both 'Search for the Great Sharks' and 'Tropical Rainforest' looked haphazard and lacked clarity and definition. 'The Greatest Places' isn't demo material, but it looks a lot better than its predecessors.
The most notable aspect of the transfer is its clarity and defined edges as compared to the other IMAX films mentioned above. Edges, for the most part, are crisp and concise. Edges around sand dunes, towering icebergs, and a setting sun all appear well defined. Colors are more vibrant in this IMAX outing than in the others as well. Blues appear richer, reds look more lively, greens are more lush.
Blacks aren't bottomless, but they're dark and steady enough to provide good depth to the picture. The movie isn't free of errant noise either. There are still times where flecks and blips pop up on occasion. The CG used for some of the shots from space appears quite dated, and the HD presentation does nothing to help it. Instead it becomes even easier to see its age. Overall though, this is a better transfer than we've seen from these IMAX specific releases.
The audio is a little more impressive. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix utilizes the surrounds pretty well. The ambiance of nature is captured in a unique way. Water bubbles and splashes, leaves rustle, and animals call in the distance. It all adds up to an audio experience that does a decent job of drawing you into the movie.
LFE is pretty light for the most part, except during a violent thunderstorm sequence where it really rumbles. The narration is always clear and intelligible. Directionality of environmental sounds as well as the human characters we meet along the way is well done. It's an enjoyable presentation all around.
'The Greatest Places' is slightly more engaging due mostly to its better audio and video presentations. It still suffers from being too short and trying to pack too much stuff in. It lacks a direction and focus and instead jumps around from place to place offering only cursory information. It would have worked just fine as a movie trying to show off the capabilities of IMAX, but as a nature documentary it's lacking. If you're into IMAX movies then you may want to give this one a rental to see what you think.