At first I thought that these IMAX specific documentaries would make great Blu-rays, but now I'm not quite sure. They most likely served their purpose when IMAX was brand new and people liked to look at gargantuan images for 30 minutes or so, but that feeling has worn off.
'Tropical Rainforests' is an all-too-brief overview of what goes on in the world's rainforests. This is a topic that could take up an entire BBC Earth series. Instead it's condensed into a half an hour of vague topics and shots of plants and animals.
It begins with a short journey through time. We learn how the rainforest evolved, and how over millions of years it became populated with all manner of birds, mammals and reptiles.
Geoffrey Holder, the same narrator from Tim Burton's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,' provides a voiceover here. His information is on cursory. He is never given as much detail to talk about as Attenborough is whenever he narrates a nature documentary.
It's really hard to like these older IMAX movies because they're so out of date. They're old and they show their age; in look and in scientific information. I reviewed the IMAX movie 'Search for the Great Sharks' a little while ago and it suffered from the same problems. It feels like you're watching an outdated movie in high school biology class rather than watching a truly engaging nature documentary.
After we're rushed through millions of years of rainforest history finally man enters the picture. We see the devastation of deforestation. We watch as a logger cuts down a towering majestic tree. It's all very sad, but seems haphazardly thrown in at the end. Just because.
The neatest revelation in the movie is a blimp contraption that lowers down a large piece of netting onto the forest's canopy. From this netting, scientists are able to walk on top of the canopy and study the animals and plant life at the tip-top of the rainforest ecosystem.
I'm sure 'Tropical Rainforests' wowed IMAX goers in 1992, but two decades later it feels awfully dated and doesn't create the sense of wonder that most BBC nature documentaries create today.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Tropical Rainforests' comes to Blu-ray on a BD-25 Single Layer disc. It's housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase.
Age is a factor here, too. The 1080p transfer for 'Tropical Rainforest' is plagued with problems from the very beginning. Scratches, flecks, and grime pop up frequently. Detail is squalid for the most part. Mid- to long-range photography features indistinguishable shapes. Clusters of trees and leaves are wholly undefined and blend together into a greenish mess.
Colors are muted, most likely do to the age of the master. Even when you see a brightly colored parrot or tree frog, it seems like they should be much brighter and much more detailed. There are a few ultra close-ups that feature some strong detail, but those are the exception rather than the rule. Colors routinely bleed into one another. Halos form around light sources and objects. DNR looks like it's been used rather egregiously giving the entire movie a very waxy, unnatural look.
The DTS-HD Master Audio mix fairs a bit better than the video presentation, but not enough to make you forget about it. The sound also shows its age. Even though there are plenty of hoots and hollers from jungle animals to fill out the rear speaker activity, they lack a clarity and sharpness. Sounds are somewhat muffled overall.
The narration is clearly defined, but it does sound a little worn. Much like those school-imposed videos sounded when you had to watch them as your substitute napped in the corner. LFE is meager, if there at all. Even when a giant tree falls in the forest after being cut down it's hard to feel any low-end engagement. For the most part the audio mix is anemic -- especially compared to other more engrossing nature documentaries on Blu-ray.
'Tropical Rainforest' is just as dull as the 'Great Sharks' IMAX movie. There's really nothing here to keep your interest, even for the brief 38 minute runtime. It's an educational video at best, but isn't really worth your money. There are far more interesting and up-to-date nature docs out there. The weak video and audio presentations are just another reason to avoid this title altogether.