I'm no skier, but I've always been fascinated with Warren Miller's films - that is, until Warren Miller Entertainment was sold to a company outside the Miller family. Miller's original films were far beyond other winter sports films. The knucklehead shenanigans were completely absent. With Miller's film, you got just that - films. Well shot and presented.By watching just one minute of footage, you knew if it was a Miller film or not. Such is not the case now. While 'Wintervention' is a step above all other non-Miller ski films, it is nowhere near the quality that Miller established over 60 years ago.
Original Warren Miller films were simple: beautiful, fascinating ski shots combined with fitting (and usually obscure) music and a little narration. 'Wintervention' offers up many of those same elements, but adds a good amount of the nonsense found in standard snowboarding videos - unnecessary riff-raff.
The amazing snow-filled footage of 'Wintervention' is glued together by a corny, poorly realized narrative. Narrator (and terrible actor) Jonny Moseley is shown as a talk radio host taking calls from people with winter-induced outdoor addictions. The scripted material is trying to function as the theme of the story, but it never works. 'Wintervention' comes to a screeching halt each time it leaves the mountain for a poorly designed set. Jokes fall flat as the those in front of the camera try extra hard to come across as cool. Worthless filler.
With a goal of skiing and shooting where no man or woman has ever set foot, 'Wintervention' takes you across the globe, locations in North America, Georgia (the country, not the state), New Zealand, Norway, Austria and Antarctica.
Too much of the film contains footage typical of a documentary. "Here's how we got to Antarctica," "This is what it was like skiing here" etc. For a film in a series that people love for its intimate skiing footage, there isn't enough ski footage! There's too much talking and non-ski related goodness.
'Wintervention' is the first Warren Miller film I've seen since Miller sold the company. While it's not the worst ski movie I've ever seen, there's no wonder why Miller says he'll never have anything to do with Warren Miller Entertainment again - it's just not what it used to be.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Wintervention' arrives on Blu-ray on a Region A/1 BD-25 in a standard keepcase. Artwork printed on the back of the cover art insert is visible through the transparent blue case. Upon loading the disc an unskippable FBI warning appears on screen, followed by a quick animated logo for Shout Factory. While you cannot skip the Shout reel, you can fast forward or toggle the pop-up menu.
Presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, 'Wintervention' is given a decent 1080p/AVC video transfer. Considering how much the crew brags about keeping up with technology in the included making-of special feature, the picture quality is inconsistent and unimpressive.
Being shot and presented in full high-def, the skiing footage should be highly impressive - but it's not. The cinematography is fantastic, but lacks the sharpness that you expect and have become used to with high definition. The crew calls 'Wintervention' "'Planet Earth' on steroids," but it rarely comes close to that quality. The blame of the often-flat footage perhaps falls upon the cameras used. Not all of the film was shot on actual film cameras. Instead, for convenience, hand-held still photo Cannon cameras with 1080p video recording capabilities were used. I'm no camera expert, but if you're not shooting a film with a camera whose primary function is not for filming, I doubt you're going to get the same quality.
Since this is shot mostly on white-peaked mountains, there are very few blacks to gauge black levels. One shot is meant to look like night skiing, but long, defined shadows give the scene away for being a highly filtered daytime shot. Banding pops up once in a shot of a beautiful sunset horizon from the window of an airplane. Aliasing also appears in a shot of adrenaline junkies bungee jumping from a New Zealand bridge.
But the real travesty of this Blu-ray is the video quality of the dramatized footage. Obviously not filmed with as much love, the narrative footage is noisy and extra grainy.
'Wintervention' gives you two audio options - a DTS-HD Master Audio and a 2.0 PCM Stereo track. But with great technology comes great responsibility. You can't go through the effort of making a loseless track and not fill it with well-recorded audio. The music throughout 'Wintervention' is balanced perfectly, making use of all speakers, but the interviews - of which there are many - are atrocious.
The majority of the spoken dialog is recorded on-location outdoors, typically on top of a windy mountain. As if no muff was used to hide the windy noise, interviews are ruined by other sources of sound. Many interviews come across as recorded with the boom too far away from the interviewee's mouth, requiring the volume to be cranked up to match other vocal levels in the mix. Hissing and ambient noises frequently accompany interviews.
Although not terrible, 'Wintervention' doesn't come close to the quality of the "real" Warren Miller films of old. It lacks the definition that we've come to demand of high definition. It features too much talking and not enough skiing. If you're not a die-hard lover of the Miller-less Warren Miller films, you'll find it lackluster.