Narrated by Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption), Born to be Wild is an inspiring story of love, dedication, and the remarkable bond between humans and animals. This film documents orphaned orangutans and elephants and the extraordinary people who rescue and raise them—saving endangered species one life at a time. [This] heartwarming adventure transport[s] moviegoers into the lush rainforests of Borneo with world-renowned primatologist Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas and across the rugged Kenyan savannah with celebrated elephant authority Dame Daphne M. Sheldrick as they and their teams rescue, rehabilitate, and return these incredible animals back to the wild.
I'm a sucker for animal documentaries, especially the ones that tell heartwarming stories about animals that seem down on their luck. Heavens, I can't even watch the trailer for Disney's 'Chimpanzee' without loudly admitting to my wife, "I can't see that movie. I'll be a blubbering mess." So, when I stuck in 'Born to Be Wild' and immediately found out that it was about two different groups of orphaned animals (elephants and orangutans) I broke out the tissues and turned in my Man Card.
Thank goodness that the IMAX-produced 'Born to Be Wild' is only a brisk 41 minutes long. I don't think I could've handled a feature-length film about cute baby animals being orphaned.
'Born to Be Wild' opens with narration from The Narrator himself, Morgan Freeman. His calm, reassuring voice sets up the two stories. In the Kenyan savannah Dr. Daphne M. Sheldrick has made it her life's goal to take in orphaned elephants, whose parents have usually been killed by poachers, and take care of them until they're old enough to go back out into the wild. Then we cruise across the Indian Ocean to Borneo where Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas has her own animal reserve. Here Dr. Galdikas takes care of orphaned orangutans. Just like the elephant reserve in Kenya, Dr. Galdikas' goal is to be able to care for the abandoned orangutans until they are old enough, and healthy enough, to be reintroduced to the wild rainforest from whence they came.
Right from the start this is a pretty straightforward documentary, full of stunning IMAX visuals. We get to see the process of Dr. Sheldrick and her group of elephant keepers. How the keepers work one on one with the elephants, acting as a surrogate mother. They feed them a specially devised milk concoction, they take the elephants out to play with them and they even sleep with the elephants at night. Elephants are social creatures and without the warmth and affection of a mother-like figure they get depressed and become unhealthy, or even die. The keepers are with the elephants 24 hours a day seven days a week until they are old enough to be assimilated back into the wild.
Same goes for the group of parentless orangutans in Borneo. Dr. Galdikas has a group of highly-trained keepers who care for the apes, raising them from infancy to adulthood and then finally seeing them off to make their own way in the world.
If you are like me, and you're a sucker for these kinds of stories then 'Born to Be Wild' is the kind of animal-centric documentary you're looking for. Shots of the baby orangutans ooze sweetness as they peer into the camera with their saucer-like brownish-black eyes. You get to see once timid elephants who have just recently lost their mothers to poachers, become integrated back into a group of their own peers. They begin to trust humans again even though humans were the ones that split their family apart in the first place. Oh, and there's nothing cuter than a herd of elephants running around together kicking soccer balls.
Some people can't get enough Nicholas Sparks movies; I can't get enough cute animal documentaries. I know at times they can be corny and overly sentimental, but there's no denying the affect a baby orangutan can have on even the most stubborn people. Just know that this review is written by someone who unabashedly loves this type of stuff, but at least you know what you're getting into if you decide to give it a try.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video unleashes 'Born to Be Wild' to 3D Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a lenticular slipcover. The first is a Region Free, BD50 disc which contains both a 2D and 3D version of the movie, selectable when highlight the play button, while the second is a DVD-5 copy. They both come inside the standard blue keepcase and accompanied with instructions for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. After a brief promo for other 3D products available through Warner Bros, viewers are greeted by a 3D still with generic menu options and music.
'Born to Be Wild' makes its way to 3D Blu-ray with a stunning and absolutely gorgeous MVC-encoded transfer, taking its already-impressive 2D counterpart to another level of enjoyment. Coming from IMAX filmmakers, this shouldn't as come as much of a surprise since most all their nature docs tend to look extraordinary in high definition. And their latest release is sure to please anyone watching this for the first time. Pick any scene at random and home-theater enthusiasts are guaranteed a striking, reference-quality 3D image with the kind of wow-factor we'd expect of the format.
Slightly cropped from its original 1.44:1 aspect ratio to fit 16:9 screens at home, the picture is razor-sharp from beginning to end and as close to perfection as could be imagined. Literally, the lines on leaves and trees are plainly defined and resolute for the movie's full 40-minute run. Individual hairs on the human caretakers, the orangutans and on the top of the baby elephants' heads are very distinct. Even the tiny wrinkles and textures around the eyes of the adorable animals are amazingly detailed and lifelike. Contrast is spot-on and pitch-perfect, giving the video a startling pop and vividness that shines beautifully through the darkened glasses. Black levels are not quite as deep and rich as I would like, but even this aspect of the image doesn't disappoint with appreciable gradations that add to the video's overall dimensionality. Colors are richly-saturated and full-bodied, especially in the sumptuous primaries which wonderfully bring the surrounding foliage to life.
Shot natively in digital 3D, 'Born to Be Wild' will likely rank as one of the most breathtaking 3D presentations released on Blu-ray yet. What 'Sammy's Adventures' does for CG animation on this format, IMAX short doc does for live-action movies. Extending deep into the screen with incredible clarity of the smallest details, depth is second-to-none with a genuine feel of distance and space. Better yet, it's consistent throughout. Whether we're watching an orangutan swinging on a branch with its friends watching in the background or peeking just above the grass line while baby elephants play on an open field, separation is absolutely marvelous and jaw-dropping. Several scenes show animals or other random objects in the center of the screen protruding with astonishing realism, almost as if tempting viewers to reach out and touch the loveable creatures.
Adding to the amazing 3D experience is a marvelous DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Employing as much of the rear soundscape as is possible for such a short doc, ambient effects abound from start to finish, enveloping the listener with the numerous sounds of wildlife. Birds can be heard singing in the far distance, the wind blows through the leaves high above your head, and random flying bugs often buzz all around. The whoops and hollers of other apes and monkeys also ring and echo throughout the rainforest, terrifically pulling viewers into this very simple story on the well-being of endangered animals. There are even moments when the small stampeding elephants seem to run all around, their hoofs stomping on the ground as they run behind you. In a few instances, the lossless mix feels a bit forced and exaggerated, but not often enough to be terribly distracting.
In the front soundstage, the high-rez track continues to impress with brilliant fidelity and a pleasingly spacious imaging. Channel separation is well-balanced, displaying lots of activity and fluid panning between speakers. Vocals remain crisp and precise amid the noise so that viewers remain engage and hear the devoted words of these admirable women. The design is surprisingly dynamic and extensive with plenty of clean highs that never distort. The sounds of the rainforest, from the drips of water to the cracks of a falling tree, fill the entire screen with detailed clarity that's as often startling as the video. The low-end doesn't pack a heavy punch, but it's appropriate with considerable response, giving the music and the stomps of the elephants some appreciable weight.
From IMAX nature docs comes a wildly entertaining look at some adorable orphaned elephants and orangutans living with their human caretakers in 'Born to Be Wild.' The 3D Blu-ray delivers a spectacular, demo-worthy 3D presentation and excellent audio. Supplements are the same as on the film's 2D counterpart, but the overall package makes the purchase worth every penny just for the video alone.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.