OCEANS - Blu-ray Review

Published on SoCal.com

 Over two-thirds of the earth is covered in water, yet the ocean has always remained one of mankind’s greatest mysteries. In the theatrical follow-up to the wildly popular earth, Disneynature turns its focus to the wonders of the deep.

Filmed in each of the earth’s five oceans, Oceans takes viewers along as we literally swim with the fishes. Using a variety of new technologies and pieces of equipment, directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud went to great depths to find imagery that the world had never seen before. From groups of giant sperm whales to the incredibly tiny heartbeat of a reptile embryo still in the egg, no image was too big or too minute for the camera.

Though it might seem that viewers can get much of the same experience gazing at a large salt water tank, watching fish in an aquarium can’t compare to these scenes of sea life in their natural habitat. Some scenes, with their accompanying soundtrack, even play out like an action film (such as one epic sequence in which a school of sardines almost dances in unison as they dodge the jaws of dolphins, sharks, whales and seagulls).

Other scenes contain a more quiet, balletic beauty. In one particularly beautiful sequence, razor fish and garden eels perform an undersea dance that is unexpected and graceful. A blanket octopus is aptly described as “silk scarves rippling through the water,” and a type of sea slug called the Spanish dancer “cuts a path through Australian waters like the swirl of a flamenco skirt.”

Other ocean dwellers that would, at first glance, seem to be awkward or heavy move in ways that are elegant and flow effortlessly. Gigantic whales dance and sing to each other off the coast of Alaska. Massive schools of fish swim so closely together, they create near solid shapes. From funnel clouds and spheres to waves and clouds, they dance as if they are all of one mind.

also focuses on animals whose main sustenance is the sea. From seagulls to polar bears to lumbering walruses, a number of the earth’s creatures depend on the water for their meals.

If young ones are watching, be warned: there are many intense scenes of predators seeking (and devouring) their prey. In particular, a scene in which baby sea turtles fight to make it from the beach to the nearby water is heartbreaking. There are also a few vicious fights, such as one in which a crab has its claws torn off before ultimately being defeated.

Actor Pierce Brosnan was a great choice to narrate the English version of the film, as he brings both a playful lightness and sincere gravitas to the scenes as needed. It’s never easy to make such a diverse group of images into a cohesive story, but Brosnan manages to tie the images together masterfully.

To be expected of any documentary focusing on the ocean, the effect of pollution versus the signs of a healthy ocean are highlighted in Oceans. As disturbing as it is to see scenes of a shopping cart resting on the ocean floor or plastic bottles and bags floating on the surface, it also helps highlight the message: trash has to end up somewhere. That message is delivered with a pretty light hand, however, lightened by evidence of still-unspoiled waters (though images of some elderly Asian sheepshead wrasse are pretty scary). Had this been filmed today, in the midst of such oil spill disasters as the one in the Gulf Coast, there might have been a much stronger impact.

Bonus features on both the DVD and Blu-ray releases (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, DVD MSRP: $29.99; Two-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack MSRP: $39.99) include five bonus videos under the heading “Deeper in the Ocean,” each one to three minutes long, which explore a few different aspects of the filming process. “The Importance of the Ocean” is an opportunity to learn more about the ocean’s role in making (and keeping) our planet as hospitable as it is. “The Sardine Run” takes another view of the spectacular action sequence in which a school of sardines is hunted for food. “Activity in the Coral Reefs” offers a deeper look at the variety of life sustained by reefs and of their overall importance in ocean ecology. “‘Jonas:’ The Torpedo Camera” is a fun look at the improvised machinery filmmakers developed to capture some of their shots (and of the patience required to get them). Scenes such as swimming with a school of yellowfin tuna would not have been possible without these innovations. Finally, “Swimming with the Great White Sharks” gives insight into the pecking order of sharks, and the reasons why Oceans’ camera people were given status as high-ranking sharks.

“Disney & Nature: Preserving the World We Share” is a look at how Disneynature is continuing Walt Disney’s vision to encourage conservation in the world. Projects such as Disney’s Friends for Change, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Disney’s Planet Challenge and Disney’s Animal Kingdom are featured. One interesting fact covered was that for every ticket sold for Oceans during its opening week of release, a donation was made to save a section of coral reef (a similar tactic with earth earned enough to plant 3 million trees in the Brazilian rainforest).

Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato star in the music video for “Make a Wave,” a catchy song that is also available for download on iTunes (proceeds to benefit Friends for Change). The song is fairly short, but it features Jonas and the winsome Lovato on the beach and in the recording studio making a plea to support conservation, but with a sweet pop music sound.

Exclusively on the Blu-ray release is the bonus feature Filmmaker Annotations, which offers picture-in-picture commentary, facts, behind-the-scenes footage and expert commentary on the film. This feature adds a depth and more personal feel to the movie, which is so perfectly shot it’s easy to forget that actual cameras run by people (some in, some out of the water) were used to capture the hours and hours of footage. It’s interesting to learn some of the stories behind achieving such a perfect mix of story and narration.

The Blu-ray release also includes a Living Menus feature that allows viewers to select different spots on a rotating globe and get real-time information on the local wildlife. Each month, Disneynature has pledged to provide an update, adding more locations and information via an Internet connection. It's an educational plus that parents should enjoy as well, and adds an extra value to the purchase price of the Blu-ray Combo Pack.

Showcasing everything from the weird to the wonderful, Oceans is a true must-have for any nature lover’s collection. What’s truly surprising, though, is that the drama, heartbreak and humor could find Oceans on the shelves of many mainstream movie lovers as well.

Oceans is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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