HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea
4K Video: :5stars:
HTS Overall Score:85
“The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea” dashes all hope early on that this is going to be a light hearted and happy documentary. At least so far as not inundating the viewer with depressing thoughts of our ocean topography being destroyed accompanied with morose drum beats about the evils of humanity and the warning of future death and destruction if things go unchecked. Not to be outdone, “The Last Reef” cheerfully describes out receding reef structures up against the backdrop of the atomic bomb tests and describing how much damage was done to the ocean reefs back when these tests were going on (I mean, you can’t get any more intense and to the point when you’re making your point with images of bombs going off in the background). Still, there is a strange cheerfulness and excitement to the documentary, infusing in a dichotomy of ideals be emphasizing part way through how resilient and self-repairing the reefs actually are (only to mention that they are almost gone in the next sentence).
Most documentaries about nature tend to emphasize how we have done some sort of damage to nature and cheerfully announces how much work we have done to reclaim the damage (such as with the humpback whales that were nearly put out of existence), but there is a strange sort of condescension in the narration about our reefs. There’s a thick and heavy feeling that this is a lecture on how we need to be doing better than an actual lesson on what is happening, so sometimes the narration is best turned off and instead let the viewer watch the beauty of the ocean around him or her.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79450[/img]After the initial despondent opening montage of bombs, the film goes back into a more hopeful and instructional method of talking about the reefs, highlighting how much good they do for the ocean as well as the wonderful marine life that populates around them and is fueled by them Most of the central message in the middle act is actually focused on the differing marine life that makes their home near a reef and how the reef interacts with the rest of the ecosystem. Honestly this is the most fascinating part of the documentary as it feeds the “desire to know” aspect of the human brain is can satiate both children and adults alike with the beautiful imagery.
Due to the short nature of the film and the way it is structure (almost like tiny little vignettes), the film is almost like an informational reel or a music video rather than one long cohesive story. The last section of the film though is definitely detailing the threats that it still faces and the heavy handed message about its extinction comes back into play once more. Although in the next to last frames of the movie there is a whole vignette on how coral is attaching itself to sunken ships and other structures in the ocean and replenishing itself, so once again the messages in the film seem to almost act against each other.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79458[/img]Like usual, the 4K release from Shout have included a 4K UltraHD disc that allows for either SDR OR HDR for those of you with the proper displays, and a Blu-ray that gives a 3D and 2D presentation to choose from. The Blu-ray is wonderful looking and a spot on charmer all the way around with stunning colors (just watch the white and black sea slug at the beginning) and there is a HUGE array of varying shades in the color spectrum. Fine detail is magnificent with razor sharp detail all the way around and even allows for each individual piece of debris in the ocean to show up on camera (even if it is fairly mild). Black levels are deep and inky, showing off every bit of shadow detail it can with stunning clarity, while maintaining that “blacker than black” ability.
The 4K disc is just that much better. Blacks are blacker and colors are more vibrant and richly saturated. Even when choosing SDR I noticed that the colors look a bit better than the 2D release and the blacks seemed to suffer less banding (if any showed up at all). Detail is distinctly better, as you can see the fibers and “hair” on the animals a bit more noticeably, and the ocean itself seems to have more depth. Now this isn’t like watching a VHS vs. a properly mastered DVD, but the upgrade in quality is VERY noticeable to this reviewer, even though I’m only watching on a 55 inch display for my 4K material vs. my projector that I usually view on.
Surprisingly the 3D iteration on the Blu-ray version is a bit weak comparatively. There’s just not a whole lot of depth and layering going on. There is some with a few of the animals and fish in the sea, but overall its’s a bit of a flat presentation. Colors and brightness are certainly muted with the glasses on and the detail suffers just a bit as a result. Don’t get me wrong. This is not a horrible 3D presentation, just merely one without a whole lot of 3D “pop” and layering. Simple, and minimalistic.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79466[/img]As usual Shout provides the listener with the Atmos track on BOTH the 4K edition as well as the 2D/3D Blu-ray disc (although the secondary language tracks vary between the 4K disc and the Blu-ray. The French and Spanish languages are 5.1 Dolby Digital on the 3D/2D Blu-ray and DTS-HD MA 5.1 on the 4K). The Atmos track included (or 7.1 Dolby TrueHD core if you’re not Amos equipped) is a fantastic audio experience, despite the fact that it isn’t wildly aggressive or filled with pounding LFE. The vocals and music are the mainstay of the track, and they are both integrated flawlessly. Audio is tight and clean, with crisp vocals and the lilting music that comes from all directions at once. The sounds of the sea and the few underwater ambient noises shift directions quite nicely and used to great effect with the heights. LFE is nice, but it’s not one of those deep and heavy tracks that’s filled with gunfire or roaring attacks. Instead it acts as supplementary affection to the musical score and supports the low end of the ambient effects quite nicely.
• Behind the Scenes:
- Ocean Acidification
- Filming in Bimini
- Editing and Scoring
- Jellyfish Lake
- Macro Filming in Palau
- Reef and the City
- Statues Under the Sea
“The Last Reef” is bit of a strange documentary, trying to make a balancing act of extoling the strengths of nature while bringing in a fairly heavy handed message of the dangers that mankind has brought into nature. You know, the classic “if we don’t do anything everything you see here will be gone forever”! However, if you can get past the heavy handedness of the message the film is more than filled with visual delights that make up for the words spoken. The IMAX imagery of the sea is nothing short of stunning, and once again proves that some of the most beautiful things in life is the outdoors. Audio and video are nothing short of spectacular, and once again the 4K package is the one to get as it includes not only the 4K version in HDR, but a 3D Blu-ray that is coupled with the 2D presentation instead of just the single 2D Blu-ray that is included in the standalone. Good eye candy and a good rental for those of you who really love these IMAX documentaries that have been coming out lately.
Directed by: Luke Cresswell, Steve McNicholas
Written by: Luke Cresswell, Steve McNicholas
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 HEVC (4K), AVC (3D/2D Blu-ray)
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 Core), French, Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Shout Factory
Runtime: 44 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 13th, 2016
Buy The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea 4K UltraHD Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea Blu-ray on Amazon
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