HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Wonders of the Arctic
4K Video: :5stars:
HTS Overall Score:83
The arctic is one of the great wonders of the world, in my opinion. It’s a gorgeous land of ice, rock and water that is still largely unexplored due to the harsh conditions up there. To date it is one of the places that I have never been able to visit even though it’s been a big desire for quite some time, but hopefully I will be able to get up there to see the beauty itself. This is the sixth IMAX documentary that Shout has been releasing on the 4K format and I have come to actually look forward to this 45 minute or less documentaries. I once had to review one of those “fish aquarium” Blu-rays a while back and I was really puzzled on HOW I would actually write a review on it. I mean, it was just a bunch of fish in the background as eye candy while a few words were spoken. It’s not like I could go and give a full “Finding Nemo” type review on it! The same thing can go for these IMAX documentaries as well. There’s minimal plot and most of the focus is really on sweeping shots of natural beauty to marvel at or to put on as background noise for a party.
Fans of heavy duty documentaries like “Planet Earth” will of course be a bit disappointed in the content, as this is mainly a fluff piece that gives an overview of many of the differing aspects of the arctic instead of a deep, meaningful, documentary film. Victor Garber (most commonly known in the last year or so for playing Dr. Stein in “Dc’s Legends of Tomorrow” and “The Flash”) narrates the film for the most part, and his narration is a simple overview about polar bears, the whales that were nearly driven extinct by whaling, and of course the polar ice caps and their relation to the Inuit natives that still live and fish there today. We’re given 5-10 minutes for each of these major points, with Garber and guests narrating a few facts about them as we see shot after shot of gorgeous cinematography.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79402[/img]I noticed early on that there was mention of global warming and I really wondered just HOW this would be spliced into the film, but for the first 35 minutes there is nothing but a brief mention of the subject until the last few minutes. Then Garber recites a few lines about the worries of the polar ice caps melting and NOT regenerating as much as they used. Sadly this was one thing I wish they had touched on more, not because I’m a huge global warming proponent, but because it is a definite subject to touch on and the way it was glossed over instead of given a full discussion seemed a bit flippant. A mild complaint though.
While the narration and content is a bit light, this documentary is all about the visuals, and that delivers in spades. The snowy ice caps and the bright blue seas look incredible and I was mesmerized watching the beautiful nature shots. In fact I almost could have tuned Victor Garber out completely I was so fascinated by luscious cinematography. While “Wonders of the Arctic” is not the most in depth documentary content wise, it more than makes up for that with beautiful nature shots that keep you coming back for more.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79410[/img]This is actually the first of the IMAX documentaries that Shout has produced where it was NOT a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Instead we have a full theatrical 1.85:1 ratio, which is of course almost indistinguishable from 1.78:1, but I was just surprised to see the little black bars on my screen out of the corner of my eye. Just like normal this is nothing but pure eye candy. The white and blue snow of the northern Arctic sparkle in the sun, and the deep crystal blue seas under the ice are shockingly blue and razor sharp. You can see the flecks of dirt or debris on the camera when it gets covered in snow, or a fleck of ocean smudge when underwater, and the fine detail is spectacular. Whether that be the lightly yellowed whiteness of polar bear fur showing up against rock and snow, or the water rivulets dripping off the back of a bull whale. Needless to say there is almost nothing to say bad about the release besides a couple of old footage videos that get spliced in and are source limited, or a few flickers of banding deep under the ocean. Otherwise it is an immaculate looking 4K encode (and rightly so with only 42 minutes of footage on the disc and a couple minutes of extras).
I normally like to differentiate between the 4K and the 2K encode by separating out the Blu-ray and the 4K Blu-ray, but being that this 1080p disc is ALSO a combo disc wherein we have the 3D version encoded as well, I can’t give an accurate analysis of the disc and say that it is the SAME encode as the one on the standalone Blu-ray (which only has the 2D encode). However, comparing against the 4K encode they are largely similar, except for the obvious increases in quality in the black levels and color saturation of the imagery. The detail levels are richer and deeper in the 4K disc, but these documentary IMAX shots are so razor sharp to begin with it’s hard to say that there is a massive jump except for the inclusion of HDR.
The 3D presentation is actually better than most of the other 3D presentations from these IMAX discs. Usually the 3D pop effects are limited to the picture in picture shots in some of the other ones, but this one is more organic and natural. 3D layering is pretty decent, with shots of whales and the sled dogs running straight at the screen being the most prevalent. Otherwise it’s a fairly benign and simplistic 3D encode that uses some background depth and layering as the majority of the 3D effects on screen. There’s a bit of a color and brightness loss with the glasses, but not so much that you’d really notice considering how bright and glossy the 2D presentation already is.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=79418[/img]As always, Shout Factory gives us the Dolby Atmos audio on BOTH the 4K and the Blu-ray versions, so whichever version you get you’ll be getting the same wonderful audio encode. This is actually the first time I’ve rated one of these Atmos IMAX doc’s less than a 5/5 rating for audio and it’s for ONE simple reason that this gets a 4.5/5. The disc is simply immaculate except for the fact that the narration is recorded a bit too low. The surrounds and score mixed with the noises of nature really overwhelm the dialog when turned up and if not turned up the voices get a little TOO low, and drowned out. Otherwise the rest of the track is AMAZING. The sounds of the polar bears splashing around, or the whales spearing through the arctic waters is amazing. The surrounds get a hefty workout with all sorts of noises and with the hotly mixed track the surrounds are in your face and aggressive with all sorts of directional noises. The LFE is tight and punchy, adding some weight to the music as well as the thud of helicopter rotors and other ambient effects.
• FEDNAV Corporate Video
“The Wonders of the Arctic” is a lightweight and fluffy documentary, but it does the job as a 4K package that is more than capable of turning your system into a demo worthy experience for anyone watching. The audio and video are nothing short of amazing and once again Shout delivers on making the 4K edition the version to really buy. While the Blu-ray edition is a simple 1 disc 1080 encode, the 4K edition includes that, a 4K disc AND the inclusion of the 3D version all in one package, making it easily the most attractive of the two.
Starring: Victor Garber
Directed by: David Lickley
Written by: David Lickley
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HEVC (4K), AVC (3D/2D Blu-ray)
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 Core), French DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DD 5.1
Studio: Shout Factory
Runtime: 42 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 13th, 2016
Buy Wonders of the Arctic 4K UltraHD Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Wonders of the Arctic Blu-ray on Amazon
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