MacGillivray Freeman films have been making IMAX format documentaries for some time now, and have taken home a couple of Academy Awards for their efforts. The cleverly titled Blu Sea Trilogy gathers together three of their previously released single disc Blu-ray releases and tosses them inside a fancy cardboard package. There's nothing new here, nothing that hasn't been seen before if you own the previous solo releases, but for those who haven't experienced this material, this collection certainly makes for a very attractive package.
The three films, which run from 40-45 minutes each, contained in this set are:
Narrated by none other than Pierce Brosnan, the Oscar-nominated Dolphins takes a look at some of the species' more interesting traits, habits and characteristics before discussing conservation efforts and what dangers mankind has unleashed upon these popular ocean critters. We see domesticated dolphins at play and interacting in some very surprising ways with their human trainers and we get plenty of impressive footage of dolphins in their natural habitat doing what they do - swimming, playing and eating. We learn about the different environments that they live in around the world and about how they hunt. Sting contributes the song used in the opening credits.
The Living Sea
Once again featuring soundtrack contributions from Sting, and narrated this time around by Meryl Streep, the Oscar-nominated The Living Sea shows us a few different types of ocean environments and what makes them different from one another. We start off with some tropical environments before moving to the Pacific Northwest where we watch some riveting footage of the Coast Guard navigating harsh Oregon waters. From there we delve into the lives of a few very different sea creatures as we learn about humpback whales, jellyfish and strange giant clams. Before its all over we're back to the tropics to witness some impressive surfing footage.
Coral Reef Adventure
The third entry, which is narrated by Liam Neeson, features soundtrack contributions from Crosby, Stills And Nash and it follows Howard and Michelle Hall, a pair of oceanographers who are attempting to protect the world's quickly dwindling coral reefs. Joined by Jean-Michael Cousteau (son of the great Jacques Cousteau), a scientist named Richard Pyle and a diver named Rusi Vulakoro, the crew ventures out into the seas to document what makes coral reefs such fascinating hotbeds of sea life and to explain what makes them important to the Earth and its ecosystem.
These three films are absolutely beautiful to watch, and it's for that reason that they're worth watching. As far as educational value goes, kids will probably learn more than adults do as they really just barely scratch the surface of their three specific subjects, making this material more of a treat for the eyes than for the brain. The content is light on substance, but it makes up for that with one superlative image after the next. There are shots here that will wow you, others that will tug at your heart strings, while yet more might just send a shiver down your spine. The visuals mesh nicely with the music used in the three pictures while the classy narration helps keep it all in context.
While this material won't change your life, or even really enlighten you all that much, it is so well put together that you can't help but get sucked in by the natural beauty of it all. None of the individual movies in this collection runs over forty-six minutes in length, so they don't really have enough time to do anything but touch on a few obvious issues and then move on but fans of underwater photography and cinematography will find a whole lot to love here - the footage is gorgeous and completely worth seeing.
All three of the features in this boxed set are presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen in AVC encoded1080p high definition transfers which, for the most part, look great. There are some noticeable halos in some spots but the image is clean, clear, very colorful and fairly stable throughout. Detail levels look good although there are times where it does appear that the transfers have been filtered a little bit, sucking out some of the film grain. One thing worth mentioning is that because these three features were originally shot on 70mm film for IMAX theaters, they're likely cropped a bit. Thankfully this isn't obvious and most viewers aren't likely to notice it, as the framing still looks very good throughout playback. Ultimately these transfers are quite good. They look very colorful and contain strong black and the scenes shot underwater have this impressive almost alien world quality to them.
Each Blu-ray disc in this set receives an English language DTS-HD 5.1 track as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks. There aren't a lot of sound effects here but the rear surround channels do a nice job of spreading out the music used in each of the three movies. Dialogue and narration is always clean and clear and there aren't any problems at all with hiss or distortion to note. Levels are nicely balanced and you can hear pretty much every individual instrument used in the background music. Bass response won't blow you away but you'll notice the lower end kicking in when it's called for. Unfortunately, no subtitles have been included.
Each of the three Blu-ray discs in this collection features its own behind the scenes documentary that provides some interviews with the filmmakers, those who worked on the score, and the people who appear in the different scenes. While these are presented in non-anamorphic standard definition, they're actually fairly interesting, particularly if you have an interest in underwater cinematography. Of particular interest are the sequences from The Living Sea where the crewmembers talk about their ride on the Oregon Coast Guard ship that we see tossed around like a plaything by the Pacific Ocean. Each of these three unique featurettes is well worth checking out, as they serve to give us a fly on the wall look at some of the rougher and tougher aspects of making these types of movies.
Aside from the making of featurettes, each of the three discs includes a collection of HD trailers for other Imax movies, an interview with Greg McGillivray who talks about how his filmmaking company came to be, and some text based pieces in addition to animated menus and chapter selection.
Aside from the fact that there's a lot of repetition in the supplements spread out across the three discs in this set, this is a nice effort on the part of Image Entertainment. The transfers aren't quite reference quality but they're impressive never the less and the audio is also quite nice. The features themselves are beautifully shot and while they may at times be light on substance, they make for enjoyable 'edutainment' and hold up quite well to repeat viewings particularly for oceanography and underwater cinematography buffs. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.