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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Secret of Life on Earth (IMAX)
Secret of Life on Earth (IMAX)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // October 8, 2002
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 8, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

One of the better large-format pictures I've seen recently, "The Secret of Life on Earth" manages to cover quite a lot of ground in a matter of 40 minutes. The film, which is narrated perfectly by "Star Trek" actor Patrick Stewart, opens by showing and discussing the beginnings of life on Earth. It then builds upwards, going from how plants and animals work together (including one fascinating plant that traps bugs for a night, drops pollen on them, and then allows them to go on their way the next day) to how humans are quickly destroying many of the world's natural resources. Although recycling and other methods are helping to slow the process, we must learn new ways to cut down on pollution and find new, cleaner ways of energy.

"The Secret of Life on Earth" succeeds where some large-format features do not: while we all agree that we should not pollute or harm the environment around us, most films either present this concept in a heavy-handed or familiar way. This film thankfully does neither, presenting its message in a way that is both informative and beautifully filmed. The presentation of some of the Earth's more fascinating creatures and the look at the relationships between plants, animals and us is intelligently portrayed here, as well.

Technically, this is also one of the more remarkable IMAX films for its time, operating with an obviously large budget (according to the documentary included, the filmmakers travelled with 3,800 pounds of equipment). Not only are there several major locations (Costa Rica, Australia), but there is a lot of micro photography throughout the picture, zooming in and capturing - with great success - some of the film's smallest "characters".


The DVD

VIDEO: "Secret of Life on Earth" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.33:1 full-frame. The picture quality on this presentation is generally very good, although some of the same flaws that Warner's IMAX fare seems to consistently suffer from return again here. Trees, fields and some other details exhibit noticable shimmering, while edge enhancement (although not very much at all) also pops up during a few scenes. Pixelation isn't seen, nor are any print flaws. The mild shimmer really remains the biggest irritant.

Otherwise, the presentation looked good. Sharpness and detail remained consistently solid, with the picture generally offering very nice depth and definition. The film offered a natural color palette, with brighter tones occasionally showing through. Colors remained vivid, nicely saturated and crisp, with no faults. Black level was solid, as well.

SOUND: "Secret of Life on Earth" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Warner Brothers. IMAX films, which often take place completely in the outdoors, are often known for their aggressive and highly realistic soundtracks, which try to put the viewer in the middle of the environment. While this film's sound design is not quite as aggressive as most IMAX fare, the soundtrack is still a largely successful effort because of its ambience. Surrounds do their fair share throughout the film, providing ambient sounds that are crisp and clear. While detailed ambience is nice enough, there's a sense of depth to the audio here that takes it to another level. The score - the usual grand, sweeping music that accompanies most IMAX features - remains clear and clean sounding throughout. Patrick Stewart's narration is terrific, as well.

MENUS: Basic, non-animated main & sub menus that put still images from the film to use as backgrounds.

EXTRAS: A very informative (if rather short) "making of" featurette and an IMAX trailer.

Final Thoughts: "Secret of Life on Earth" is a very well-done IMAX film, offering a fine balance of education and entertainment. The film also boasts some terrific visuals and superb narration. Warner Brothers has provided a nice, but not exceptional DVD, with good audio/video and minimal supplements. Recommended.

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