My four year-old daughter somehow became a huge fan of sharks and other undersea life in recent months (probably via The Little Mermaid)...so hey, I'm gonna keep that train rolling as long as I can. And it goes without saying that most kids and adults enjoy documentaries when they're done right, so it's no surprise that BBC's Perfect Shark (2006) seemed like a pretty safe bet for the family. This is apparently a new release to DVD (at least domestically) despite the eight-year gap and it's timed to coincide with The Discovery Channel's upcoming Shark Week, which begins August 10th.
Hosted by late filmmaker, cinematographer, and shark enthusiast Michael deGruy (seen below), Perfect Shark attempts to determine which of history's sharks comes out on top. Having evolved for more than 400 million years, there's been plenty of advancement and currently, almost 500 species exist...so needless to say, picking a winner won't be easy. Using a mixture of real-world footage and CGI to present candidates from current and past eras, this 50-minute documentary whittles down some of the best in relatively short order. We're introduced to "filter feeders" like the basking shark (seen at the bottom) and the megamouth shark, adaptive species like the bull shark, fierce predators like the great white, the speedy mako shark, and others still out there in oceans and rivers. Conjured beasts from the past include the giant megalodon, the can-opener-toothed helicoprion, and others. And yes, a winner is determined.
Perfect Shark's CGI is fairly well-rendered for its time and, with few exceptions, the visuals are smartly captured and really give an up-close look at some of Earth's rarest sharks (at the time of filming, only seven megamouths had been seen since 1976, and this was the first to be captured on video). Michael deGruy is enthusiastic about his trade and provides plenty of facts, as well as the clever ways he and team members are able to capture some of this footage. It's informative and entertaining, though not particularly in-depth at just 50 minutes in length. But it is worth watching at least once...and despite a few nagging flaw's with BBC Video's DVD, documentary fans should enjoy the experience.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Not surprising for a BBC production of its era, the major flaw with this 1.78:1, 480p transfer is a lack of progressive flagging. Whether this was from an improper NTSC-PAL conversion or otherwise, it causes mild blurring during scenes of action and can be moderately distracting. Colors are also murky and dull, image detail is lacking and most of the production just has an "early digital video" look to it. I'll give Perfect Shark and other like-minded documentaries a handicap, however: in most cases, I'd imagine there were few opportunities for re-shoots. So, despite the numerous source material flaws here, those familiar with films like this should be able to overlook most of them quite easily.
DISCLAIMER: This screen captures featured in this review have been resized / compressed and do not represent this DVD's 480p resolution.
The audio is presented in standard Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and gets the job done, as the music and undersea effects come through very clearly. There's some good channel separation at times, but most of the on-location monologues reflect a one-channel source. Optional English subtitles have also been included, which is definitely a nice touch.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the menus aren't exactly pretty or detailed, but there's not much material here so it's not surprising. Multiple chapter divisions are included but no sub-menus are present. This one-disc release is housed in an eco-friendly keepcase and includes a slick matching slipcover and a promotional insert. No bonus features either, unfortunately.
Shark Week is right around the corner and stop-gap releases like Perfect Shark serve as a nice appetizer for the upcoming frenzy. I'll admit that I learned a few things and Michael deGruy's enthusiasm is infectious, but the idea of selling a 50-minute documentary as a single disc release just feels so...2006, which is when this production first aired on BBC. So really, Perfect Shark just feels a little late to the party, as it really belongs inside a boxed set or even as a supplement to a more substantial documentary. Die-hard shark fans may want to hunt this down, but the nagging A/V weaknesses and lack of bonus features make this DVD more of a weekend candidate than a keeper. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.