IMAX has hosted a plethora of interesting nature documentaries, and Born to be Wild, about orphaned orangutans and elephants, overflows with gorgeous photography and cute animals. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, Born to be Wild follows Daphne Sheldrick, who rescues baby elephants in Kenya, and Birutė Galdikas, who runs Camp Leakey orangutan orphanage on the Indonesian island of Borneo. The standard IMAX running time of 40 minutes ensures a brisk pace but keeps the exploration fairly shallow, though Born to be Wild has enough stunning footage to make it easy to recommend.
Sheldrick and her team nurse and rehabilitate baby elephants left motherless by poachers, with the goal of returning them to the wild when mature. Galdikas raises baby orangutans on her sprawling preserve, and the primates live with Galdikas like particularly rowdy children. The two women are mostly seen and not heard, but their important work is honored by the film's stunning IMAX footage. The elephants require round-the-clock care and crave affection, and the orangutans use a man-made jungle gym to prepare for their eventual lives in the wild. The film reveals that each woman pioneered methods for raising these animals and has been successful in ways other organizations and zoos have not.
Born to be Wild has many warmly funny scenes. A voiceover reveals that orangutans should never be pets as one mischievous monkey playfully ransacks a cabin, tossing baking flour and swinging from the ceiling. These same orangutans live among the staff, and one rescued primate, Hombre, latches onto Galdikas' son as he rides a motorcycle. The elephants require strong leadership, and Sheldrick steps in as the mother figure to the frightened, awkwardly developing creatures. Born to be Wild reiterates that both Sheldrick and Galdikas' primary goal is not to put these animals on display but to return them to their natural habitats, hence the film's title.
The film's on-location photography is intimate and detailed, and director David Lickley manages to combine a lot of material into one concise feature. The G rating constricts Born to be Wild to family friendly descriptions of poaching and human encroachment on animal habitats, but the film shows much of its subjects' day-to-day work. The replay value for IMAX documentaries may be minimal for some, but Born to be Wild is a touching, well-shot look at two successful animal rescues.
The 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer looks expectedly fantastic on Blu-ray. The high-definition digital source provides an intensely detailed "pop" that HD home theater owners crave. The gorgeous cinematography is supported by crystal-clear close-ups and miles-deep wide shots. Colors are bold and perfectly saturated, and black levels are generally excellent. There is some minor banding in a few outdoor scenes, but Born to be Wild is a great way to show off your system. A separate, 3D version is also available.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack places views amid the film's environments. Ambient effects are numerous, and the track displays fantastic clarity and range. Dialogue and narration are perfectly audible, and the film's score by Mark Mothersbaugh is nicely integrated and never overpowering. The subwoofer comes to life during an elephant stampede and an orangutan ruckus, and effects pan throughout the sound field. French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are also available, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Warner Brothers gives Born to be Wild the "combo pack" treatment. The two-disc set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy of the film and a code to stream an UltraViolet digital copy. The discs are housed in a Blu-ray eco-case, which is wrapped in a slipcover.
The extras consist of several high-definition webisodes that run 2-3 minutes apiece: "Borneo," "Kenya," "Camp Leakey," "Coming Home to Tsavo," "Wild Filmmaking," and "Caregivers."
It's hard to fault a film with cute animals and gorgeous on-location footage, and Born to be Wild features plenty of both. This IMAX documentary focuses on two animal preservationists who rescue orphaned baby elephants and orangutans with the ultimate goal of returning them to the wild. Born to be Wild is only forty minutes and change, but is entertaining and engrossing. Recommended.