Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Michael Pitiot's Planet Ocean (2012), like many eco-minded documentaries, wants to captivate our senses while attempting to get its message across. The message: our oceans have been getting worse in recent decades from threats like overfishing, pollution and a general lack of respect for the natural balance of sea life. This 93-minute documentary paints a grim picture at times, but not without showing us what we might lose if changes aren't made. Narrated by actor Josh Duhamel (for the 18-24 demographic?), Planet Ocean is a flawed but frequently captivating experience.
For better or for worse, Planet Ocean wants to speak for everyone as it bounces around from subject to subject. Blame is placed first and foremost on humankind's actions, from the greed of overfishing to the deadly effects of continuous pollution. Duhamel's first-person narrative even speaks from the perspective of a guilty party which, in turn, is meant to represent the viewing audience. That's an extremely bold statement on the part of the filmmakers, but not entirely unreasonable: humans are definitely to blame for certain problems that Planet Ocean presents, but its vaguely accusing tone will undoubtedly rub some viewers the wrong way. On the other hand, certain portions of this documentary also state the obvious on more than one occasion, which makes me wonder just who the target audience really is.
Despite the fundamental flaws, I'll concede that Planet Ocean deserves a wider audience. It tackles a global issue that's obviously important to the creative team involved and, for the most part, their passion translates to the fantastic visuals. The final minutes promise potential solutions to the growing problems that Planet Ocean presents and, while most aren't attainable goals for the average viewer, this at least guarantees that the film doesn't just cram fear down your throat and walk away. It's a flawed, fascinating and far-reaching production that sporadically feels larger than life, even on the small screen.
Universal's region free Blu-ray release serves up a mild amount of support, pairing a relatively solid A/V presentation with only a handful of short production featurettes. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
A decent 1080p presentation of tricky source material. Planet Ocean is presented in its original 1.77:1 aspect ratio and, for the most part, looks very good. Fine detail and textures are very strong during close-ups and outdoor sequences, while the film's vivid color palette produces a rich, nicely saturated image overall. A few problems were spotted on occasion, including some rather noticeable banding during many underwater sequences, as well as mild edge enhancement and digital noise. Some problems were most likely unavoidable or a fault of the source material, but they're not overly distracting (aside from the banding, which could even be spotted easily when I tested the disc out on a smaller 32" screen).
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is decidedly front heavy but creates a wide, immersive atmosphere. Josh Duhamel's narration is crisply recorded and easy to understand, while an expected amount of real channel support comes into play on certain occasions. Optional DTS 5.1 mixes are offered in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and more, as well as more than a dozen subtitle options (including English SDH).
DISCLAIMER: These promotional images are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
The cryptic and stiff menu interface is different than Universal's typical format, but all the content is organized nicely once you figure it out. A deluge of warning screens, logos and disclaimers must be dealt with beforehand. This one-disc set is housed in a standard keepcase with a matching slipcover.
Not too much, just three short (and largely dialogue-free) Production Featurettes
("In the Skies Above Rio", "Underwater" and "Shanghai", 15 minutes total). These aren't very informative and collectively feel more like extended trailers or deleted scenes, but it's nice to see a little effort in this department.
Planet Ocean is a visually impressive and thoughtful examination of a valuable and changing ecosystem, yet it's not accessible enough to support its universal world view. The primary goals of any documentary should be to inform, entertain and, in many cases, encourage viewers to take action...but Planet Ocean occasionally has a bit of trouble with all three elements. Universal's Blu-ray is a mixed bag, serving up a capable but limited A/V presentation and only a few lightweight bonus features. Rent It first.
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.