Universal has three 3D nature docs coming out on the same day. The first, "Fascination Coral Reef 3D: The Hunters and the Hunted", drifts too far into observation, while the second, "Ocean Predators 3D", succeeds by being educational. "Polar Bears 3D: Ice Bear" lands in the middle, finding a decent berth between observing the polar bear, complete with artistic narration, and education, filling the viewer in on why the polar bear's environment has changed over the years and the reasons it will need to adapt in order to survive.
Ravetch and Robertson craft a narrative around their bear, named "Ice Bear", a young teen learning how to survive on his own. Along the way, they also spend time tracking a mother and her cubs, in order to inform the viewer on what their teenaged protagonist ought to already know. The stories successfully weave in and out of each other without too much artifice interjected by the narrator (Bray Poor). The co-directors are confident -- and correct -- that the changing world is enough of a challenge for their "characters." The main concern for these bears is food, especially the mother who is busy nursing two young cubs.
The story, however, is simply a clothesline on which the two directors hang a wealth of impressive footage, never shying away from some cruel and unforgiving aspects of nature. In one spectacular scene, we watch a third grown bear (neither the mother or the Ice Bear) sneak up on a crowd of sleeping walruses, hoping to score some dinner. Later, we see the carcass of a bear that didn't make it, which becomes lunch for another dying compatriot. As for the Ice Bear himself, there's a sequence where he climbs a dizzying cliffside just to eat a couple of measly birds, as well as extensive intimate footage of him swimming across one of the Great Lakes. Human interaction is also present, as some scientists drop in to attach a camera to the mother bear as she and her cubs enter a forest for protection, and the ice bear wanders through a tourist area where people fly in to take photos of live polar bears.
The journey of the Ice Bear is a simple but engaging story that will not only educate the viewer on the polar bear's lifestyle, but also the way the world around the polar bear is changing. Without pressing the issue too heavily, "Ice Bear" also manages to convey a sense of concern for the bear and the way human beings are affecting its environment. It's a simple but loving portrait, captured with a surprising frankness.
The Video and Audio
Sound is a DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 track. I'm not sure I would know what to look for that differentiates a standard DTS-HD Master Audio track and a High Resolution track, but this sounds just fine to me. Unlike the other two Universal 3D nature docs, this has more use for the surround, such as the scene with the birds, as well as a number of scenes in the water, and a siege on a pack of walruses, which do spread out to the rear channels. Still, the core of the track is just like the others: narration in the center, with most of the music and environmental cues on the left and right front speakers. Also, like the other discs, the disc is stacked with audio and subtitle options: French, German, Castilian Spanish, Italian, Japanese DTS 5.1, Latin American Spanish, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian, and Polish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English SDH, French, Italian, German, Castilian Spanish, Latin American Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Arabic, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles.
This is followed by a making-of featurette (13:34, 2D HD) is basically an extended on-set interview with co-director Adam Ravetch. It's not the most enlightening behind-the-scenes piece, primarily focused on Ravetch's opinion of the beautiful imagery they're capturing, but there is a snippet of some actual behind-the-scenes info on the techniques used to film the bears. This extra also ends with 2 minutes of further polar bear footage; I wouldn't be surprised if there was a mistake and this clip is meant to be part of the deleted and extended scenes.