Wonders of the Arctic: IMAX
Shout Factory // Unrated // $39.93 // September 13, 2016
Review by John Sinnott | posted September 11, 2016
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The Movie:

Shout! Factory continues to release some gorgeous looking 4K discs, and their latest release, Wonders of the Arctic, is no exception. Originally intended for IMAX theaters, this nature documentary takes viewers to the frozen north to the land of Inuit Indians, polar bears, whales, and lots and lots of snow.

This documentary looks at a few different aspect of life north of the Arctic Circle, an area where the warm (relatively speaking) weather last weeks rather than months and where the seas ice over every winter. They start with a research scientist who is studying the effects of global warming on the area and who is teaming up with natives to learn the way they 'read' the snow. One of the locals, an aged elder who was born in a seal skin tent, can tell where open water is up to 60 miles away by looking for light from the sea reflected in the clouds.

They also talk to scientists who are studying whales. These dedicated researchers take blubber samples from the giant beasts by zipping up to them in very small motor boats when they surface for air and shooting them with special crossbow bolts. It looks dangerous and very cold.  The filmmakers take viewers beneath the wave too with amazing footage of large, blind sharks that inhabit the frigid water under the ice as well as the unusual narwhal that has a single long horn (actually an elongated tooth) sticking from its head.


Of course no Arctic documentary would be complete without a mention of polar bears, and this one has its share of the furry beasts. They interview a safety officer who is in charge of making sure the bears don't enter into town. He has quite a job, and they illustrate how they tranquilize and relocate bears who wander in looking for a meal. There's also a cute scene of Halloween in a local city, where the only rule is no polar bear costumes.

With just the right amount of narration by Victor Garber (DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Alias) to let viewers know what they're seeing and putting the visuals into context without disrupting the amazing images that are playing out on the screen. And that's the main attraction to this documentary: a beautiful, Ultra High Definition look at the beautiful frozen places of our planet. The visuals are stunning and engrossing and that's the reason you should pick up a copy of this set.

The Blu-ray:

Shout! Factory has done a great job with this combo set, it has all: 4K, 3D Blu-ray, and Blu-ray on two discs (the 3D and 2D versions of the film share the same disc).


The 1.78:1 image is quite impressive across all three formats. It's not surprising that the 4K disc looks the best, but an added bonus is that Shout allows viewers the option of either HDR or SDR while watching the UDH disc. This is great for early adopters of 4K sets, as some of those do not have HDR capabilities. The 4K disc was quite impressive, with an astonishing amount of detail and exceptional colors. The whites (and there is a lot of white) are never crushed and the wispy snow blowing across an ice-covered sea is clean and sharp. The only area that is lacking a bit is the underwater scenes beneath the ice. Those shot are darker and there is a bit of banding, but it's a result of the lack of light more than a problem with the sorce material. Over all this is a very nice looking set.


This documentary arrives with a Dolby Atmos (core Dolby TrueHD 7.1) soundtrack. Given the nature of the movie, the mix is not a dynamic in-your-face, window-rattling, blast of sound. It's a more laid back track, with mainly dialog coming from the front and some nicely placed, quite sound effects that emerge from the rest of the room. This is an appropriate soundtrack, as anything more would overwhelm the visuals and distract from the movie itself.


There isn't much in the way of extras here. There is a short corporate video from Fednac, a shipping company that has ships that travel in the arctic, but that's about it aside from trailers for other 4K IMAX films that Shout! has released.

Final Thoughts:

Filled with awe-inspiring visuals and some interesting stories, this is another great UHD release from Shout! Factory. An enjoyable look at the wilderness up north, and the people and animals who call it home, this documentary is well worth seeking out. Recommended.

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