Oceans (2010)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Pierce Brosnan
Extras: Annotations, Featurettes, Living Menu

While most people might have forgotten about it, Disney actually does have a long history in nature documentaries. I remember as a child, watching "The Legend of Lobo," "King Grizzlies" and other films in the vein that made documentary content interesting for kids by telling the stories of individual animals that we could relate to. A lot has changed, of course, since those 60s documentary films, and today we have Disney's latest offering on the desk, "Oceans," a high definition look into the world of water surrounding us.

I'm an ocean-nut, plain and simple, and I've seen so many documentaries on the subject that usually I do not expect to be wowed anymore, especially after "Planet Earth." To my big surprise, "Oceans" made me drop my jaw in short order over and over again. As it takes you into the watery world of our planet I was mesmerized by the footage. The most fascinating thing for me was that in this film I got to see live footage of animals I had never seen live in their environment before – only on photographs, illustrations or maybe the zoo.

It is an entirely different experience, however, to see a family of Narwhales appear from under the ice of the Arctic and swim into the open water just under the surface, with the camera catching every one of these glorious seconds in high definition. As I said, I've seen Narwhales before, but never like this!

The same is true for some of the incredible Humpback whale footage. There is one scene in the film where, for the first time ever, I have seen an Humpback whale in its entirety swimming close to the bottom of the sea. Sure, we've all seen close-ups of various parts of the whale, or murky shots where half the animal disappears in the gloom because of its sheer size. Here, by comparison, we have a crystal clear shot of the whale swimming by itself over the sandy bottom without disturbing a single grain of sand. The majestic elegance and beauty of it is simply staggering.

And the list goes on like this. There are so many incredible visuals and seascape vistas in this release that it makes your heart jump, I promise.

At the same time, this film has a message. Told very loosely through the eyes of a young boy – who really serves only as the bookends at the beginning on and ending of the film – the film also show how hideously we have abused the oceans during the past 50+ years. There are shots of the pollution into the sea from major streams in the US, alongside with shots of enormous floats of garbage in the middle of the ocean, as well as the results of not only overfishing but the wrong kind of fishing that kills countless unwanted species as a byproduct. None of that is acceptable, and yet, the film remains very restrained, making the point without raising its moralistic finger constantly. The result is a clash of beauty and human ugliness that is striking, unsettling and thought-provoking.

The 1080p high definition transfer of the movie presented on this disc is something to marvel at. As I said I have not seen footage like some of this before ever. Rich in color with deep shadows and an incredible level of detail, the transfer is stellar and pristine. Despite the countless subtle shades and hues of blue in the ocean, there is not a hint of banding to be seen anywhere. The image is rendered with such clarity and amazing color and image definition that it is hard to put into words the fascination I felt while watching the film.

Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, the film features a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track that also features some remarkable music. Oftentimes Brosnan says nothing and lets the images do the talking – deservedly so – while the music sets the proper mood for what we are witnessing. Beautiful, haunting and perfectly reproduced on this disc, the audio is every bit as important to this film as are the images.

This release features a number of bonus materials as well as the DVD version of the release on a second disc. Annotations and Living Menus make up the Blu-Ray features ,while a series of featurettes and bonus videos bring up the rear on the accompanying DVD disc.

"Oceans" had me absolutely floored. I honestly thought "Planet Earth" could not be topped, and here I am with a big fat smile on my face, fascinated by the most beautiful nature documentary I have ever seen. It might not have as much scientific depth as some other documentaries but it is impossible to escape the magnetic beauty of the ocean in this release.