The interactive exhibits at nature museums are always interesting and fun when done right. You can take in the terrifying, majesty of dinosaur bones that have been assembled. There’s an artsy joy to an exhibit featuring fine taxidermy work with the stuffed animal in a recreated habitat. The best way to cap off a visit to the museum is enjoying a nature documentary in high resolution IMAX with a touch of 3-D that brings the images even closer to your eyeballs. The movie takes you to where the wildlife roam. This is extremely helpful when the subjects of the documentary reside in places way off the museum grounds. Wonders of the Arctic and The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea transport viewers onto the frozen tundra and into underwater tropics. These are two places that your museum would prefer you enjoy without a chance of getting cold and wet.
Wonders of the Arctic quickly lets you know how harsh life can be in the winter months near the North Pole. However things to lighten up when the sun returns to the Arctic circle. There’s a rush at getting to see dozens of dogs pull a sled across the ice. A scientist demonstrates how she and her crew monitor the size of the ice shelf above the water. What is discussed is how the ice has thinned out compared to decade’s past. An old Inuit hunter talks about how Winter is now a month shorter than when he was in his prime. There is a visit under the thinning ice to see the creatures blow in the chilling water. There’s a shark with coarse features that looks like it’s been whittled. They capture on film the exotic narwhal with its horn that’s really a tooth. Dozens of beluga whales swim together looking so blindly white on the screen. There’s an intense scene when researchers have to use crossbows on whales to get biopsy results from whales in the area. A little comical relief arrives with the “penguins of the north” which also have issues flapping their wings and taking flight. As summer continues, polar bears get hungry waiting for the ice to return. Looking for a treat, they head into a town in Manitoba to enjoy Halloween. This situation forces the town to make a major rule about forbidding certain costumes. There’s even coverage of a polar bear being given a lift to the wilderness.
The Last Reef, Cities Beneath the Sea reminds us of how coral reefs are a community and not merely the basis of Jimmy Buffet’s backup ban. These massive structures are the cities for aquatic life around islands and coastlines. Besides showing off the various coral patterns, the life around the reef is explored. The slugs of the sea segment is quite colorful and ought to inspire parade floats or how to paint municipal buses. Fans of Finding Nemo will appreciate the segment on clown fish. The symbiotic relationship between the fish and it’s poisonous home gets explained. There’s amazing footage of the manta rays that soar above the coral and get cleaned up by the little fishes down below. There’s talk of how the sharks contribute to the coral’s circle of life. Finally there’s a segment on human statues being used to assist the coral reef in finding hard surfaces for growth.
Both films are tied together by pointing out how Climate Change has affected the ability for the animals, ice and coral to exist like they have in the past. The ice is getting thinner and retreating from its normal boundaries. There’s fear that in the future, the North Pole will just be a spot on the Arctic Ocean and not covered in ice. Climate Change has raised the acidity of the water near various coral refs causing life to perish. There is an optimistic feel that nature should overcome since the coral reef returned to the Bikini Atoll after the nuclear bomb testing. Although that did take a few decades.
Both films can be found in a variety of formats including 4KUHD, Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD. Blu-ray 3D gives you the big effect you’d experience at your local science museum.
The video is 1.78:1 anamoprhic. Both films look gorgeous on an 1080p HDTV. The Last Reef shines a bit more thanks to the colors of the aquatic life. The audio for both films is English Dolby ATMOS. There’s not too much atmospheric mix of the wilds of the frozen and underwater kingdoms. There’s a French Dolby Digital 5.1. Both movies have English subtitles.
Bonus feature on Wonders of the Arctic: Fednav corporate video (2:27) is an ad for a large cargo ship film. They service the Arctic in case you need to get a package to a polar bear friend. They sponsored Wonders of the Arctic.
Bonus features on The Last Reef: Behind the Scenes is seven featurettes that cover filming in the various locations, the editors, the score and the future of the sea.
Picture Gallery (2:25) are still pic of the aquatic life and locations.
Trailers for the entire IMAX series from Shout! Factory are featured on both Blu-rays.
Shout! Factory presents Wonders of the Arctic. Directed by: David Lickley. Starring: Victor Garber. Running Time: 42 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Released: September 13, 2016.
Shout! Factory presents The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea. Directed by: Luke Cresswell. Starring: Jamie Lee. Running Time: 40 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Released: September 13, 2016.
Joe Corey is the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.