Sometime after 1990 when Blue Planet was released, I remember really wanting to see it. Unfortunately I was young and with time my interest in the worlds around our own dwindled. Recently with the advancements in technology my interest in space has sparked up again, making for just the right time for Blue Planet to land in my hands. After nearly 20 years Iâ€™ll be able to set my eyes on this for the first time, and in hi-definition. Then of course thereâ€™s the additional documentary The Dream Is Alive of which Iâ€™ve never previously heard of. The footage on this one is over 20 years old, so my expectations arenâ€™t extremely high.
Blue Planet is an interesting documentary and I can imagine it was quite a bit more ground breaking upon its 1990 release. The film is a cumulative collection of all things Earth, from space, from the ground, and form the ocean floor. There is some amazing footage; more specifically is the footage from the U.S Space Station in orbit. From here we learn about the creation of Earth, the constant changes Earth undergoes and mankindâ€™s role in it. Although in the end I was left wanting more, I was still pleasantly surprised with the images I got to see.
The Dream Is Alive is as close to being an astronaut that most of us will see. The sensations are nicely captured as the shuttle crews themselves capture most of the footage shown throughout the documentary. The film itself covers quite a wide variety of aspects involved in space travel, starting with astronaut training, shuttle assembly, shuttle launches, footage from space, and shuttle recovery. This film is highly educational and factual, but at times I was left bored with the almost redundant information. But what I found most interesting about this film was the high expectations of space travel in the near future; keep in mind this was released previous to the Challenger explosion. It seems that since then some of this enthusiasm has not been fully recovered.
Ultimately these were two interesting documentaries, nothing spectacular or ground breaking but nonetheless entertaining and informative. The commentary isnâ€™t what I liked about this film, it was simply just the images and the realization of what a beautiful and fragile world we all live in.
Note: Both the Blu-ray and HD DVD versions look identical.
Presented in 1080p 1.78:1 aspect ratio and encoded in VC-1, Blue Planet comes to HD DVD with some stunning results, especially when considering the harsh filming conditions. The incredible detail of earth from miles above is absolutely amazing. Shots of the shuttle in space are equally detailed and truly look impressive, especially when considering that this was shot in space. Ground footage such as the African village is full of color, each looking sharp and vibrant. Other ground shots of animal life look almost as impressive, but the detail is significantly less when compared to shots in Planet Earth; of course this is due to the age difference between the two.
Some white and black speckling is present on the print but it never becomes distracting. There are also a few SD looking shots intertwined with the sharp print. These consist of archive space shuttle and hurricane shots which do stick out when compared to the otherwise detailed picture.
The Dream is Alive is not as impressive but still offers a few pieces of eye candy. The opening shots of the shuttle landing in Florida look breathtaking, with the orange background looking vibrant and the shuttle itself looking extremely detailed. The actual shuttle take off is equally impressive, boasting some incredible orange flames against the pitch black sky. Interior shots of the shuttle can look a bit soft but overall these shots are just pleasant to watch.
Warner has equipped both documentaries with an impressive pair of tracks, a 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus and TrueHD. The narration by Toni Myers although not as engaging as David Attenborough, still sounds clear and crisp doing a more than a good enough job getting the information across. A couple of brief shots in Africa show an elephant pulling down branches, the ripping of the branches are clearly heard through all channels. A brief look on impact craters offers a huge boost in base while the underwater portion offers interesting submerged sounds coming through the speakers. Music and dialogue mixes well here, with no balancing issues between them.
Although lacking in visual quality, the CGI scene that takes us over the San Andres fault sounds great. The plane like fly over emits loud bass and strong deep sound from the front and rear channels. Blue Planet definitely surprised me with the amount of great sounding effects emitted from every channel.
The Dream is Alive features Walter Cronkite as narrator and he does a good job getting the point across. The sound of the shuttle taking off literally rumbled my living room with tremendous amounts of bass and crisp sound from the rear channels. Although this track is slightly more front heavy, it still offers quite a few pleasant sounding pieces.
The HD DVD release features the Dolby Digital Plus track rather than the plain old Dolby Digital found on the Blu-ray release. Both sound identical and pale in comparison to the superior TrueHD track which is found on both versions.
Unfortunately neither film has any special features. It would have been nice to have gotten some behind the scenes footage on the filming techniques etc.
Although dated, Blue Planet provides some very interesting and awe-inspiring images. Easily the more entertaining of the two documentaries was Blue Planet, and I feel both should have been longer. But regardless this disc looks and sounds excellent, so if you are a fan of these IMAX documentaries I suggest you check out this disc. That is unless of course you put a large amount of purchase power into special features, in which case you might want to think twice about buying this one as there are no features.