“They have assembled here from the four corners of the earth. Fifty-five warships, among them the newest and most sophisticated ever produced. The United States is here. Great Britain, India, Japan, Canada, Australia, Germany. Twenty-six nations together; each will introduce the latest in naval technology in their arsenals.”
And this is actually the true subject and focus of the latest IMAX/4K release from Shout Factory. If you came strictly to spend 45 minutes on an aircraft carrier, you went away a little disappointed. But now that you can have it at home to watch in UHD whenever the mood strikes you, there’s less to be disappointed in here.
Let’s start with my expectations. I was expecting to be taken on a rather extensive tour of one or more of the nuclear aircraft carriers that roam the oceans protecting the United States. And there is some of that. We get a very close look at many of the jobs that make up the over 5,000 members of an aircraft carrier’s crew. These are specialists who wear distinctive color shirts that identify their role in the ship’s operation. It will remind you of a certain starship where color indicated your duties. In this case, I’m happy to report there doesn’t appear to be any ominous fate associated with wearing a red shirt. But there is danger here. These crew members work with sophisticated equipment and deal with incredibly hazardous duties even in peacetime.
There are also some surprising views of command centers, and, of course, the flight deck. I would have expected the displays on the fighter jets to be classified, but we get a wonderful pilot’s view of launching and landing on these carriers. And that’s where the film impresses the most. They go into incredible detail as we see how these jets are catapulted from the ship, reaching 120 mph in just three seconds. Then we are treated to the most dangerous aspect of the operations as the fighters land in a short space by grabbing a line with their tail-hook that counters their mass and speed against a hydraulic system that reaches incredible pressures. Apparently this is also one of the more euphoric moments for the pilots. Is it too late to change careers?
There are computer animations that break the ship into pieces so that some of these more interesting procedures can be more fully explained.
But this is only a small part of the film, which often takes us away from the promised ships and details this huge war-games operation where nations get to show off their stuff and compete against each other in thousands of square miles of open ocean. The even is called the Pacific Rim International Fleet, and it is the only way to really see these people and their technology in action without being at war.
During these operations, we spend a lot of time looking at some of the other kinds of ships, and there’s a considerable amount of time spent on the latest submarines. As much as I found that stuff just as compelling, the short 45-minute running time of a typical IMAX presentation doesn’t allow you to stray too much without losing your focus. This one should have gotten a more general title that informed us about its main focus.
The film also does a good job of delivering a great deal of history of naval warfare. There are paintings to demonstrate the early days of naval encounters. There’s also some impressive footage from both world wars to bring the message home of just how much technology has changed. It’s an important message to understand that these technologies don’t just make fighting a war more efficient and decisive. They also make the fact of war so much less a real possibility. Watch it, and you really will understand how that all works.
Once again I commend Shout Factory for being the pioneers of bringing these IMAX films into the 4K environment where they are permitted to flourish in home video in a way they just could not a mere handful of years ago.
Aircraft Carrier is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This is not the original IMAX aspect, but it doesn’t show any real signs of distortion here. The ultra-high-definition 2160p image is arrived at by an HEVC codec with an impressive average bitrate of over 80 mbps. The best stuff comes out in the open water. The detail and color of the water are amazing. As these giant ships go by, you can appreciate the wonderful shades from deep water to froth to dissolving wakes. Detail allows you to strap in with these pilots for what was, for me, the best part of the film. The readouts are particularly bright and clear when you really are strapped in with the pilots. Colors also pop in the many nations’ flags that appear on these varied ships. Black levels are crisp but not often in play.
The Atmos track defaults to a pretty tame 7.1 mix. This is a documentary, and the purpose of the audio presentation is to bring you a clean and crystal-clear sound. This feature does just that. There’s a somewhat patriotic score that leans heavy on the horns and gives you some of that atmosphere without interfering. Surrounds work best picking up the bustle of the large crew and the sounds of the sea. The subs come to life as these powerful jets go full-throttle to launch from these abbreviated decks.
The only extras are the various promos and trailers used in the theaters to promote the film.
During these operations we spend a lot of time looking at some of the other kinds of ships, and there’s a considerable amount of time spent on the latest submarines. As much as I found that stuff just as compelling, the short 45-minute running time of a typical IMAX presentation doesn’t allow you to stray too much without losing your focus. This one should have gotten a more general title that informed us about its main focus. I would rather have gotten three films. One on the aircraft carrier. One on the subs. And one on the Pacific Rim event. Taken all together both in its subject matter and IMAX cameras, it represents “a model of modern engineering”.