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Wild Pacific

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 27-09-2010

5

Description
This landmark series explores the sheer scale and majesty of the largest ocean on Earth, the isolation of its islands, the extraordinary journeys wildlife and humans have gone through to reach these specks of land, and what happened to both after their arrival. Unimaginably vast, the Pacific is 99% water and only 1% land – you could fit the whole of the world’s landmasses into it and still have enough room for another Africa! The distance between these islands can be huge -… More >>

Wild Pacific

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Comments (5)

For the hi-def nature lover, this is another gem from the BBC, but not an unblemished gem. It has its fair share of problems both structurally and technically. Here you’ll get 6 episodes divided onto two 50 GB discs, with a total runtime of 353 minutes. That’s nearly 6 hours of footage, so you’ll definitely get your fill of naturey goodness. It’s 1080i here, not 1080p. From 6 feet away, it’s not a problem, but randomly sampling a scene from 3 feet away, I did notice noise in darker areas and judder in fast-moving scenes like pans of palm leaves and waves.

To sum up the series, it shows some of the very amazing and unusual birds, insects, fish, and mammals of some of the 20,000 islands dotting the Pacific. But it also shows a heck of a lot of people. Despite the title being “Wild Pacific”, humans are in every episode. I found out when I popped in the disc that the original (and more accurate) UK title is “South Pacific”, and I was definitely misled by the name change for the US market. With every episode, the story keeps going back to one of the traditional societies of the islands, lost colonists/sailors, or modern people.

There’s still a lot of informative and entertaining footage, including rare glimpses of animals, impossibly close shots, and more of that signature stunning photography that we’ve come to expect from the BBC. I particularly liked the cloud fly-throughs and beautiful aerial shots of atolls, pristine aquamarine lagoons, and islands that are scattered throughout the segments (on “Ocean of Volcanoes”). There’s also some lush underwater photography (corals, lava, and fish). These I enjoyed the most. But it’s not all animal eye candy and idyllic seas, tranquil islands, and forests. A strong, somber, and perhaps heavy-handed theme of seriousness runs through half of the episodes. “Strange Islands”, “Fragile Paradise” for example (both on Disc 2), deal with the effects of humans on the seas and land, including environmental destruction, wild-life decimation by human-introduced species like goats and cats, extinction, shark-finning, and over-fishing.

What I found to be most problematic however, is the narrative flow of the individual episodes. It jumps around all over the place, from land to sea to bug to bird to fish to another island to people, sometimes even within the space of 10 minutes. This kind of editing is disorienting, aimless, and meandering, like a ship adrift at sea, an image that the series keeps returning to. Instead of one full episode on focused on say, “Birds”, one on “Fish”, one on “Lizards and Insects”, and one on “People”, its divided into a confusing set of titles and aimless segments called simply “Oceans of Islands”, “Castaways”, and “Endless Blue” (Disc 1) and the episodes listed above. “Wild Pacific” sacrifice quality and depth for quantity. It doesn’t stay focused on many of the more exotic animals for very long and some of the shots are only cursory and superficial, lasting a mere second or two. For example, I wanted to know more about the caterpillar with the scorpion tail, the smiley face spider, or the bizarre translucent creatures of the deep ocean (entire segment is only 1.5 minutes). The animals that you’ve seen plenty of times in other nature shows, you’ll see them a lot here too (albatrosses, sharks, dolphins, whales, sea turtles). Meanwhile, the yellow sea slug and pygmy seahorse aren’t even named as the shots cut away.

Another complaint is the narration itself. Being used to hearing Sir David Attenborough’s warm and affable voice on so many BBC documentaries (like the superb Planet Earth Series [Blu-ray], The BBC Natural History Collection featuring Planet Earth (Planet Earth/ The Blue Planet: Seas of Life Special Edition/ Life of Mammals/ Life of Birds), and Nature’s Most Amazing Events, I found Benedict Cumberbatch dry, disengaging, and mostly monotonous. He has a baritone timbre similar to George Page of Nature fame but none of the charm as a storyteller. Whereas you can hear the genuine love, liveliness, and enthusiasm in Attenborough’s voice, Cumberbatch sounds like he is reading directly from the script. His cadence and pitch rarely changes.

Lastly is the BAD menu design. The white text turns to yellow when selected, making it very hard to see. None of the chapters are labeled with any description. The only subtitle is English, and finally, the six 10-minute making-of segments sandwiched between the episodes are only mildly interesting. I recognized one segment taken in whole from Galapagos [Blu-ray], only with new narration added.

I give this a reluctant 4 for its problems. Still worth watching and owning if you like documentaries, but be aware of the issues I’ve outline.
Rating: 4 / 5

Wild Pacific is another excellent BBC documentary. This 2-disc set features six episodes. Wild Pacific covers the remote islands in the Pacific Ocean, the wildlife on the islands, the formation of the islands, the sea life, and the problems man has created. The video quality on the Blu-Ray is very good. The sound quality is disappointing. I don’t understand why a new documentary would have a Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix. I had to take a star off for the sound. Overall, if you like the other BBC documentaries such as Planet Earth and Galapagos, you will definitely like this release.

*UPDATE*

As the other reviewer noted about the sound, this Blu-Ray is indeed DTS-MA 5.1. I was watching the documentary in 2.0 since my receiver was defaulting to stereo sound. I watched an episode in the DTS 5.1 track and this by far, is the best sounding BBC documentary on Blu-Ray. The packaging is mislabeled as stereo sound.
Rating: 4 / 5

Another awesome BBC nature doc. The film explores not only the animals of the pacific but also the people of the many islands. I want to make a few things clear:

1. The video quality is very impressive (like all BBC docs), but it’s 1080i (like all BBC Docs) not 1080p.

2. I know the previous reviewer said stereo only but the audio is a 5.1 DTS track. For some reason the box says 2.0, but it’s full 5.1 surround.
Rating: 4 / 5

DISCLAIMER: Before anyone get’s their feathers ruffled, I don’t mean to bash the BBC, English accented narrators, etc. I just want to inform potential buyers that the version they buy will be very different from the Discovery Channel version.

Like most Americans who will be ordering this from this site, I initially saw this on the Discovery Channel, and it is truly awesome. The Discovery Channel version is narrated by Mike Rowe, who has an incredible voice, and does a fantastic job. No wonder Discovery Channel uses him as much as they do.

Before purchasing this, I saw the credits to Benedict Cumberbatch, and wondered if this DVD (Blu-Ray) would be like Planet Earth and have the BBC version. (For Planet Earth, I actually preferred the BBC/Attenborough version over the Discovery Channel/Sigourney Weaver version, although both are good.)

Inevitably, no review showed up to clarify which version it was, so I ordered a copy on Blu-Ray so I could free up some space on my DVR. Unfortunately, it is the BBC version, and I find Cumberbatch’s narration to be extremely sub-par. I’ve done some narration work, so I may be hyper-critical, but the difference between Rowe and Cumberbatch is so huge, I don’t think I’ll ever watch the Blu-Ray version. So much for freeing up space on my DVR…

The writing is nearly identical, and English vs. American accent is rarely an issue for me. But Cumberbatch’s voice tone and odd inflections seem so inferior, I can’t believe the BBC didn’t select someone else (they have so many good narrators…) for this series, which excels in every other aspect.

Obviously, the Discovery Channel execs realized their American audience needed a change, and selected Mike Rowe. Thanks for a great job Mike, I wouldn’t have watched the whole thing in the first place otherwise.

ALSO: The episode titles and chapter titles are different than those listed on the Discovery Channel On-Air broadcasts.

In any case, the scene with the dolphins off the coast of New Zealand is worth the price of the set, it’s an amazing series.

Rating: 4 / 5

This review is for most everyone else out there. I’m NOT a videofile so sifting through the barely discernable minutia of digital high def technical mertis and / or pitfalls is not my forte. The disc looked great on my plasma from start to finish, even the underwater footage. And Speaking of footage, there were many UNMATCHED camera shots here, even comapred to BBC’s magnum opus, Planet Earth. I found the narration fine. As far as editing, the chapter selection needed some re-organization but as far as complaining about how long shots were held on someone’s personal wish list? come on. Let’s face it, after Planet Earth, it’s hard for any nature program not to seem redundant, yet you don’t feel that here. The human element as described clearly leaves the viewer with a new appreciation in some areas and a return to reality in others. So no – it’s not all about critters, it’s a better over view on ALL the elements influencing this previously poorly understood area of the planet.
Rating: 5 / 5

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