Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
The cover is a nice, cartoon type shot that includes all of the documentary’s main characters. It is cute, in a soda selling kind of way, but for this type of film, it is great. My only complaint is that it makes it appear that the polar bears and the walruses are downright friendly with each other, and this is definitely not the case in the film.
The menus are dynamic on the HD DVD, and really are fun also. I guess both the cover and the menus give off the sense that this is a fun journey, and so they really work.
The HD DVD doesn’t some with mountains of extras, but what is included is really amazing. First up is The Making of Arctic Tale, which is a short on the actual process of putting together this mammoth project. It is absolutely mesmerizing to see the work behind the camera that you completely disregard while being immersed in Arctic Tale. The film was made by Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson, who are married. The couple is also responsible for another amazing documentary, March of the Penguins. In the Making of, you get a glimpse at the work that went into this documentary. The film was shot over 15 years, and the conditions mixed with the hard work that went into this is just mind boggling. I truly was blown away by the effort and passion that these two had for the project.
Also included as an extra is short featurette Polar Bear Spotting, that is a 6 minute documentary from the “Are We There Yet” television series. The short is told from the perspective of two children, and is a nice short addition for the kids.
Finally, there is a High Definition trailer of Arctic Tale. Like I said, not much in the way of extras, but the Making of short is brilliant.
It is hard to not compare this documentary to March of the Penguins, due to the fact that they are so similar, and are made by the same people. The film starts off by tracking the progress of Nanu, who is initially shown emerging from her mothers den with her brother. The story follows the trials and tribulations of Nanu as she learns the ropes in the freezing arctic. It is amazing to see the progression from cub to full grown adult, with all the issues that it includes. The documentary shows the struggles of learning to survive in the frozen tundra, as the effects of global warming create change in the world of snow and ice. Learning to hunt is part of the battle to survive, and when the ice shrinks and melts quicker than ever before, it stretches the polar bears to adapt or die. The struggle is real and often times sad, which for some younger kids may be an issue. The truth of the matter is that this is nature, and it’s not always pretty.
Along with the story line of Nanu, the film also looks at the progression of Seela, a walrus pup who is also struggling to learn the ropes and survive. The filmmakers get amazingly close shots of Seela and Seela’s extended family as the herd attempt to protect and teach Seela to survive. As with the Nanu story, Seela’s epic struggle is amazing to watch. The filmmakers do a great job of really weaving a story from the footage that they were able to procure.
The narration is done by Queen Latifah, and while she was great, parts of the narration just seemed forced. I often times was drawn out of the story by the narration, which was a bit annoying. The filmmakers also seemed to border on silly for some parts of the documentary, including a prolonged farting sequence with the walruses, which was not only goofy, but it went of for too long. Overall the story, mixed with the amazing footage from the frozen wasteland was great fun to watch, and it makes for a great family show, even with some of the more “real” elements of the documentary. I highly enjoyed Arctic Tale.
Video & Audio: 8/10
The video of Arctic Tale on HD DVD was amazing, but it was obvious that the filmmakers were working with a range of equipment, under a constantly changing backdrop. There are many shots that truly show off the brilliance of the high definition footage that was taken, but there were obviously limits to what could be accomplished. As an example, there are many shots where the subjects were just too far away to get a crisp shot, and this created many scenes that were less than vivid, even in HD. This is a documentary however, and not every shot can be up close and personal, especially when your subject can literally have their way with you. Also, the lighting was so different over the course of filming that there is a dramatic range of blacks that are presented. It is expected, due to the conditions, but it was noticeable. The underwater photography was also varied, but it was brilliant, and overall Arctic Tale really was wonderfully presented in high definition.
The audio also was quite good. The levels were really even, and while this wasn’t a blockbuster film that really used my surround sound or subwoofer, it was really well done.
Well, $30 for another HD DVD. Don’t get me started on the fact that HD DVD looks to be (regrettably) losing the high definition format war. $30 is just too much for a film. I liked Arctic Tale a lot, and I would highly recommend it for viewing, but let’s just say that I wouldn’t recommend anyone running out to get this (or anything in HD DVD for that matter now) for $30.
Overall Score 7/10