Sunday, March 15, 2009

Blu Ray Review: Winged Migration (2003)

Winged Migration
90 minutes
Rated G
Available on Blu Ray from Sony Pictures on April 7th

by Scott Mendelson

Winged Migration is basically 90 minutes of birds flying from left to right, and then from right to left. I simplify a touch of course, but this exhaustive nature documentary is a travelogue of sorts, as we watch countless species of birds fly all over the world, in a journey spanning forty countries. There is almost no narration, and certainly no spoken word of note, it is simply what it is - birds flying all around the world.

But, to be fair, this is a visually stunning and genuinely watchable travelogue. Unlike March Of The Penguins, which anthropomorphosized its penguin stars and attributed human emotions and thoughts to what was likely instinctual behavior, Winged Migration simply lets the images speak for themselves. While there was certainly a token amount of manipulation behind the scenes (a scene of a goose getting stuck in industrial sludge was staged by the producers, with the bird being freed after shooting), the vast quantity of gorgeous vistas and educational glances at avian behavior makes this worth watching at least once for the imagery. But, again, be forewarned, it's basically just birds flying from point A to point B.

The Blu Ray -

The Video - Needless to say, the image quality on this one is stunning, and arguably the main reason to buy this film in its high-def incarnation. The print is relatively clean and sparkling, and there are moments that look frighteningly three-dimensional (23:44 is worth sampling, and go to around 56:20 for a stunningly 3D shot of birds flying past a castle). The film is a visual wonder, and this disc is too.

The Audio - The 'True HD 5.1' option is offered in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Since I have but a mere 2.0 DLP television, I can only state that this nearly dialogue-free film has crisp audio and the many sounds of nature are always crystal clear. The subtitle options are English, English SDH (which has that annoying Sony habit of actually looking like closed captioning, black box and all), Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, and Swedish. Frankly, that's a bit exhaustive for a film with hardly any dialogue.

The Extras - With the exception of two trailers (for Open Season 2 and Surf's Up), all of the extras are unfortunately still in standard definition. But they are copious in quantity. There is filmmaker commentary for both the feature and the 13-minutes of still photographs. There are about 25 minutes of filmmaker interviews and a 17-minute featurette on the music. The big extra is an exhaustive 52-minute making of documentary. There are no amazing revelations, but this is solid material that is a boon for fans of the film. All of the bonus materials have English, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.

The Film - B+
The Image - A
The Audio - NA
The Subtitles - A
The Extras - B+

With occasionally stunning imagery, and the picture quality that it deserves, this is a worthwhile peak at nature and an engaging documentary. The copious extras enhance the replay value and the Blu Ray makes a terrific must-own release for fans of this Oscar-nominated documentary.

1 comment:

Kyle Leaman said...

Scott, when I watched this a year or so ago, I remember feeling like without substantive narration (or even titles for the names of birds and locations if I remember correctly)this was a flop of a film. I felt it was beautiful, but I didn't find it interesting at all. I guess its really just a niche film, but it felt like a screensaver, not a film. What I wouldn't have given for a little Werner Herzog commentary on this film!


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