Oceans review by Jackass Tom

I didn’t expect to find myself gushing about DisneyNature’s Oceans but that’s just what I feel like doing. Really I was expecting to see 80 minutes of a Nova episode or at least an update on The Underea World of Jacques Cousteau. And frankly I was expecting to say, “that’s ok” and be done with it. I’m not one of those people that seeks out the Discovery Channel, or at least shows that they used to show on Discovery. Nature docs aren’t really my style. But what I go with Oceans was sea porn. That’s not to say that Oceans is full of whales humping, but rather its non-stop and an overwhelming, bluish tinted feast for the eyes.

A lot of my amazement has to do with the way it was shot and edited. Most of what you see in previous sea docs is watching beauty unfold under a long take. Possibly with an explanation about the species and how it lives. And yet some docs waste plenty of unnecessary time on the journey and the man who is heading an expedition. There is narration in the film, given by the soft British tones of Pierce Brosnan, but it lends more to poetry than to receiving information about what’s being seen. This film is not concerned so much about the science of the ocean, but about its artistic and dramatic expressions. One of the ways the filmmakers pulled this off was by editing more like a feature film than a standard documentary. The film crew must have used 2-4 cameras at once (nice to have in your budget). This allowed sharper cuts in the editing to take place in certain scenes for a more action-film like effect. In some scenes there are shots from a boat, a helicopter and below the water (for example during a scene where seagulls dive into the water to feed on sardines). In another moment there are two armies of crabs preparing for war. The whole scene looks and feels like a moment in a film like Return of the King where two armies draw closer and closer until at last they come together in a violent collision. The scene ends with a sweep over the warring crabs to reveal the great numbers of both armies as they are piled on each other as far as the eye can see. Shots are taken in this film, not so much for their scientific merit but for their beauty and storytelling.

The other great difference is the crisp, cleanness of the video. The blues hues of the sea seem surreal. The fish are not only more colorful, but at times it feels like they are carrying the camera on their backs. There were moments during the film that I swore up and down that certain striped snake-like creatures were created less by Mother Nature and more by CGI. Others were suspect as well. Time will tell how much (if any) computer assistance was used in the computer lab to get the proper results, but either way it’s pretty spectacular.

Anti-environmentalist conservatives will probably be turned off by this film, however. There is a message that runs throughout about man’s responsibility for the ocean and how our industrial habits have laid it to waste. This is underscored towards the end by showing melting ice caps and a sea manatee (or some large sea creature) pushing a shopping cart around the bottom of the ocean with its nose amongst piles of murky garbage. If you find yourself to be Anti-Al Gore and all that he brings to the table be warned. Otherwise, enjoy the film along with a kind message.

8 out of 10 Jackasses
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