Originally Posted by Frank714
I’ll have to admit that I would have probably overlooked this spectacular film had it not been mixed in Dolby Atmos. Apparently a public success in Japanese theaters (titled Nature there), the scarcity of reviews for Enchanted Kingdom made me wonder. I presume that there have been so many edutainment programs about the wildlife of Africa, that the general approach may have been “Still another wildlife program about Africa, yawn?!” (at least that was my first reaction).
Having finally watched the whole film, I’m excited to report that such suspicions are widely unwarranted. What this program features is definitely beyond your average IMAX nature documentary, apparently and positively inspired by Ron Fricke’s cinematographic accomplishments Baraka and Samsara, and obviously in the tradition of Walt Disney’s “True-Life Adventures” but in its presentation a second or even third generation “true-life adventure”, palatable to modern audiences, visually impressive, entertaining and educating at the same time.
The origins are interesting, instead of only producing for international TV distribution, BBC EARTH made the push for the big screen, first with Walking With Dinosaurs – The Film (muddled by suits at 20th Century Fox who insisted on talking dinosaurs and other changes, but fortunately the dialogue-free “Cretaceous Cut” on the US and UK 3D Blu-ray preserves the filmmakers’ far superior original intention), next with Enchanted Kingdom.
The film transports audiences from the the streets of London to the most exotic and impressive places in Africa or near its borders: from tropical rainforests to an erupting volcano and the Serengeti, from lakes to wild rivers and waterfalls, from the depth of the oceans to the highest African mountain.
Using ingenious camera techniques, ambitious time-lapse photography (if one wouldn’t know it’s real one might suspect CGI), 3D filming in 4K resolution and Dolby Atmos surround sound, this film creates an unparalleled “being there” experience which entitles it to be henceforth considered as the proverbial “mother” of nature documentaries, IMHO. If there is one you should see during your lifetime, I’d suggest this is probably the one you wouldn’t want to miss.
The sound design is immersive and dynamic, the Dolby Atmos mix enhances the visual 3D presentation by providing three-dimensional sound with special attention to the overhead speakers: rainforest sounds, thunderstorms and lightning, an erupting volcano, a boatride on a wild river and the close proximity to a majestic waterfall are just the most noteworthy examples that help the illusion of experiencing these things live and almost “too close for comfort”.
Down-converted from a 4K master, the FullHD image profits visibly from the much higher native resolution. Last year I saw Sony’s entry-level UHD projector with demo footage including a giraffe’s head and neck which revealed fur textures that made me think “wow”. Even though Enchanted Kingdom is currently “only” available on FullHD Blu-ray, textures of animals’ furs or scales showed up in breathtaking clarity and detail. In the scene where hundreds of flamingoes congregate near a lake, I was able to almost notice each and every single bird in the distance (“wow”). Colors are natural and vivid, however the scene with the Ethiopian mountain monkeys revealed a blue glare from the distant mountains, where I couldn’t tell if that was due to a lack of UV lens filters or an intentional artistic choice.
Mostly shot with real 3D cameras, the 3D performance is impeccable. Apparently, special attention was given to capture natural 3D effects, i.e. during a flyover of a tropical rainforest, the filmmakers made certain to capture the rising mist to be able to “penetrate” it in 3D. In post-production some footage was converted into 3D but I really couldn’t tell which.
Idris Elba was a good choice for narrator (following in the footsteps of James Earl Jones for Africa: The Serengeti and Avery Brooks for Africa’s Elephant Kingdom and various Walking with Dinosaurs programs), but sometimes it felt as if he was intruding on my visual experience (For which I’m the one to be blamed because I had switched into Baraka or Samsara viewing “mode” – no narrator – and his unannounced comeback reminded me that I was not watching a Ron Fricke film). Nevertheless I think further upcoming releases should feature an optional version without his narration.
At this point in time, the only Blu-ray featuring both Dolby Atmos and 3D is the one from the Japanese “Deluxe” Edition, including the 3D Blu-ray, the 2D Blu-ray (containing “The Making of”) and a third Blu-ray with bonus materials (mostly promotional materials, i.e. short interview clips, the Japanese premiere and other related items). With a running time of almost 90 minutes the approx. price of 50 $ incl. shipping could seem like a bargain compared to the combined running times and prices of two shorter IMAX 3D titles on Blu-ray (Japan is same Region Code A as the US, but the film equally played in my Oppo BDP-93 set to Code B)
Equally noteworthy are the discs’ navigational menus: The entire menu is in English, yet the item currently selected shows up in Japanese. A clever solution that enables equally Japanese and English readers to navigate with ease through the menu (Japanese version is only DolbyTrueHD 7.1)
If you don’t need the film in 3D and are only interested in Dolby Atmos you could just purchase the Japanese single 2D Blu-ray.
If you (think) you don’t need the film in Dolby Atmos but want it in 3D you could also (pre-) order the German Blu-ray edition (will probably be Region Code B).
Originally, the Universal Studios UK release on Blu-ray had been scheduled for November 24, 2014. I’m not aware of any release plans in the US, possible the film is being hold back for UHD Blu-ray release or streaming content.
This is the best of the BBC nature 3D blu ray movies for content and production values. Get the Walmart version!
Anál nathrach, orth’ bháis’s bethad, do chél dénmha
Display: LG OLED 65e6p, Player: OPPO UDP-203, AVR:Yamaha TSR 7810, Streaming: Comcast 60Mbps RG6 to Cat6a, Speakers: Mains Vandersteen IIC, Center, Surrounds, Rears Klipsch