March of the Penguins, Blu-ray (2005)

by | Apr 25, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

March of the Penguins, Blu-ray (2005)

Narration: Morgan Freeman
Studio: National Geographic Films/Warner Bros. 114553
Video: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16:9, 1080p HD (some extras 480)
Audio: English or Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0
Subtitles; English, Spanish (feature only)
Extras: “Of Penguins and Men” (The making of…); “Crittercam: Emperor Penguins;” Bugs Bunny cartoon “8 Ball Bunny;” Theatrical trailer
Length: 80 minutes
Rating: *****

This amazing French film won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2005.  The filmmakers spent a year in Antarctica filming the astonishing journey the Emperor penguins make to breed their young – shuffling along in their slow and rocky gait, day and night in single file for 70 miles. The environment is the darkest, driest and coldest place on earth.  The eggs of their young freeze almost instantly if exposed to the elements and not kept in the pouch both the males and females use to warm them and later to keep the chicks warm. Yet the penguin couples have to exchange the eggs and young on occasion so each can travel to the water to feed again after having fasted for months. There are storms, predators, changes of their usual routes due to global warming, and other challenges.  But there is also some humor, and those chicks are of course absolutely adorable.

This is a perfect film for HD display – the staggering vistas of Antarctica come across beautifully. Seeing so clearly the thousands of penguins huddled together closely against the cold points up the huge numbers of them involved better than a typical soft-focus nature film – many of which are shot on 16mm, not even 35mm.  I noticed something rather odd on the actual feature vs. the main documentary in the extras: In the long shots of the lines of penguins moving along each one had a sort of edge enhancement halo around it, but it was of a reddish hue; the 480 short didn’t have this artifact. It seemed like an effort to unrealistically warm up the very cold bluish cast of the images.

The first two extras are especially worth viewing. The Making Of… documentary is rather long and gives most of the story from the viewpoint of the filmmakers. The “crittercam” is a self-contained video camera with sound strapped to the back of one of the penguins so that it brings back footage of where it has been feeding  under the ice.  So it gives us part of the story from the viewpoint of the penguins.

 – John Sunier


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