Despite battering the movie going populace with messages of poaching and deforestation, the heart of Born to Be Wild’s story lies in the arms of two women. Daphne Sheldrick and Birute Galdikas work in the native habitats of elephants and orangutangs respectively, preserving their livelihoods and those lost to deceased parents.

Their efforts have created sanctuaries for these creatures, to both nurture when they’re young, and create suitable, protected environments for when they’re old enough to be out of human care. These animals are not meant to be pets, but free-roaming animals in their native habitats. Born to be Wild captures a visual slice of both sides.

With only 40-minutes to work with, Born makes the most of its time, detailing daily activities in these vastly different camps, briefly following the lives of specific animals, and providing the needed backstory. Morgan Freeman, still the world’s grandest of narrators, delivers soothing monologues over the footage, Sheldrick and Galdikas also allowed their turn.

In the realm of IMAX-spawned nature documentaries, Born thrives on heartier production values. It feels freer to waste footage in order to capture those special, random moments that a cheaper production couldn’t afford. Leeway is given with digital, and there is no sacrifice in quality. Born to Be Wild is stunningly beautiful, all the more reason to contribute towards the preservation of these causes. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]

Magical is a rare word featured on this small corner of the internet, but used sparingly, it carries the power necessary to generate excitement needed for a disc like this. Two flaws need to be addressed before moving on, more or less to get them out of the way. Aliasing is visible on a boat late into the feature, and flicker can be excessive during pans of forest landscapes. Coming from 4K digital and 70mm sources, the amount of detail is too staggering for paltry 1080p.

Images are otherwise miraculous, carrying a density and vividness reserved for the finest of discs. The level of definition delivered during the views of the forest, aerial or on the ground, is mind blowing. The way these cameras capture the scale of the trees and the abundance of natural beauty is stunning. Almost nothing impedes the visual power on display, from intricate leaves to waving tall grass.

Slight saturation brings primaries out to play and then conquer all. Greenery earns its name, and the deep, rich oranges of the orangutangs is outstanding. Red sand and lightly barren landscapes for the elephant’s home is equally stern with its color. Images have a firm brightness that makes each frame instantly appealing, certainly as demo material.

Holding it together are those black levels, dense with a fine preservation of shadow detail. Even if 98% of the feature takes place in broad daylight, black levels have room to impress. One nighttime interior carries some of the deepest blacks seem on this format, a striking contrast created from an overhead light. They also aid in pushing those forests deeper into the frame. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Video]

As with almost all IMAX features, sound effects are added in post-production. Clearly, that’s the case here. There’s an artificiality to everything other than the narration, foley-like effects plopped into the rears whether the action should be there or not. Whereas insect chirps or bird calls seem suited to swell into each channel, animal activity isn’t always primed to move out of the fronts.

From a generalized perspective, having all of this motion and movement sounds fantastic. To a less discerning, wide audience, having these effects surround them is a grand experience. From a perspective of authenticity, not so much. Is it wrong? No, it’s the nature of the format. It’s expected, and works as it should. If you’re not used to IMAX audio, it can be jarring. If it is, soak in the wonder and power of Morgan Freeman’s voice, and you’ll relax quickly. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Warner includes six behind-the-scenes webisodes as bonuses, each a few minutes in length at the most. Still, the production complexity and challenges come through, even with restricted runtimes. BD-Live access is also offered. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


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