Easy going and care free like its title animals, Dolphins ups the educational mammal quotient for breezy IMAX material. Focusing on the science of communicating dolphins from various seas, the feature delves into plentiful large scale underwater footage for exhilarating cinematography.
While the sea creatures stick mainly to their positive perception, Dolphins is a short film of honesty. As much as it wishes to share messages of understanding and conservation, it also exhibits their reactive violent side. Much like humans, dolphins have their spats and under the guise of 65mm, these flare-ups reach the camera.
Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, simply explained narration squeezes over lavish island and ocean scenery. A light narrative follows a dolphin communication expert, ocean biologist, and another man with a close connection to a wild dolphin. Discussion swerves between their vocalization and the importance of touch to these animals, plus their unusually high intelligence level.
Brief messaging regarding large scale fishing operations and their damage to the local population are slim enough as to avoid any preaching methodology. Humans are an indicated threat – even in leisure – before editing briskly delves into the playfulness and trickery these critters are known for.
Enthusiasts of dolphins will find little of consequence in this feature, meant for wider consumption of less knowledgeable, curious IMAX audiences. Even still, stunningly colorful vistas of the Bahamas mixed with the vividness of underwater images breed an appealing and purposeful documentary short.
Released originally in 2000, it would seem Dolphins has not undergone any mastering since that release. While underwater footage is less of an intrusion, exteriors are stricken with muddiness. Lack of clarity lends little or no IMAX quality images, brushed with exaggerated grain rare for large format film.
Dolphins does not appear to have been victimized by filters or noise reduction. Flaws appear levied toward the inadequacies of transferring low resolution, outdated scans to Blu-ray. Dire image fidelity and details are soured by dismal transferring techniques, ill-suited to current standards (or even those near the format’s infancy).
If there are any saviors in play, credit the balmy color and excited contrast, both rich. Sunsets are appropriately dazzling as rays reflect from the water’s surface. Greenery is lush, and the richest blues from the clear Bahama locales is breathtaking. No amount of shoddy mastering can restrict those sights.
Plentiful splashing and aggressively placed dolphin calls are planted into various channels to heighten the sound mix. More massive splashes will call upon the LFE for a thrust of support. Underwater footage, however, tends to miss out on potential envelopment. A key scientific element is an underwater audio recording device which captures calls in stereo, something the DTS-HD track is willing to reproduce, even if it is artificial.
Brosnan’s narration is heavy in the center, and other voice over work is strictly planted in the middle. Location audio appears recorded live, rare for IMAX features, appearing more natural than most of these documentaries which must resort to dubbing routines.
A dated (if informative) making of runs close to 40-minutes, mirroring the length of the main feature. While not as potentially deadly as some MacGillivray/Freeman IMAX shoots, this was no less a chore to shoot. A short 11-minute featurette on the featured scientists focuses on their respective paths. A multi-choice quiz checks to see if you were paying attention, and a brief visual filmography on MacGillivray/Freeman films co-exists with some trailers.
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Note: This disc is part of the MacGillivary Freeman Limited Edition Gift Set, containing 10 of the IMAX features from their library. The Dolphins disc in the set is identical to the stand-alone retail release.