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|Home: BigScreen Journal - Blu-ray Review: Sharkwater|
Warner Home Video
List Price: $28.99 (Check Price at Amazon.com)
| Video Format:|| HD Video|| 1080i MPEG-2|
What would happen if you took a traditional documentary about sharks and blended it with an expose documentary of the likes of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room? You would likely come up with something like Sharkwater. Filmmaker Rob Stewart is the central figure in this documentary that exposes myths about sharks, what governments say they do about illegal fishing for sharks, and how the shark fin trade and illegal fishing practices are decimating the ocean's shark population.
With the excellent examples of HD video with documentaries such as the excellent Planet Earth series, the bar is considerably higher for picture quality than this movie attains.
In the "Making of" video, Rob Stewart talks about being one of the first to use underwater HD cameras, so perhaps the quality of those cameras were not as good as more contemporary versions. Whatever the reason, the video often seems a little soft, almost as if the water introduced a filtering effect on the image. Since this is not present in other underwater documentaries, this must be a result of the cameras used or the post-processing equipment and/or staff. The movie contains quite a few SD video sequences, so the potential of the high definition Blu-ray format isn't completely realized with this movie.
The sound was on par with the video. It was OK, but not spectacular. Being a documentary that was trying to convey a persuasive message, it serves its purpose, but there are better examples of audio in other documentaries that are more geared towards entertainment/educational value.
I like to see the theatrical trailer included with movies, so I was happy to see that they included not only the trailer, but also some TV spots that were used to publicize the movie.
There is a "Making of" feature that is quite informational and adds to the enjoyment of the movie. Some of Stewart's motivations and the challenges he faced while making the movie are explained, which helps provide some background to the production. The full version of the cheesy Air Force training video featured in the movie is included, as is a video montage of underwater scenes. Neither of these are all that great, but interesting to watch once nonetheless.
Like so many other Blu-ray discs that I have watched, this disc does not support bookmarking, which allows you to mark particular scenes for future reference. This feature is also convenient when watching a movie in multiple sittings, so that you can come back to where you left off. Most Blu-ray players (and HD DVD players before them) do not auto-resume a movie if you turn it off and/or eject the disc, but fortunately the auto-resume feature on the PlayStation 3 does work properly with this BDMV-formatted disc.
As a big fan of nature documentaries, this type of movie is right up my alley. The approach taken make it more of an expose than a nature documentary, so it almost falls into that category more than it does the other.
One oddity I noticed while watching this movie was that my PlayStation 3 would not display any chapter indications or time remaining/elapsed information. This has been reported by other PS3 users, but standalone players reportedly display that information correctly. It's not a major factor, but I like to see how much time is remaining from time to time, and it's an example of how variable playback experiences still are in the Blu-ray format.
Watching this movie accomplished its purpose, though. The cruelty displayed towards sharks and other marine animals by the long line fisherman and the others whose only use for killing sharks is to "harvest" their fins for export to Southeast Asia is disgusting. Anyone who thinks that shark fin soup is a proper meal to enjoy should watch what happens to these sharks as their fins are cut off while still alive. The sentiment expressed by one of the people in the movie is right on target; future generations are going to look back on us and consider us barbarians for what we are doing to the environment, to the animals we share this planet with, and ultimately, to ourselves.
This disc is worth renting, but I'm not sure that owning it is necessary. One viewing pretty much covers everything it hopes to achieve and its picture and sound quality limit its potential for demonstration purposes.
Don't just take our word for it, check out these resources for more reviews of the movie and of the disc.
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