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I had hoped Deep Blue would deserve its theatrical release over the countless other nature documentaries available on TV and cable. Would it, like Winged Migration, have groundbreaking new photography? Would it, like James Cameron’s IMAX documentaries, be tied to some new expedition to a never-before seen place?

Although there is good drama in Deep Blue, along with some amazing photography, it could have easily lived its life on TV and felt more at home.

Nature TV

Picture and sound are excellent, but...
Picture and sound are excellent, but...

With a mostly factless narration read by Pierce Brosnan, Deep Blue moves from one scene to another. First we look at the albatross. Then we move to the seal. Then we move to swarms of sardines, and then to sharks. Rather than making a single point about sea life, or finding common themes between its stories, Deep Blue is content to present the best footage it has and fit a story around it.

Some of the more amazing footage involves the death of animals, and unfortunately, the filmmakers seem to revel in it. They linger for five minutes on an orca playing with, killing, and eating a baby seal. The slow-motion photography is fascinated. The same thing happens later in the film when two orcas kill a baby gray whale. The narration grimly informs us that the whale takes six hours to die. Granted, it’s nigh-impossible to make a nature documentary without mentioning the “circle of life.” But the grim satisfaction of the filmmakers feels inappropriate.

DVD Extras

The making-of documentary, this DVD’s one extra feature, is better than the combined weight of features on most DVDs. That’s not to say it’s a great documentary in its own right. In fact, it suffers from some of the same problems that the feature itself suffers from — lack of focus, facts, and storytelling in exchange for good-looking footage. Likewise, the making-of documentary is overscored, with incessant music that never lets you think.

But the making-of actually has some interesting and informative tidbits about the movie. It shows a few of the cinematographers in their natural habitat — killing time on a ship, waiting for something interesting to happen near the boat, followed by the excitement of actually videotaping a whale close up (from about 5 feet away). We learn that shooting under water is a very different experience from videotaping lions in the desert; the action has to be within a few feet of the lens or image gets murky. A scene on the Berlin Philharmonic scoring the movie makes me like the music, per se, better, although I still think it’s overused.

Also, the making-of answered one of my more nagging questions, namely, how they get the sound effects from under the water? It turns out the underwater sound is all made up by “creative” sound editors. Yes, it’s all a big lie (depending on how you look at it.)

The making-of documentary is about 50 minutes long. Overall it is entertaining and worth watching. I probably would have enjoyed the movie more had I seen the documentary beforehand. I might have have been more forgiving, had I known how much work went into the making of the movie.

Then again, a movie shouldn’t have to earn points by winning an audience’s sympathy. Still, if you’re tired of March of the Penguins and are looking for something the “same but different,” try Deep Blue. It helps to have a forgiving attitude.

Picture and Sound

Picture and sound quality are both excellent. The sound effects and music make full use of surround sound. This one is an audiovisual feast.