Ultimate Waves wants to be a multitude of things, from educational piece on the nature of waves, the dangers of surfing, the effect of global warming, down to the dissection of Tahiti culture. It’s all over the place, that information scattered between extended sequences of pro surfer Kelly Slater and Tahitian surfer Raimana Van Bastolaer doing what they do best.
It’s all beautiful, the island photography stunning in this format, but it’s debatable whether or not it’s engaging. A connection to surfing is almost required to dive into this material, the sporadic and stunning underwater photography secondary. In 3D as intended, it’s probably great material, but in 2D, it feels repetitious, like a bunch of deleted edits were put together to push this just past 45-minutes.
There is interesting material if you’re not into the difficulty of surfing or watching footage of it. The Tahitian’s have a unique take on the ocean, deep beliefs that the gods control it all. There are scenes of cultural dances and prayers, one of them a wholly impressive dance with a stick of fire. The breezy tone presents most of this material in a mainstream manner, broken up by how dangerous all of this can be and a sense of dread.
Educational value is spread thin, the inserts on how the islands were formed from volcanic activity interesting, but like everything else, trimmed to show off more water effects in 3D. While it’s generally a critics job to let a potential customer know if something is simply good or bad, Ultimate Waves has an audience which purely lies in 3D adopters or surf fans. They’ll love it. The material itself simply isn’t strong enough for everyone else.
Note: This review is based on the 2D version only. DoBlu is not equipped with 3D equipment yet.
Ultimate Waves was not only captured on the traditional 65mm IMAX format, but four separate cameras, and none of them mainstream. They change from 2K digital to 65 and 35mm film at will, and you’ll never see the difference in this Blu-ray. They mesh perfectly, the grain structure so fine on the film formats it is given the same startling clarity as the digital. Picking out one or the other is impossible.
The end result is a flawless transition to an all-digital format, the AVC encode exhibiting no noticeable issues or glaring down conversion problems. Wave opens on aerials of Tahiti that are remarkable in their definition, the cliff sides covered with plant life, and every bit of it seems visible. Water is unbelievably clear, those same aerials revealing the reefs below. When the cameras dip under the ocean, the same level of jaw dropping beauty remains.
Color doesn’t hurt either, the bronzed flesh tones completely natural for the sun soaked island, and the intensity of the Tahiti’s primaries are simply immense. The teals and blues of the ocean are striking. Flowers on land in close-up blossom with saturation. Every hue is vibrant and rich.
Contrast is brilliant and the black levels are unbelievable. Both carry weight and heft without taking away of the finest detail. This is an image full of nothing but clarity and pure brightness, the type of stuff IMAX was made for. There’s only one scene of concern and that doesn’t come until 41:22. It’s a nighttime shot of a small gathering that is awash with noise, the only instance where this transfer misses perfection.
There’s non-stop talk about killer waves and the dangers of surfing. All the while, this DTS-HD doesn’t overwhelm the listener with any intense bass. Waves crash with minimal impact, pushing cameramen underwater with little to no low-end accompaniment.
That leaves the surrounds to pick up the work, and they do. Rarely has water sounded this pure in the home, short of, well, actual water. The crispness of it all as waves pass overhead is truly something to appreciate. Even without the main surfing sequences, the calming tides wash into the shoreline, splitting the fronts accurately.
The same can be said for the score, ranging from ominous themes to peppy, casual tunes. It bleeds the surrounds beautifully, creating another element to appreciate for its immersive qualities. Dubbing does become obvious amidst the waves, but the general interviews as everyone waits for waves are fine.
Five vignettes begin a short selection of bonus features, ranging from surfboard creation to Kelly Slater. They’re all short, about three to five minutes a piece. Beyond the Wave is a five minute clip about Tahiti that screams, “tour me!” A stack of trailers and BD-Live support are left.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.