Wonders of the Arctic 3D Blu-ray Review

Wonderland

Actor Victor Garber narrates Wonders of the Arctic and without any irony regarding his role in James Cameron’s Titanic. And yes, Garber discusses ice and icebergs. They come with the territory, to use the cliché.

There are discussions on other things too. Wonders of the Arctic trips up in its overload, weaving between Inuit life, wildlife, mining, Halloween, migration, weather, shipping lanes, and climate change – all in 38 minutes. Unlike other IMAX shorts infatuated with a primary topic, this one spreads itself thin. The processes of Inuit weather prediction? Interesting, then glossed over in the rush to cover the litany of topics.

Impressive is working a 65mm camera in such conditions, doubly so when when underwater.

This is IMAX though, which means mounds of stunning footage, capturing ice walls and frigid ocean waters. Impressive is working a 65mm camera in such conditions, doubly so when when underwater. Images of narwhals and whales spread across the screen with gorgeous viewpoints. In the back half, polar bears take over. Dealing with the carnivores in northern small towns creates a need for unique methods. The populace certainly has a special take on the species.

Wonders of the Arctic lives up to its title plurality. All of these threads connect back to dwindling ice of which the native Inuit are aware. So are the polar bears. Less panicked than some (The Last Reef), Wonders of the Arctic still grabs the stories it can while the icy landscape remains.

Wonders of the Arctic Blu-ray screen shot 14

Video

Expect lots of white. There’s snow, obviously. Ice too. It’s all white. While above sea level, Shout Factory’s disc presents a pretty feature with a great eye. Images sweep over rock formations and towering icebergs, picking up visible detail for display. Shimmering snow stretches for miles.

Any challenges come underwater. Sunlight blocked by the ice shelf, footage takes an understandably murky turn. This creates banding and noise. At one point, artifacts collect on some coral greenery to a severe degree.

Luckily, the turn around is swift once back above water. Clarity returns. Color saturation on overcoats and safety equipment make a statement. Water collects vibrant hues of blue. Good stuff.

Initially, all the same goes for 3D. A sensational eye for depth captures the scale of the arctic circle. With little fear, fall-in effects reach extremes, creating the sensation of seeing miles before the horizon line. Foreground focus keeps images layered. It’s a rare case where even empty landscapes find benefit in this format. Later, during a segment on whale research, a crossbow pokes from the frame. When allowed, Wonders of the Arctic enjoys being aggressive.

In the second half, 3D effects lessen. Not only in the underwater scenes, but also those of polar bears. Briefly removing the 3D glasses to check revealed almost no image separation whatsoever. For sensible safety reasons, footage of wild polar bears comes from above rather than on the ground. Unfortunately, those angles are not conducive to 3D.

Audio

A few sound effects spread into the surrounds in this TrueHD/Atmos affair. Underwater effects recreate the feeling of rushing current. Arctic winds add a bit of energy. Most effects stay muted though.

What works is the score, filled with catchy folk tunes and raising the dynamic range quite a bit. Energy is high and performances are vibrant enough to feel as if recorded live at a concert. Smooth LFE support adds the needed weight and the disc’s sonic highlight.

Extras

A commercial for the shipping company featured in the documentary sits alone in the extras menu (along with trailers for IMAX films). Bummer.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.