IMAX documentaries (the few that have been released recently, given that IMAX theatres seem more focused lately on offering feature films), in my opinion, can still vary very greatly. I've seen some magnificent IMAX features such as Stephen Low's "Beavers" or some of director/producer Greg MacGillivray's movies. I've also seen some IMAX films where I can hardly imagine that someone thought they would be worth putting into theaters, such as the recent "T-Rex".
Greg MacGillivray has brought audiences some wonderful IMAX movies, whether as a producer or director, and "Dolphins" is another example of just how this format can provide the viewer with an outstanding viewing experience, entertainment, and education about the world around us.
In "Dolphins", we learn about the creatures and their world, and even further details about the way that they communicate that I've never heard before, such as how they can track food under sand at the bottom of the ocean. Through interviews and narration with specialists (former "007" star Pierce Brosnan provides the primary narration for the movie), we are introduced to the ways that dolphins communicate and live, and the dangers they face. In terms of the experts, of particular interest is the story of Dean Bernal, who talks about his long friendship with Jojo the dolphin. While the film warns that not all dolphins are friendly, Jojo interacts with Dean like an old friend, and Dean shares a remarkable story from his past about Jojo.
The film discusses the intelligence of the creatures, showing tests where Dolphins are required to point out correct symbols, and the creature gets a perfect score. We also hear (and see) examples of communication between the creatures, as well as a discussion of how their remarkable strength allows them to leap out of the water and swim far faster than what a human is capable of. Certainly, the depth of the information is limited by the approximately 40 minute running time (some of which includes credits), but the film does rather well trying to fit what it can in the length it has to work with.
The movie manages to be a big, gorgeous film, and yet still manages to be personal as well, versus some IMAX films, which can look beautiful but forget to involve the audience beyond the surface level. With Brosnan's strong narration and Sting's enjoyable music, "Dolphins" remains one of the more entertaining IMAX documentaries.
VIDEO: "Dolphins" is presented by Image Entertainment in 1.78:1 (1080p/AVC). The DVD presentation of the IMAX feature looked terrific, but the Blu-Ray is an improvement in almost every regard, with the Blu-Ray edition having a more pronounced three-dimensional feel to the image than the DVD. Sharpness and detail are improved, as the picture looks crisper and smoother on the Blu-Ray release.
There are still some concerns present on this release, however. While the majority of the film looks crisp and fresh, there are some scattered moments where a few specks, scratches and marks are spotted. These instances are noticeable, but again - very brief. No noise is spotted, nor are any instances of pixelation. However, slight edge enhancement is seen in a couple of scenes.
Colors are absolutely outstanding, with the rich blues of the sea and sky presented wonderfully, with no flaws at all. Colors are beautifully bold, well-saturated and problem-free. Aside from a few minor bumps, this is a remarkable presentation that preserves the beauty of the IMAX photography.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. The film's sound design is definitely not the most aggressive of the IMAX documentaries (which are generally known for having immersive sound mixes), but the material simply doesn't call for much use of the rear speakers. Sting's enjoyable score does get some mild reinforcement from the surrounds, but this is otherwise a front-heavy mix. Audio quality is marvelous, as Sting's score comes through with delightful warmth and clarity. Narration also sounds crisp and clean, as well. Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish & French options are also included.
EXTRAS: The Making Of "Dolphins": As with most of Image's IMAX titles, we get a very impressive "Making Of" presentation. With most of these "Making Of" documentaries, it's almost as interesting as the movie itself. Like the rest of the documentaries, this making of answers that question that's often asked after viewing an IMAX film - how did they film that? If you've never seen the details of an IMAX production, the cameras and equipment that the filmmakers have to take into this universe is quite massive.
The documentary takes us from day one: a gigantic amount of gear that has to be brought down to the locations. Similar to other documentaries about the format, this one is very personal, almost inviting the viewer behind-the-scenes, as we see the production at work and discussing the way to go about getting the next shot. Through interviews and footage, we get an idea of how huge the amount of work is that has to go into using the IMAX equipment in these amazing locations, such as underwater, in this case.
Trailers: Trailers for 11 other IMAX features, including: "Dolphins", "The Magic Of Flight", "Stormchasers", "The Living Sea".
Also: 11 minute clip on Marine Science, more information on MacGillivray/Freeman films, director bio and additional DVD credits.
Final Thoughts: "Dolphins" is a fun and informative IMAX presentation that perfectly mixes its offering of entertainment and knowledge. As usual, the lengthy "Making Of" documentary proves to be a fascinating look into the journey of filming a large-format motion picture. The Blu-Ray presentation offers excellent audio/video quality, as well. "Dolphins" is highly recommended.