BMZ Review: Ocean Wonderland (3D)
By Ross Anthony
(Screened at the LFCA conference and introduced as the first all-digital Large Format picture.) At a time when even 35mm directors still are holding tight to film, this is a rather bold move. But does "Ocean Wonderland" hold water visually? Acceptable/passable, this digital is still not as gorgeous as film. (And I'm a digital supporter). The resolution is slightly lower, but what leaves a stronger impression is the overall lack of color. This ocean blue is rather washed out in intensity and grayish. The situation may have been improved with better lighting. Also, I've been told by those in the know, that the transfer from digital to film leaves quality vulnerable.
As for the presentation, a cheesy title font gives way to a mysteriously beautiful, hypnotically winding galaxy of silver fish. This shot holds long and the music rides it well. The narration ought to have waited for us to acclimate prior to assaulting our Ocean Wonderland with words. That said, personifying a sea turtle with human language and recruiting him as the tour guide to coral, fish and wave is a fun immersive idea. In fact, the human absence in this film is quite welcome. The sea turtle voice-over artist does a fine conversational job with the narration.
You'll enjoy the Nemo (clown fish) shots, and the very close-up dolphin shots. They're charm almost makes up for the lack of vibrancy in the image. The stingray sequence also carries some of the magic of the opening. It's a beautiful animal, and the camera rides it like a magic carpet ride. A gentle sea vampire. There are barracuda, groupers, feather stars (amazing animals), and eagle rays like nun habits ... kites in water. The filmmakers take us into a school of sharks, building up the tension and fear factor, but their feeding frenzy is rather anticlimactic -- they're prey are already dead.
Unfortunately, this sea dance ends on a resoundingly un-artful PSA. The film also suffers from convergence problems -- some are acute. At times the two images strain the brain to unite, you'll have to look away.
Convergence problems aside, this picture hosts some good big screen subject matter, and stays underwater from start to finish. If it were shot on LF film and lit stronger, it would make a more striking impression.
Directed by Jean-Jacques Mantello.
DP Gavin McKinney.
Produced at WWF (c) 2003.
Copyright (C) 2003.
Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com
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