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Island of Lemurs: Madagascar (2014)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/31/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/1/2015
Based on the popularity of the medium, we as a society have become very dependent on home entertainment as a way of filling our time. And why not? It's one of the modern miracles that we can watch what we want, when we want and the choices are seemingly endless. Home video is also a great outlet for education as well. Parents have long-since been accused of using the TV as a babysitter, but something must be said for choosing the proper educational video for a child. However, these videos aren't for children only, as there are many documentaries and specials which can be beneficial to all ages. The best ones are those which give us an up-close view of something which we normally wouldn't see, such as the sights featured in Island of Lemurs: Madagascar.
An IMAX feature, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar lives up to its title by focusing on Madagascar, the large island off of the west coast of southern Africa, which is home to many unique species of animals. Madagascar is best known for its many species of lemurs. These tree-dwelling primates are undeniably charming, as they leap from limb-to-limb or hop along the ground. We hear a theory of how the lemurs came to be on the island and get an introduction to many of the various species. We are introduced to Dr. Patricia Wright, an American scientist who regularly visits Madagascar to study the animals. Dr. Wright and her team are working to find safe habitats for the lemurs as deforestation is a huge problem on the island. The film shows how the animals interact with humans and we see how the lemurs are studied and cared for.
As one would hope from an IMAX product, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar is filled with beautiful photography. The movie has a nice mixture of aerial shots, landscape shots, and even shots in the trees where the lemurs live. The aerial shots are gorgeous, as the show the mixture of different types of topographies on the island. Of course, the close up and intimate shots of the lemurs is what we are here for, and the movie is filled with them. It certainly helps that the animals are very social and some of them clearly weren't bothered by the cameras. However, we also get some great shots of the animals leaping through the trees and bouncing along. Although, it's not related to the lemurs, the scene in which the karts race down the hill is nicely done.
But, like some other IMAX features that I've seen, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar is a battle between style and substance. Again, you can't do better than the photography here. But, the content of the film leaves something to be desired. With a running time of 41 minutes, the movie is packed with information, but it never seems to go far enough. For example, it tells us that deforestation is a threat to the lemurs. But, we never learn why this is happening or why no one has stopped it. We learn that Dr. Wright and her team are studying the lemurs, but what is their goal, beyond protecting the various species? We are given a theory of how the lemurs got to Madagascar, but it's never explained how humans got there or what it is that they do there. As usual, Morgan Freeman's narration is solid, but he can only work with what he's given.
So, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar is a mixed bag. Clearly, we want to see beautiful nature photography and we are certainly treated to that. However, part of me wonders if the movie would have been more satisfying had it dropped its attempt at a narrative, as the information given is unfulfilling. On the bright side, it didn't go the way of those Disney nature films where the animals are given "names" and an anthropomorphic story to try and make it more appealing.
Island of Lemurs: Madagascar contains plenty of "those jumping monkeys" that rednecks love on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture has a great deal of depth, even in this 2D version, and the image's crispness makes us feel as if we could step into it. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Freeman's narration comes through fine and the music in the film sounds very good. We are treated to some impressive stereo and surround effects through the sounds of the lemurs in the trees, which can move from side-to-side and then sound as if it's behind us. The Disc also includes a 3D version of the film. Again, the image is letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc features an MVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23/10 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source materials. The landscape shots, of which the film has many, look surprisingly flat here. However, the medium shots show amazing 3D. The depth is very impressive, as the lemurs and humans really stand out from the backgrounds. In certain shots, one object can dominate the image and you will find yourself reaching out to touch them. The image maintains the proper brightness. This is accompanied by the same audio as described above.
The Island of Lemurs: Madagascar Blu-ray Disc is loaded with extras. "Making of The Island of Lemurs" (5 minutes) offers interviews with the filmmakers, Freeman, and Patricia Wright who comment on the animals and some of the techniques which were used to capture the environment, much of which was challenging. "Behind the Scenes" (2 minutes) offers many of the same quotes as the previous piece. "The Story of Lemurs" (6 minutes) retells the first few minutes of the movie, giving a history of the animals, and then a brief overview of the species. "Meet Patricia Wright" (4 minutes) offers an overview of the scientist and provides more of her background. "A Baby Indri" (2 minutes) plays like a deleted scene, as it offers additional footage of the researchers studying the Indri. "Five Things About Indri" (2 minutes) has Dr. Jonah Ratsimbazafy giving details on this species of lemur. "The Cutest Lemur" (2 minutes) offers a lot of footage of the common bamboo lemur. "Go-Kart Racers" (2 minutes) takes us on-location to show how the scene with the downhill karts was shot.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long