Plot: What’s it about?
The arctic landscape is brutal, ice cold and barren for miles upon miles. But life survives there nonetheless, even though life is more harsh and intolerable here than almost anywhere else in the world. In Arctic Tale, we see a young polar bear cub named Nanu and a walrus pup named Seela, who face an uphill road for survival. The environment around these young animals is brutal, even under normal conditions, but recent changes have made survival even more difficult. The polar world is warming and melting, which has a huge impact on the entire ecosystem. As Nanu and Seela are raised and taught how to survive by their mothers, they also have to cope with less surface space on the ice and decreased food supplies. Can Nanu and Seela survive their harsh youths and become the next generation of polar animals?
I have to admit, I was a little blind sided by Arctic Tale. I assumed this was a straight up nature documentary, with a focus on polar animals and the landscape they inhabit. While that is true to an extent, this plays more like America’s Funniest Animals at times, with a lame musical soundtrack, low brow attempts at humor, horrific narration from Queen Latifah, and grating advice on being green, as delivered by children. I wanted to see lush landscapes and watch as these animals adapted to the environmental changes around them, but instead, this seems to want to entertain more than educate. There is some beautiful photography to be sure, but the tone of the movie just seems off to me, though I am sure it makes the film more enjoyable for younger viewers. In the end, Arctic Tale comes off as middle of the road, worth a rental to see the visuals, but little else. This HD-DVD version offers an enhanced transfer, as well as the extras from the standard release. So if you’re going to see Arctic Tale, you might as well see it in high definition, since the visuals are the main attraction.
Video: How does it look?
Arctic Tale is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was a little let down by the transfer on the standard disc and while this high definition version is an improvement, it still doesn’t hit the level I expected. I should say it doesn’t hit that level all the time, as some scenes look spectacular here. Not on the same eye popping grade as Planet Earth, but crystal clear and remarkable, but that isn’t often. The film uses an assortment of film stocks and it shows, so there is grain and even some debris, but it looks natural and that is important. So in the end, we do have an enhanced presentation, but it still won’t knock your socks off.
Audio: How does it sound?
This Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 option sounds a lot like the Dolby Digital 5.1 option from the standard release, but there are some minor upgrades. This is a documentary and by its nature, isn’t going to blow off the roof with dynamic audio. That said, the surrounds do come to life from time to time, with effective results, but for the most part, the front channels shoulder the burden. The sounds of the arctic come across well, as do the narration and music elements. There’s not much more I can report, the film sounds quite good, if unmemorable. This disc also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a brief featurette on polar bear spotting, as well as a general behind the scenes piece that runs just over twenty minutes. The more substantial featurette is solid, but not as in depth as you might want, but for a brisk twenty minutes, it provides decent information. This disc also includes the film’s theatrical trailer.