‘Oceans’ Review

Published 5 years ago by

disneynature oceans review Oceans ReviewScreen Rant’s Mike Eisenberg reviews Disneynature’s Oceans

Just as we have come to expect from nature documentary epics like Planet Earth and Disneynature’s Earth, the visuals from Disneynature’s Oceans is a dazzling and stunning array of underwater imagery in the highest quality. With narration from Pierce Brosnan, the film takes you on a journey to some of the most mesmerizing and uncharted locations on Earth. But not everything is as pretty as it looks. A certain aspect that makes the other documentaries so fascinating is missing and an underlying message of the film is worth questioning the true motive of Oceans.

Before getting into the speculation, it is important to recognize the film explores the wonder and beauty inside the most abundant resource of our planet: water. Nothing matches the scale of what is presented on screen when it comes to underwater photography. Plenty of detractors will blindly claim Planet Earth is still better, but Oceans proves The Discovery Channel does not have a stranglehold on the genre.

Oceans makes our real planet feel conjured up. There are countless moments where I found myself staring at the screen in confusion. Is this real? Did they actually CGI a nature documentary? Or is there simply such beauty and magnificence actually out there I can’t ever fathom it. Certain images will remain in my mind forever, from rocket ships illuminating a cliff full of iguanas to swarms of crabs bracing for an underwater war.

Disneynatures Oceans spider crab war Oceans Review

The synergy of sound and music is complex, yet magnificent. Every scene seems to have its own motif, thriving on the events unfolding. An epic battle hymn plays when two unbelievable masses of crabs slowly face off in an all-out war. A gloomy and intense score follows a Killer Whale making quick meals of wandering sea lions. The comedic intrigue of hideous fish just trying to get through the day was met with giggles from youngsters in the audience.

Interestingly though, the sounds from within the film seemed to be manufactured. I could be wrong, but something just wasn’t right. While it could have become a major flaw, it actually adds to the sensation of being in the moment. Certain sounds just don’t travel so well underwater, and others just don’t make sense based on the basic physics of what is happening. Yet, the sounds always create an engrossing sensation of realism and put you as close as the cameras make it feel.

The film opens with a sense of impending storyline. If you’ve ever seen Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, there should be an uncanny resemblance with paced, poetic narration and muffled location sound. Much of the film is reminiscent of Malick’s visionary filmmaking style, especially when Brosnan takes a breather and it is just you and the ocean. Having said that, there is an overarching theme of the entire piece, which leaves humanity, and the film, in question.

March of the Penguins succeeded in telling a compelling story and still giving it extra life and conflict. The problem in Oceans is they try so hard in the beginning to do this, yet gradually lose focus. By the last shot, it was easy to have already forgotten the beginning in order to find out just where the film had gone as a story.

Disneynatures Oceans jellyfish Oceans Review

The entire first hour of the 90-minute work constantly reminds us of the incomprehensibility of the ocean. Narrator Pierce Brosnan must have told the audience what they “couldn’t possibly understand” a dozen times. He then reminds the viewer the only way they can grasp the ocean and its grandeur is by continuing to watch the events that transpire. Squirms from the row in front of me suggested not everybody was fond of being told what to think.

Then the last half hour hit. In what can only be referred to as a call to action, the creators of Oceans took it upon themselves to present a beautifully shot, underwater version of those sad, abused puppy dog commercials. Surprisingly, they stayed away from becoming political or calling out names to blame, but rather lay it on all of humanity. Instead of focusing on the people who hunt and kill animals for any number of reasons, Oceans disperses the faults to the everyman for not doing something about it. It all came back to the misunderstanding culture (humans) taking for granted one of the most spectacular parts of our planet (water). According to Oceans, we are letting everything fall apart and yet only we can pull it back together.

Disneynatures Oceans great white shark Oceans Review

When the film truly went beyond its own premise was when it projected the rage and power of the ocean as some sort of vendetta on the human race. Absolutely breathtaking imagery with a fishing vessel trying to overcome massive swells, a la The Perfect Storm, was watered down by giving the ocean a quality it may not be asking for. In a way, it was only a matter of time before the feature gave water human characteristics already labeled on certain creatures of the ocean.

While Disneynature’s Oceans is a worthy follow-up to Disneynature’s Earth, it finds ways to connect to its audience with imagery and disassociate them at the same time with a message too vast for any action to be taken. Viewers sit helplessly as animals tangle in massive nets and seals bump into grocery carts on sea floors, yet the theme suggests we are the only ones who can fix these problems. Okay, but how?

Disneynatures Oceans green turtle Oceans Review

Oceans is clearly something kids will enjoy, but at one moment in the film, every single child in the audience was terrified to the point of tears and screams. If you are bringing a young one to see the film, be wary of moments of intense realism. The moment in question involves newborn baby sea turtles and their desperate sprint for the safety of the ocean. As usual, it is wonderfully shot and the music and sound design turn it into an event, but the terror of children in the audience was frightening in itself.

Absolutely breathtaking imagery holds up for the entire film, with unpredictable visuals around every coral reef. But eventually you begin to wonder where they are going with it all, and when you eventually find out, the revelation may not be one everybody wants to experience. As a representation of the beauty and splendor living under the sea, Oceans is unrivaled and may be the most beautiful nature documentary to date.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. Beautiful review; I feel your points were scholarly, more specifically your ability to convince me this film won't suck. I believe I might see this in the future – if only I could afford to sit down and watch a bunch of underwater footage with the erotic undertones of Pierce Brosnan. Great title!

  2. I'll stick to Planet Earth… Would watch Life, but not sure if I can stand listening to Oprah for 3 hours, and the few scenes I've seen of Life I'm not quite as impressed with it as I was with Planet Earth… I'm not too interested in Disney's interpretation of nature and how to help it…

  3. That's exactly what I meant by not being interested in Disney's nature movies… I knew they were going to put their own “commentary” into it…

  4. It's called brainwashing, it works best on young people. They know a lot of people will bring their kids to watch something like this. Remember when they put a political message in Happy Feet? If you can't push your agenda on adults, then push it on people who are easily impressionable, like kids, or the MTV crowd, lol.

  5. well from here on out I will be showing my kiddos nature stickily from a hands on perspective……and leave this crap for the birds

  6. i'm glad you guys agree with me on this one…it was just too much. I would have been okay with a story-less collection of beautiful images just thrown together. but THAT on top of a forced message in the last part was a bit much.

  7. >”Then the last half hour hit” [where the filmmakers] “took it upon themselves
    >to present a beautifully shot, underwater version of those sad, abused puppy
    >dog commercials”.

    This is how the last 5-10 minutes of seemingly every IMAX oceanic documentary always turns out. They may do it in other IMAX movies, but the only ones I go to see other than theatrical films are sea-based films, so I can't speak for them.

  8. I actually saw this movie right after taking a trip to the aquarium. So it was really cool to see a lot of the sea creatures on film that I'd just seen only hours before in the aquarium. It really enhanced the experience for me.

    As for the “environmental message”, I wasn't really offended for it. I didn't think it was to much. They mentioned it and made it known, but they didn't dwell on it. Also, I think saying that it was the whole last half hour is a bit off. They showed the fishing bit and the part on pollution, then they went back to talking about animals in the Arctic for a good chunk of time before going back to the environmental message. But the movie was documenting Oceans and EVERYTHING about them. From the birth of sea creatures, to how they hunt or defend their territory, spanning waters all over the world. And pollution IS a part of Ocean life and something marine animals have to deal with. So it makes sense for them to mention it.

  9. it goes without saying talking of pollution and human interference is inevitable with a film like this, but it became a blame game instead of a call to action. As for the arctic sequences, I got a heavy, “they are melting because you are here” vibe…

  10. True, they brought up the fact that ice was melting, but that wasn't until the end of the sequence. So they took a break from the pollution/environmental stuff to get back to the animals before they got into that.

    And I wouldn't necessarily call it a blame game, since they never once said “this is you fault”. The closest thing they said to that was “Human indifference is the ocean's worst enemy” (I'm paraphrasing) which is true. Its not that humans are outright trying to destroy the environment, its that they don't care or think about the consequences. I suppose the message can be interpreted differently for everyone, but personally I didn't think it was too overbearing as I was still able to enjoy the film.

  11. Simple, if you agree that the movie should be used as a means to push an agenda and blame people for everything, you won't think it's too much. If you disagree that the movie should have been used that way, then you'll think it's too much… Alright, problem solved. :-P

  12. That is such a black and white response. I'm more in the gray area :)

    I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just accepted it for what it was. It's not like I felt they were forcing it in, which maybe they were, but it didn't feel that way to me. I will say, however, that the little boy they showed at the beginning and end of the film was a bit cheap, and that definitely felt like it didn't belong.

  13. Yah, everyone will claim they are “gray.” Nobody ever wants to admit to fitting into one or the other, because that makes them in a way predictable and simplistic. Everyone likes to think of themselves as objective and not easily put into a category… lol. I'm just messing with you dude. Just don't see the point of arguing back and forth, it's subjective if you think it was too much or not. You don't think so, others think so, the end. Not just talking to you, I think it's just as pointless to try to change your mind too. I obviously agree with the side that thinks politics shouldn't find its way into nature documentaries, but if you don't think it's that bad, then oh well. All I know is that I'm not going to spend my money on any Disney nature docs, but that's just me, I don't need you or anyone else to agree with me or follow suit… :-)

  14. Well it's not like humans aren't damaging the oceans. Now whether or not I want to pay movie theater prices in order to be lectured about that is an entirely different story. I haven't actually seen the movie yet so I can't really weight in on it much more than that.

  15. If you dislike Oprah, you should check out the version of Life narrated by David Attenborough. It seems like most people prefer the BBC versions over the Discovery ones.

  16. Most people in Europe probably since Attenborough is more of a figure there so they have a reason to want that. For me, I was fine with Sigourney Weaver in Planet Earth. In fact, I'd rather hear a woman's voice than a man's for 5 hours… But in this case, I don't think I can stand so many hours of Oprah… So I'll take David Attenborough if I can get it…

  17. i agree with you Ken J. hehe

  18. “Oceans makes our real planet feel conjured up. There are countless moments where I found myself staring at the screen in confusion. Is this real? Did they actually CGI a nature documentary? Or is there simply such beauty and magnificence actually out there I can’t ever fathom it. Certain images will remain in my mind forever, from rocket ships illuminating a cliff full of iguanas to swarms of crabs bracing for an underwater war.”

    I really liked this, Mike. The world is such a beautiful place and sometimes we forget how awesome it is. God created something beautiful and we don't need to tweak it.

  19. Ken,

    Hopefully this doesn't come off as sounding like that guy that tells the Major Leaguer he always wanted to be a baseball player and played in high school, but I always wanted to be a meteorologist and studied it in high school. I find the stuff you just sent to be really damn cool and fascinating to see just how out of their way people have gone to prove this is a centralized problem. So many factors play into global warming and to simply call out the human race for causing it is excessive. Yes, we are helping escalate the process, but look at those graphs…It's happened before and will happen again and again. The earth is made of so many toxic materials, to blame it on big cities and bus exhaust is a bit much.

  20. I will probably give this dvd a miss. There are a lot of great titles out including ‘Frozen Planet’ which I have yet to watch, although that is a mighty impressive underwater photograph of a Great White and diver. Its tempting to rent and watch muted.

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