By: Addison Wylie
I admire Disney for trying to tackle a variety of films. When they’re not releasing animated films, they’re releasing live-action pictures which, for the most part, are very hit-or-miss but the films are a definite hit with young audiences. In relation to the live-action films, Disney has started to release concert films. Again, very hit-or-miss but they make a box office impact with the audiences who buy albums of the showcased bands. Now, in these troublesome times of potential global warming, Disney has decided to go back to their roots and produce documentaries exposing the beauties of the world in their DisneyNature series. Last year, audiences were treated to Earth; a powerful and engrossing documentary following families of animals as they fight for survival. Earth was well received, I thought it was amazing, but some found the use of past footage from the series Planet Earth to be a cop-out and a lethargic move on Disney’s part. A year later, Oceans is released and, to my understanding, the documentary features brand-new footage of underwater’s most astonishing creatures. I have a high respect for DisneyNature’s previous film but Oceans doubtlessly raises the bar.
The film starts off from a child’s point of view. We see a group of children playing on a beach and having a great time. One child though seems to be captivated by the ocean. As the child looks at the Ocean and wonders, a charming and endearing voice is heard. This voice is our narrator, Pierce Brosnan. For the duration of the film, Brosnan takes us to the depths of different Oceans; primarily the Tropics and the Arctic. Magnificent creatures are shown as they fend for themselves and interact with other species in their given environment. As we peer into the lives of all these different creatures, a magical score written by Bruno Coulais plays in the background. The film’s goal is to educate its audience in regards to these featured creatures; the film also briefly touches upon how these creatures are in trouble due to pollution and third party dangers. The film is out to educate and marvel audiences and Oceans succeeds greatly.
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Instead of following families, Oceans is interested in showing as many fascinating creations of the sea as possible. The crew of the documentary utilizes special underwater cameras and equipment in order to capture underwater lifestyles in all its vulnerability. During the end credits, behind-the-scenes footage is displayed as we see the crew setting up lights and getting extremely close to these mysterious animals. There is no doubt that the directors, Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, and their crew are certainly taking a lot of risks in order to capture these beautiful shots. Also, there are some really neat filmmaking and editing techniques present. There are sequence shots here that purely rely on luck and having the camera on at the right area at the perfect time. The cinematography team goes above and beyond capturing these enticing shots and the editing team exceptionally cuts the action together that adds more of an alluring mood, thus, making the shot extremely memorable. It’s here that proves that the craft of using a camera and the ability to masterfully edit should never be overlooked.
I also really like how the film is written in a very sparse manner. The narration provided by Brosnan never feels too heavy or dark and he certainly doesn’t start making cheesy animal jokes. The film knows that talking down to youngsters has been played out in a lot of documentaries and movies. Instead, the film trusts the audience and lets the powerful images and haunting, engaging music to do most of the talking while occasionally letting Brosnan provide a soft, calming voice to provide a more detailed description as to what’s happening on the screen. Even when the film starts to discuss the problems of pollution, the film lets us know how dangerous these elements are, however, it never feels to heavy-handled and it doesn’t go the “let’s scare the kids” route. Another pro in regards to the addition of Brosnan is that I found this to be a great improvement over James Earl Jones’ voiceover in Earth. As much as I love the booming vocals of Jones, I almost found his readings to be too distracting so the switch with Brosnan was a step in the right direction.
I’m becoming a very big fan of the DisneyNature collection. Because of these well executed documentaries, I look forward to Earth Day now. These films have helped me connect and learn more about the environment around me and to the environment that is nowhere near my geography. After reflecting on how much I’ve learned with these two films, I think about the children that were in the theatre as well; starring at the screen with their mouths agape. If I’m taking an abundance of information out of this film, I can’t even imagine how much children will learn about their world from these documentaries. If you still have a chance to check out Oceans, I encourage you to do so; and if you have children, I encourage you even more. With its gorgeous cinematography, a soothing voiceover provided by Pierce Brosnan, and an entrancing musical score, Oceans is educational, enticing, and excellent.