I believe that human beings have done damage to the planet on which we live. I believe that climate change is real. You must know that because the documentary reviewed herein, Planet Ocean, is about climate change and other issues we have created that harm our oceans. While it is always true that our personal opinions color the way we see the world around us, it feels important to note said opinions with a documentary such as this one.
Narrated by Josh Duhamel, Planet Ocean is directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Michael Pitiot. It details the way in which the oceans have been altered in recent times and what man has done to destroy them. It attempts to build its case using great visuals and many pieces of evidence. I won’t say that the shots of the water/animals/machines are unique, but they are lovely to look at. The film is, without question, a visual treat. It is also totally and completely unconvincing, even for those who already agree with its premise.
If that seems relatively oxymoronic perhaps it is, but it remains undeniably true. I wish that I could point to specific moments where the building of the pro-environmental case falls flat, but the vast majority of it seems to. The reasons for this are, I believe, two-fold. First, while the film uses great images, it fails to offer up a great narrative. It is plodding. The only thing to keep one tuned in is the visuals and that simply isn’t enough.
The second issue—quite obviously hugely tied in with the first—is Duhamel himself. The words aren’t just mundane, but the way Duhamel delivers them is, regularly, lifeless. There are times when Duhamel is, apparently, speaking about his own personal viewpoint but it doesn’t sound like that, it sounds as though the specific words he utters have been put into his mouth and that he doesn’t quite understand them.
There is an art to making a documentary. There is an art to causing someone to accept your view of a situation (a regular reason for making a documentary and certainly the one for making this particular film), and in the most basic sense, Planet Ocean fails to be compelling. It fails to create a logical, believable, persuasive argument. And here is where I again remind you that I believe what they’re saying in the film to be true, but I still don’t believe it they way they’ve constructed and delivered the argument. In fact, by the end of the film I felt somewhat less sure than I did heading in.
Some of this problem may be my own personal desire, in general, to pick a fight, but I don’t think very much is due to that. The fact remains that the argument is simply not compelling. It would have been far more beneficial to spend the majority of the film’s runtime talking about the miracles and wonders of the ocean and all the great things that it has done for us through the centuries and then tacking on an environmental message at the end rather than peppering the message throughout.
I will not say that people shouldn’t watch the movie. Even if it’s not a compelling argument, the message about doing everything we can to save our environment is an important one. But, I will say that you’ll probably enjoy the movie a lot more if you turn down the volume and simply wonder at the visuals.
And, Planet Ocean does feature some excellent visuals. They are, it must be said however, somewhat hurt by the amount of banding present in the scenes. The colors though are truly impressive and the shots of both nature intact and nature destroyed are a treat to see (even if that doesn’t sound quite right). The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is more consistent and solid, successfully transporting the viewer into the world’s visited on the screen.
Included extras are minimal, with less than 20 minutes of “behind the scenes” footage. This is divided into three different segments (one on filming in Rio, another on Shanghai, and another on underwater work). No one talks to the viewer during these pieces, we just get to see the filming and a discussion or two unfold.
The environment is important. We should be doing what we can to help save it. Planet Ocean though doesn’t present the argument in the best way. It doesn’t even present it in a very good way. The message is a valid one, but there are documentaries that present it in far better ways.