'Atlantis' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
Right from the outset the benefit of the high definition transfer is evident. The depth and clarity of the image is very impressive indeed, especially for such an old movie that was filmed under very difficult conditions. All of the marine life is almost perfectly represented; the speckled patterns of the dolphins and the battle scars of the Great Whites stand out clearly, and the multi-coloured pattern of the sea-slug is simply stunning. Hairs are visible on the filtering mouth piece of a deep sea crab and gills on various species of fish can clearly be seen pulsating as they expel carbon dioxide. The contrast ratio is acceptable, with the darker scenes giving the opportunity to demonstrate some impressive black levels (as do the inky darkness of the Great White's eyes). The colour scheme is obviously somewhat muted on this release, with the palette restricted to various shades of blue, murky greens/browns and some earthy reds. For a sub-aqua presentation, colouring is spot on throughout, with some nice greyscales during the darker scenes.
There are plenty of instances of that sought after “3D Pop” factor on this release. With the nothingness of the open ocean as a backdrop, the multitude of marine life appears to float in mid-air and all have a real body and depth about them (especially some of the close-ups). Only miniscule yet very well defined air bubbles and plankton give the game away that these creatures are indeed underwater. A highlight for me was when the behemoth Canadian octopus clasps his tentacle onto the camera itself, the minute fabric of his tentacles standing out with sharp definition.
The difficult filming conditions, due to the gloomy and poorly lit nature of deep sea, can introduce some marring effects (such as softness) to the otherwise impressive transfer. These were mostly evident in the darker segments, where some crushing was also noted. There is also a fine smattering of grain present in some of the scenes but this is always organic and unobtrusive. I was impressed to note that there was zero print or other damage on this transfer and Optimum really has done a top notch job with this release. Without the clarity and definition that this BD offers, the impact of some of these striking scenes would undoubtedly be lost.
One small niggle was noted during the shark scenes. A large scratch was clearly visible on the camera (along with some smaller ones), no doubt a souvenir from an encounter with a Great White. The 1080p transfer really exposes this damage and it can be somewhat distracting during these scenes. I will not be deducing marks for this observation as it has nothing to do with the transfer itself.
Quite disappointingly 'Atlantis' only features a paltry LPCM 2.0 stereo mix, with no uncompressed surround tracks available for selection.
Although lacking in the high definition audio department, the stereo mix is never silent and is delivered without any distortion, pops, cracks or hisses. Right from the opening monologue to the end credits there are very few periods of aural inactivity. The ambient effects scattered throughout, such as the ringing of phones or the murmuring of voices, are always easy to distinguish and are positioned cleverly in the mix to expand and add depth to the track. There are plenty of well represented sound effects pertaining to the marine life itself such as dolphins chattering, the clash of shark tooth on camera and the sound of crab claw on conch shell to name but a few. The front separation is expansive at times and is for the most part well engineered with high treble and solid mid-range bass. Where the sound effects fall silent the score comes into play to fill the void.
The score by Eric Serra (performed by the London Symphony Orchestra) plays a major role in this production. As the only form of aural content aside from the ambient/action effects it forms the real backbone of the piece. Multi-faceted but dated would be the best description for Serra's composition. I did enjoy the themes he has assigned to each of the animals and they really seemed to suit the character of the animals. The score contains some beautiful orchestral numbers which feature a multitude of instruments ranging from woodwind, brass and bongos with a dash of harp and a sprinkle of xylophone for flavour. The treble is piercing and clear throughout with some nice mid range bass. There were some scant instances of deep bass but these were few and far between. The track is let down slightly by the inclusion of some very odd synthesiser heavy tracks which really date the score to the early nineties. There's also the horrible inclusion of a pop/love song during the “love” scenes, which really should have been omitted.
This stereo track does a worthy job with the source material and the limited channels it has to work with but I can't help thinking how immersive and dynamic it could have sounded in 5.1 (uncompressed).
The extras portion of this release is seriously lacking, with only a standard definition trailer available for your viewing pleasure. The trailer doesn't include any footage from the movie itself but rather gives a brief (2 minute) documentary style snippet of Besson and his team descending from a helicopter into the depths of the ocean.
'Atlantis' was released in 1991 and was directed by Luc Besson. Famed for his direction on 'Leon' and 'The Fifth Element', Besson has always had a deep seated love of the ocean, which was hinted upon in 'The Big Blue'. With 'Atlantis' the Francophone director is given the opportunity to flex his artistic muscle with a subject he obviously is very passionate about. Filmed over two years there is plenty of rare and unique marine footage for your viewing pleasure including playful dolphins (from the Bahamas), a striped sea serpent, iguanas (from the Galapagos), seals, manta rays, turtles and Great Whites (from Australia). The movie itself is a very strange in that it contains zero commentary (apart from a brief introductory monologue) and only a few ambiguous captions for direction. The viewer is simply left to draw their own conclusions as to what was intended, all the while enjoying the suitable (if slightly dated) score by Eric Serra. 'Atlantis' is one of Besson's strangest movies but contains enough subtle nuances and stunning photography to draw this viewer back for a second viewing.
The benefits of Optimum's 1080p transfer are evident right from the opening scenes. The clarity and depth of the image is very impressive for a movie which was shot underwater almost fifteen years ago. There are lots of instances of that “3D Pop” factor and both the colour scheme and contrast ratio are spot on, if a little restricted by the difficult filming conditions. The audio mix is somewhat of a disappointment in that it's presented in stereo only. It does fare well with some nice treble and mid-range bass. Although it delivers Serra's score with clarity, it never really impresses and I can't help but wonder how an uncompressed 5.1 mix would have sounded. The extras portion is somewhat lacking, with only a paltry standard definition trailer available. Overall 'Atlantis' is a unique and engrossing piece that is aided in its delivery by a very satisfactory high definition transfer.
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