I love a bargain. Finding great films on Blu-ray, like Romancing the Stone (1984) at $5 or less is a wonder of modern shopping. I also enjoy travel movies and have recommended quite a few. Recently I picked up what appeared to be, at least from a packaging point of view, a real bargain. I found another film in the National Parks Exploration series for only $4.
I puckered with excitement. Some of the films in the National Parks series were pretty good. (OK, others weren’t so hot, and still others drifted into total mediocrity).
An Eagle’s View of the National Parks seems like a great idea. Many of the spectacular features of American scenery need to be seen from far above sea level to fully understand the features of the landscape – just as you have to see a cave from the inside to get any idea of its wonderful features.
In just over an hour, EVNP visits some truly great places: the Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains, Everglades, Voyageurs, and Badlands National Parks, including The Black Hills, Deadwood, Crazy Horse Monument and Mt. Rushmore National Monument. Next up, a flight over the Rocky Mountains, Grand Tetons, Glacier, and Cascades National Parks, including Mt. Rainier.
Then on to the Sierra Nevadas, with visits to the Yosemite and Death Valley National Parks.
Next up, the Colorado Plateau with visits to Zion and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as Monument Valley, Lake Mead, Lake Powell and their dams. And finally we land at the Grand Canyon and spectacular Yellowstone.
All these places are filled with dramatic landscapes and beautiful features seen best from a high point. A good view from a high point, that is.
Although this film is on a Blu-ray disc, the visuals aren’t up to BR quality. The footage wasn’t shot with hi-def cameras. Most of it looks like it was filmed with an iPhone camera that the operator was using for the first time – or an old VHS recorder.
Most of the photography looks like it was done from helicopters or small civilian aircraft. The photography is supposed to show an eagle’s view. If so, the eagle had way too much to drink before he took off and was probably flying with a wounded wing. This would explain the shaking camera. Clearly, steady cams weren’t used.
Scenes where there’s haze weren’t shot with proper light filters, and the results look like the scenery is covered in heavy smoke. Clear reflections of the not-very-clean helicopter-windows further detract from the quality.
Scenes above the Rocky Mountains look like they were filmed outside the passenger window of a large jet at about 30,000 feet. You can tell, because the Rockies look pretty small way, way down there.
Over Badlands, the photographers claim to be in a hot air balloon. However, the balloon moves at a pace that indicates it was motorized – or that the producers are full of hot air.
The one shot of Monument Valley is done from a long way off. It could have been a small lit up model in a garage, for all I could tell.
A good idea on film is only good if it looks good. And Blu-ray shows faults like no other home medium. I think I’ve said enough.
Rated 1.0 out of 4.0 reasons to use real equipment when shooting scenery for professional films. Not worth the $4 except for the nice packaging.