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Dustin Putman




Flight of the Butterflies  (2012)

(4K Ultra HD Blu-ray – 2012 – Running Time: 44:13)
Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: July 12, 2016) – What "Flight of the Butterflies" lacks in hard-hitting data it makes up for in gentle resplendence. Originally shown on IMAX 3D screens (it premiered in 2012 at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.), this 44-minute, half-documentary, half-docudrama hybrid traces the decades-long research of Dr. Fred Urquhart (Gordon Pinsent) and wife Norah (Patricia Phillips) into the migration patterns of monarch butterflies. Curious where the monarchs disappear to in the fall and winter months, the Canada-based Urquharts eventually, after years of dedicated study and a clever butterfly tagging system, receive their answer—a glimpse into the majestic insect's tri-generational, 2,500-mile journey to the warmer weather of central Mexico.

"Flight of the Butterflies" blends real nature footage with dramatic re-enactments with an appreciable light touch that never goes for melodrama or overwrought emotions. The nostalgic but unforced glow with which director Mike Slee approaches the material gives the picture a touching undercurrent. While a few parts have clearly used computer effects to assist in taking viewers into the open skies with the butterflies, other segments are stunning precisely because of the remarkable true footage captured of these creatures. Their metamorphosis, from a caterpillar to a chrysalis to butterfly, is especially fascinating. "Flight of the Butterflies" might have been even better with an increase in the documentary aspects of the film, but as a short-form work intended to be visually pored over, it is a glorious sight to behold.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound
 A+/A

Shout! Factory has been an early supporter of cutting-edge 4K Ultra HD content, and their documentary releases in this format are fast becoming watermarks for 4K UHD Blu-ray discs. "Flight of the Butterflies" is no exception. This 2160p transfer offers two viewing options: High Dynamic Range (requiring a High Dynamic Range-enabled TV) or Standard Dynamic Range. For those with HDR-compatible televisions, the choice is a no-brainer. This is a ravishing 4K image, crystal-clear and bursting forth with a color spectrum and level of clarity that will impress even the most nitpicky of home-theater enthusiasts. Depth frequently mesmerizes, opening up a world on one's television screen that often looks as if you could reach in and touch the fluttering beauties and their surroundings. A second disc houses a regular Blu-ray presentation, as well as a 3D version; it is nice to have these options, but the 4K presentation in High Dynamic Range is the one I am sure I will reach for time and again. The English Dolby Atmos track is terrific, bringing an authentic fidelity to its earthy sounds of nature, accompanying music score, and respective narration and dialogue passages. The material does not lend itself to wall-shaking grandiosity (there are no explosions or big action scenes), but the glory of Dolby Atmos is its ability to fully immerse the viewer even when its aural pleasures fall on the subtler side.

Blu-ray Features
  • Special Message from 2006-2012 President of Mexico Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (1:28, UHD)
  • Behind the Scenes (28:37, UHD)
  • Image Gallery (1:11, UHD)
  • Trailers:
    • The Last Reef (1:35, UHD)
    • Wonders of the Arctic (1:41, UHD)
    • Rocky Mountain Express (1:26, UHD)
    • Journey to Space (1:06, UHD)
    • Humpback Whales (1:53, UHD)
    • Flight of the Butterflies (1:10, UHD)
Bottom Line
"Flight of the Butterflies" is a lovely nature doc with enough aesthetic grandeur to make up for its lack of informational depth. Offering an exceptional 4K Ultra HD picture and wonderful Dolby Atmos audio, this will easily be a go-to demo disc. Shout! Factory should be commended for embracing the 4K UHD Blu-ray format (offering regular Blu-ray and 3D versions is a bonus). Heartily recommended for all, but a must-buy for 4K UHD consumers.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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