by Mel Valentin
Directed by documentary filmmaker Howard Hall, "Under the Sea 3D (IMAX)" is the third film in a loose trilogy of undersea documentary. The first and second documentaries, respectively, "Deep Sea 3D" and "Into the Deep 3D" used 3D and the 70-foot tall IMAX screen to full effect, taking moviegoers safely under the water to explore the diverse wonders of undersea life and underwater terrain. With Jim Carrey providing voiceover narration, "Under the Sea 3D (IMAX)" takes viewers to exotic locations, including Southern Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia as part of an exploration off the so-called Coral Triangle.Hall and his crew explored California and Baja Peninsula waters, North Carolina, British Columbia, the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, and the Bahamas for Deep Sea 3D. Hall and his producers, however, wanted to explore more remote, lesser known (or at least lesser photographed) undersea worlds. The Coral Triangle seemed like the next logical choice for Hall and his crew to explore. Taking underwater photography a step farther, Hall and his production team used newer, lighter, easier-to-handle IMAX 3D cameras for Under the Sea 3D (IMAX). Not surprisingly, it was a good choice both for the stunningly beautiful images captured and for the immersive movie-going experience created for the ticket-buying public.
"Just like every other underwater doc in 3D."
Hall and his team captured Great White Sharks, Flamboyant Cuttlefish (and their distinctly odd mating habits), Leafy Sea Dragons (so-called because they’re virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding plant life), Giant Stingrays, Jellyfish, Green Sea Turtles, Australian Sea Lions, Garden Eels, the Dwarf Minke Whale, the Chambered Nautilus, Big Fin Reef Squid, and an almost endless series of multi-colored fish. Hall and his team also explore the vast coral ecosystem and, with Jim Carrey’s voiceover help, examine the effects climate change has had (and will continue to have) on the coral ecosystem.
Like its predecessors, Under the Sea 3D (IMAX) succeeds in creating the requisite awe and wonderment for moviegoers. Projected on an IMAX screen, Under the Sea 3D (IMAX) fills the frame with movement, light, and color, most of it provided by the marine life captured by Hall’s cameras. Given the 3D format, Hall can’t resist letting the undersea world’s most fearsome predator, the Great White Shark, swim toward moviegoers. It’s an impressive effect, but it’s also one that’s quickly become a cliché of underwater photography, especially anything involving 3D. Of course, some moviegoers will be shocked (and awed) by the Great White Shark’s approach (likewise with other undersea predators), but Hall milks the effect for all its worth (and then some).Likewise, unfortunately, with the environmental theme that takes over the second half of "Under the Sea 3D (IMAX)" and its brief, 40-minute running time. It’s nothing we haven’t seen or heard before, and given the singular focus on undersea life (as opposed to a standard documentary with talking heads and other evidentiary information), Hall should have trusted his better instincts and let the awe-inspiring images he captured on film to tell moviegoers everything they needed to know. Then again, given the high ticket price for IMAX screens the 40-minute running time, moviegoers might feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth. Sadly, they’d be right. Hopefully next time Hall will either stay away from including an unnecessary (and unnecessarily didactic) environmental message or let the images say everything that needs to be said.
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originally posted: 02/13/09 09:00:00