Deep Blue

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 06/30/05 23:58:38

"Like an IMAX film without that pesky visual spectacle"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

The new documentary film “Deep Blue” suggests what the experience of seeing an IMAX movie presented in a non-IMAX format would be like. This, I should stress, is not a compliment in any way, shape or form for IMAX films are, from a cinematic standpoint, on a par with Smell-O-Vision, 3-D and other essentially useless gimmicks. Aside from that Rolling Stones concert film, which at least left viewers with some great music, the typical IMAX film offers nothing to viewers other than the enormous size and spectacle of its presentation. Take that away and all you have for the most part are bland, formless documentaries that are designed to placate tired families for 40 minutes by giving them nothing beyond a bunch of pretty pictures strung together with portentous narration. That description fits “Deep Blue” to a T, except for the fact that it runs twice as long and feels four times as long.

Those expecting to see a lot of killer chess moves will be disappointed to learn that the film is instead dedicated to the mysteries of the deep. We see dolphins leaping majestically out of the water and several minutes of crashing waves. We see a massing of albatross and enormous schools of sardines under attack from dolphins–both are eventually set upon by a whale. There is a cutesy time-lapse sequence involving a mass of sand crabs doing their thing and another segment depicting the arduous journey that the emperor penguin must undergo in order to propagate the species. Occasionally, the images aren’t quite as happy-go-lucky–one sequence showing a killer whale making short and bloody work of a sea lion should provide nightmare fuel for many viewers. However, no matter what the content of the scene, it gets a heavy glaze of a schmaltzy score and, ever more painful, a hideous New Age narration from Pierce Brosnan that kick off with “Our planet is a blue planet” and quickly goes downhill from there.

The whole point of a film like “Deep Blue” is to dazzle viewers with sights they have never seen before. If Miramax had released the film back in 2003, when it was made, instead of leaving it to gather dust on their shelves for a couple of years, it might have actually done that. However, the strange fact is that many of the theoretically dazzling sights on display here have already been seen in a variety of recent films. The sight of giant coral chimneys at the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean belching super-heated water that resembles smoke was seen to great effect earlier this year in James Cameron’s “Aliens of the Deep.” In another case, the mating rituals of the emperor penguin can be seen in greater detail in their very own film, next week’s “March of the Penguin.” Hell, even the sight of the dolphins leaping out of the ocean occasionally bears a striking resemblance to the opening of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Presumably, anyone with a genuine interest in the subject of the oceans is likely to have seen one or two of those films so “Deep Blue,” even though it may have been made before them, can’t help but seem like little more than a retread of familiar material.

Some of the scenes in “Deep Blue” are pretty to look at on an aesthetic level but even they pale in comparison to the dazzling sights seen in Cameron’s film or Luc Besson’s beautiful documentary “Atlantis.” By comparison, this film plays more like one of those nature segments that plays at the end of “CBS Sunday Morning” stretched out to 80 minutes. “Deep Blue” is pretty, all right, but it is also pretty vacant to boot.

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