Director Howard Hall has been here before, bringing us "Deep Sea," "Island of the Sharks," "Into the Deep," and "Nature" in past years. Here, he and his fellow filmmakers meant for viewers to watch the 2009 documentary "IMAX: Under the Sea" on a giant IMAX screen in 3-D. Watching it on a relatively small home screen, especially in standard definition, rather diminishes the fun.
Nevertheless, there is so much beauty on display, and the picture quality is still so good, it's hard to argue against the film, even when forty-one minutes seems like pretty short measure.
Yes, beauty abounds. Like Hall's previous films about the sea, this one explores only a fraction of the myriad variety of underwater plants and animals that exist in the world's oceans, yet the ones we see on display are amazing in the extreme. Thanks to Hall, his superb crew of cinematographers, a surprisingly subdued and evenhanded narration by Jim Carrey, and a pleasant musical score by Mickey Erbe and Maribeth Solomon, "Under the Sea" entertains and enlightens throughout its run time.
Why Jim Carrey as narrator? Why not? He's a famous person with a famous voice, and he furnishes a few dryly humorous lines along the way. Even though I was a tad uncertain about his narration at first, he grew on me, and I came to enjoy his manner of accounting and describing things.
Hall made the movie primarily along the Coral Triangle, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and other tropical waters of the South Pacific. Although the filmmakers pack the movie with fascinating bits of information about the sea creatures it explores, it's the sight of these creatures one comes to enjoy most. This movie is a visual delight on every level, with some scenes almost literally taking one's breath away.
Carrey tells us that more marine species live in the area around the Coral Triangle, Indonesia, and Papua New Guina than anywhere else in the world. What's more, each species is distinctly different from every other species, so there is an almost infinite variety of shapes and colors involved. All I could say as I watched the film was "Wow!"
We find bizarre reef cuttlefish, venomous sea snakes more poisonous than king cobras, a gorgeous crown jellyfish, and a garden of eels you have to see to believe. Of course, we also get plenty of coverage of the great white shark, too, and then, saving the best for last, we get sea dragons, totally amazing, delicate animals.
One element in the movie that may concern some viewers, though, is Hall's political message about global warming doing irreparable damage to the Earth's ecological systems. While the vast majority of the world's scientists believe this to be true, some folks continue to scoff at the idea and Hall may offend them by sneaking the theory into what they thought would be a totally objective documentary. So, if you are of a skeptical bent on the subject, be forewarned.
In any case, enjoy "IMAX: Under the Sea" as an all-too-brief but fascinating look at some of our ocean's irreplaceable treasures.
OK, so it's not in 3-D. It's probably better for it. Shot in 70 mm (65 mm) and originally shown in a 1.44:1 IMAX screen ratio in 3-D, Warners have trimmed the dimensions a bit to fit a 16x9 widescreen television, and they use an anamorphic transfer it to DVD. The results are obviously not as startlingly spectacular as they can be on high-definition Blu-ray, but they're still quite impressive.
Colors are vivid and vibrant, and definition is about as precise as standard definition will allow. The effect is so good that while this is not a 3-D rendering of the film, it is so clear, it looks as though it's three dimensional. I'm not sure that even a scuba diver at these locations would get as clean and transparent a picture of the surroundings as you get from this film.
Complementing the first-rate SD image quality is a Dobly Digital 5.1 soundtrack that provides a wide frequency range and decent dynamics, with a fine display of surround activity. The rear and side channels work to deliver not only a welcome musical ambience but the rush of sea and waves as well. The only minor drawback I found was that the sound of music and water sometimes tended to overwhelm Jim Carrey's narration.
The primary bonus item on the disc is a featurette, "Filming IMAX: Under the Sea." It's little more than a seven-minute promo for the film. In addition, we get five scene selections; English as the only spoken language; French and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
If you're figuring up the value of "IMAX: Under the Sea" in terms of dollars and cents, the film comes up short. It is, after all, an awfully brief movie. But like other IMAX films, if you measure it in terms of the sheer beauty of its presentation, the sea in all its mesmerizing turbulance and grace, its value is probably incalculable.