Deep Sea 3D is an extremely colourful and briskly paced film ostensibly meant to address the plight of deep sea creatures threatened by nasty ocean floor trawling by commercial fishers, but really it’s more of a watery travelogue with a familiar mix of cute underwater creatures, chomping carnivores, and weird organisms seemingly inspired by sci-fi pulp novels and imaginative CGI artists.
The bizarre jellyfish, like every creature in the film, are quite real, and Howard Hall’s cinematography captured some very candid behavioural moments from barracuda, shark, Right whales, and three stages within the oceanic food chain - small fish eaten by medium fish eaten by bigger fish.
Even though Warner Bros.’ DVD contains flat 16x9 widescreen and full screen versions, the transfers are sufficiently vivid to impress what elements originally drifted towards audiences in 3D.
The down side of the DVD transfer is that to accommodate the two flat versions (the 16x9 has more side room, whereas the 1:33:1 clips the sides in favour of more top/bottom space) as well as trailers, the video compression runs high, so many low-light scenes are affected by weak grey, dark blue, and black levels, noticeably in the sequences where coral spawn after dusk, the manta ray feeding frenzy, and the squid munching on fish & taking pokes at the IMAX camera.
The sound mix is vivid, but where the film runs into problems is the finale – the message of people being part of the ocean world feels tacked on and facile – and the narration, which has been split up between Johnny Depp (who’s fine), and Kate Winslet (who sounds like a snotty school teacher, carefully enunciating works like “sym-bi-o-sis,” as though the audience had suffered a bit of pre-screening head trauma). Efforts at humour are variable, and one gets a sense the dual stars were brought in to give the film some box office boosting instead of fulfilling the movie’s creative needs.
The reworking of Danny Elfman’s “Serenada Schizophrana” and Deborah Lurie’s bridge material works, but the film score runs into trouble when Elfman’s patented shoulder-shaking chorals are overused, and inevitably takes attention away from the movie.
Hall’s prior IMAX films include Into the Deep 3D (1994) and Island of the Sharks (1999), and his latest, Under the Sea 3D (2009) is much more satisfying that Deep Sea 3D.
Note: to read an interview with producer Toni Myers, click HERE.
© 2009 Mark R. Hasan