Unlike Howard Hall’s prior documentary, Deep Sea 3D (2006), which dealt with the plight of over-fishing and greedy trawling, Under the Sea 3D (2009) addresses climate change, and ocean acidification - a relatively new phenomenon where the water’s acidity is slowly destroying the coral reefs, and robbing native fish and plants of food.
IMAX films aren’t designed as moral lectures, and while some might argue the tone is sometimes more wistful and adventuresome than a hard doc, the films mostly make up for it through vivid imagery that alone imparts a sense of appreciation; the formula is fairly effective: get audiences hooked on the pretty pictures and animal wonderment, and then slowly reveal how parts are dissolving away, or important components are being snatched up for wasteful commercial use (like sea snakes disappearing to meet the demand for handbags and belts).
At 40 mins., Under the Sea is just long enough to convey its message within a framework of vignettes and the strongest components include a detailed piece on culttlefish, where the camera follows the mating, seeding, and feeding habits of these rather romantic predators; and a lengthy sequence that has a group of sea snakes swim and hover above the audience’s lap – an effect that harkens back to that old Bwana Devil (1952) poster where a lion leaps from the screen into the audience.
The film’s 3D effects really are first-rate, and Hall maintains a good balance between conveying the ocean’s atmosphere, and a few ‘immersive’ shots that have sharks and lionfish floating towards the audience.
Under the Sea is stitched together by a straightforward and unadorned narration from Jim Carrey, and the actor’s voice is inviting rather than self-consciously funny, so there’s little worry of the comedian’s persona affecting the film’s emphasis on adventure and edification.
Two sequences are scored with songs – Doris Day’s “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” plays over a mating montage, and the Beatles’ “Octopus’ Garden” flows from a seal montage through the end credits – but the bulk of the film features an original score by Maribeth Solomon and Micky Erbe, two IMAX veterans who’ve crafted a rich musical panorama of world music (and one of their best scores to date).
The composers’ involvement in Under the Sea, as well as producer/editor Toni Myers, and executive producer Graeme Ferguson, is a reunion of sorts for this core group of IMAX pioneers, whose previous collaborations span the IMAX space films, as well as the first IMAX movie, North of Superior (1971).
Hall’s prior IMAX films include Into the Deep 3D (1994) and Island of the Sharks (1999).
Note: to read an interview with producer Toni Myers, click HERE, and an interview with composer Maribeth Solomon, click HERE.
© 2009 Mark R. Hasan