April 8, 2010

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The sequel to the second highest grossing (according to IMAX) IMAX 3-D film to date (Deep Sea 3D), narrator Jim Carrey and director Howard Hall bring a brief but spectacular look into the wonders down below into your living room. Albeit less wet, now relegated into 2-D.

Does the DVD version hold its own against its big brother, 3-D counterpart? Find out after the jump.

If it ‘aint broke, no reason to fix it following Howard Hall’s beautiful first IMAX 3-D go round in ‘Deep Sea 3-D’. This time in the not-so-murky depths, Hall brings his crew to Papua New Guinea, South Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, and Indonesia to tell the tale of its most interesting underwater denizens.

Be warned: ‘Under the Sea’ is a brief film, clocking in at just over 40 minutes of playtime. What is captured in this short period, however, is quite good, a surefire bet to keep the little ones in your family very entertained. Even after watching the film 17x over…which is the modus operandi for rugrats of this common ilk.


Hall is a master of the incognito camera crew, where nature literally goes on uninterrupted despite an enormous IMAX camera and team tracking every move. From swimming – sans cage, mind you – among Great White Sharks to the smallest of sea crabs, ‘Under the Sea’ never loses its ‘quiet observer’ feel.

Creature selection, however, is a bit off at times – likely determined by cost and IMAX underwater filming time dynamics (limited to a couple minutes at a time, as the ‘making of’ feature tells me). While the Australian Sea Lion and aforementioned Great White Shark are logical areas of emphasis, far too much attention was granted to the peculiar – and somewhat phallic – cuddlefish for long periods. Moreover, missing explanations for certain behaviors – standing eels flowing in sequence, for instance – likewise stand out as peculiar directional choices. For a pseudo-educational film, why show it if you won’t explain the rationale behind what you’re seeing?

Carrey is fun in his role as narrator, intermingling scientific terminology with accessible puns, keeping the pace of the film appropriate for one of this nature. While seemingly an odd choice for a narrator, Carrey delivers his lines ham-free and in a rolling, pleasant demeanor. Touche’, Ace Ventura.


‘Under the Sea,’ however, falls overboard toward the end of the disc, and becomes very preachy for its final 5 minutes. I understand the logic of connecting global warming to underwater exploration, but director Hall goes overboard (pun intended, I suppose) in beating this point home. The poor sea lions become politically inspired chumps as a result, Carrey left with espousing rhetoric versus perspective. It’s not that the topic isn’t relevant; its presentation in this film, however, was arguably done in poor taste.

Last – and a key criticism: while certainly enjoyable in DVD format, so much of ‘Under the Sea’ is lost in its degradation from IMAX 3-D format. Textures aren’t as sharp to compensate for areas where 3-D should’ve occurred. Colors fail to pop in exchange for flattened textures. Ironically enough – considering its subject matter and original – ‘Under the Sea’ on DVD ends up a disappointment visually.

In conclusion, ‘IMAX: Under the Sea’ is a nice film for the kids, but truly not comparable to its 3-D, bigger screen counterpart. Pretty but occasionally preachy, a nice gift for the aquatically inclined.

Features: C. The only additional content is a ‘making of’ short (8+ minutes that is more infomercial than anything).

Film: B-. Much is lost in translation between 3-D and 2-D DVD, with the end becoming a bit preachy.

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