Deep Sea 3D
March 2nd, 2006
A vivid, eye-opening journey into the big blue ocean, “Deep Sea 3D” might not feature the most intensive of revelations, the widest assortment of creatures, or the most cleanly introduced environmental message. What it does have is awe, and even in the highly competitive large-format world, this documentary is a stunner, and features the best use of the 3D format to date.
Like the deepest jungles and the tallest skies, the bottomless ocean is a favorite location for large-format cinema endeavors. "Deep Sea" is the newest installment in the Imax exploration of the Earth, and it's one of the best ones yet. Utilizing 3D cameras, the picture takes the viewer to familiar places, but manages to freshen up the journey with strikingly immersive visuals.
After the success of "The Living Sea" and the last two James Cameron large-format dives, one would think there isn't that much left to be said about ocean life, but mystery and constant change are what Mother Nature is all about. "Deep Sea" takes the audience to the bottom of the world, showcasing the bizarre, beautiful, and endlessly mesmerizing community of sea life that dare to call it home.
The twist here is the 3D camera, and the effect is jaw-dropping as the screen seemingly encircles viewers in the liquid underworld. The opening moment, when a horde of jellyfish leisurely pulse their way across the screen, sets a hypnotic tone that the picture never shatters. Trailing an octopus on the hunt for food, turtles at the local "shell wash," and a whale who takes great curiosity with the divers, "Deep Sea" doesn't break much ground in terms of revealing the secret lives of undersea creatures, but visually, the film is an absolute stunner. Director Howard Hall, a veteran of underwater cinema ("Into the Deep," "Island of the Sharks"), seems to be perfecting his technique as he goes, and he keeps "Deep Sea" refreshingly simple, letting the creatures guide the pace instead of obtrusive narrative.
The 3D effect is so convincing that some of the more furious sea life might be positively nightmarish for younger viewers. A sequence of Humboldt squid darting around the dark, frantically finding prey to munch on is all well and good, but when the squid soon turn their attention to the camera, the 3D becomes awfully convincing at this point, potentially sending some kids into a state of shock.
To help put some butts in the seats, Hall has enlisted Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet to tag-team the narration. Depp is his old, reliable, low-key self; but Winslet seems fired up by the challenge, and adds a delightful motherly attitude to her voice work, speaking plainly for the little children, and excitedly for the older ones. She's a delight.
Eventually, "Deep Sea" reveals itself to be a potent lesson about overfishing and other assorted ways man has engineered to destroy the seas. To go from watching the lighthearted ways fish clean themselves to the cold realities of a barren ocean is harsh, but necessary and quite effective. The message only deepens this elegant, spellbinding film, and "Deep Sea" easily ends up one of the best times I've ever had inside an Imax theater.
My rating: A-