IMAX documentary by MacGillivray Freeman [Release date: Nov. 20, 08]
Narrator: Liam Neeson
Music: Crosby, Stills & Nash; Steve Wood
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9, 1080p HD (reduced from IMAX format)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DD 5.1
Extras: “Making Of” documentary, Film trivia quiz
Length: 46 min. (feature); 30 mins. (documentary)
This is another in the series of IMAX documentaries which have been issued on DVD and now on Blu-ray. With the tremendous resolution of the world’s largest film format, the DVD transfers were clearly a cut above DVDs made from standard 35mm sources, and these Blu-rays are better yet. (IMAX 70mm film is run sideways at such a high speed that three times as much film needs to move past the lens in order to expose it at the standard 24 frames per second. The entire 69.6mm by 48.5mm area is used, with a separate soundtrack on a hard drive rather than on the film. The typical IMAX flat screen is 53 feet high. There are also Dome IMAX theaters, which distort the image to cover the dome.)
The film centers on a couple renowned for their undersea photography and concern about the future of the world’s coral reefs. They are joined by a son of Jacques Cousteau and visit reefs in Australia, Fiji, Tahiti and area to find out why some coral reefs around the world are dying. Changes in temperature of just a couple degrees due to global warming are part of the harm coming to reefs; also silt deposited by nearby river mouths were erosion has been encouraged further upstream.
While the footage of the dying reefs is heart-rending, the colorful images of the abundant sea life on the living coral reels is captivating. Some of the divers dove to depth they had never before plumbed to try to find answers to the condition of the reefs. The use of the Crosby, Stills & Nash tunes is very clever and appropriate. One of the most hilarious scenes is of a so-called bulldozer shrimp, who clears rubble out of a nest so both it and a large fish can share the space – the larger animal acting as a sort of bodyguard for the small shrimp. While the shrimp works, we hear on the soundtrack the Crosby, Stills & Nash tune “Our House.”
The film will instill a greater appreciation of the dazzling underwater world of coral reefs, and the Making Of featurette will cause the viewer to appreciate the Herculean efforts the filmmakers went thru to manage the heavy and bulky IMAX camera, which can only film three minutes worth of footage underwater before it has to be hauled up and reloaded again.
– John Sunier