Movie Review by Neil Sadler
Starring: Jim Carrey (narrator)
Director: Howard Hall
3D is apparently the future of cinema and 2009 sees more films than ever being released in 3D including (hopefully) films by the likes of John Lasseter, Robert Zemeckis and James Cameron. Obviously there are financial reasons for this – 3D films are considered more of an experience than 2D and cannot easily be recreated using home cinema equipment. They are also unlikely to be pirated on the internet as the image without the glasses is the equivalent of watching a bad pirate anyway.
Watching UNDER THE SEA, the third Imax 3D film by Howard Hall, I began to grasp what the true potential of 3D cinema – especially on an Imax screen, is and why it is such an exciting advance of potential for movie making.
UNDER THE SEA is a nature film that visits some of the harder to reach coral reefs of the world to film the rare and amazing creatures that live there. Creatures such as cuttlefish (obviously a favourite of the filmmakers), sharks and sea lions are filmed at close quarters in their richly coloured natural environments as they go about their lives in these dwindling coral forests of the world’s oceans.
So far so ordinary as far as nature films are concerned and when there are already such amazing documentaries as THE BLUE PLANET and PLANET EARTH to watch at home – in HD for the latter – it might seem that there is little left to see. But it is here that the filmmaker’s use of the Imax and 3D technology repays the difficulties of using such heavy expensive equipment and provides an experience above and beyond these other documentaries.
UNDER THE SEA is the first use of 3D I have seen that truly goes beyond the gimmick and uses this technology to involve the viewer in a way they simply don’t get elsewhere. Watching this film is the equivalent of sticking your face right up to an HD screen and – like a twisted scene from VIDEODROME – being sucked into the action. What was impressive about the film was not things leaping out at you, but rather the way the image clarity enabled you to get closer to the action than you could ever comfortably get in real life. Not only were these images thrust out of the screen at you, but they were done so with a clarity that went beyond HD. It was interesting to see many younger members of the audience reach out and try to touch the many creatures and there were moments when I had to resist the urge myself.
There are many incredible images that stay with you from a sea of dancing eels swaying in the current, to the courting cuttlefish vying for female attention and the final images of sea lions dancing up to the camera. They are made all the more memorable by the clarity of the image and amazing surround sound of the Imax experience. There are times when it feels like a theme park ride rather than a trip to the cinema but then for me the essence of a good film is that you forget you are watching a film and get lost in the “ride.”
Jim Carrey brings a touch of lightness to the narration and although there is an obvious environmental message here, it is never laboured.
As for whether this technology can translate to a full film is debatable. After 40 minutes I was ready to remove my glasses, firstly because they weren’t the most comfortable but also because the images on the screen were so vivid I was starting to feel a bit seasick. But if the story is involving and the images as consuming, as was the case here, then 3D will drag me out of my living room on a regular basis.