Warner Bros. // 2009 // 40 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // April 7th, 2010
Below the surface and beyond imagination.
I approached this release with some reservations when I learned Jim Carrey would be providing the narration, as it can be so easy to forget his skill and presence as a dramatic actor and remember him for his more manic roles. He really is the perfect fit for this project, guiding the production with a pleasant and even tone, while also knowing the perfect moments to insert moments of humor and whimsy. Carrey also adds appropriate weight and seriousness when he speaks of the plight our oceans may face if, as humans, we don't get our collective act together and start treating our planet with the respect it deserves.
IMAX and Warner Bros. must have spared no expense in the filming of Under the Sea, as the production involved five month-long expeditions to five different locations: New Britain and Milne Bay in Papua, New Guinea; South Australia; the Great Barrier Reef; and Indonesia. The resulting footage is truly breathtaking, capturing some of the most amazing environments and marine life the world has ever seen. The only tragedy of this production is that it all comes to a close in the standard 40-ish minute IMAX feature run time. Thankfully, not a second of that time is wasted, and it's quite likely you'll come away with a new appreciation for the precious wonders of our oceans and the vital importance of protecting that fragile ecosystem.
Written and directed by veteran cinematographer Howard Hall, Under the Sea benefits from Hall's considerable skill, both as a creative force and an experienced scuba diver. During the early days of his career, Hall shot and directed underwater documentaries for The American Sportsman and Wild Kingdom television series and has worked on more than 100 TV documentaries as a producer, director and/or cinematographer. Hall has earned six Emmy Awards for his cinematography, five of which were for films about underwater wildlife.
With Hall at the helm, Under the Sea is both a visual and auditory treat on Blu-ray. The crispness, detail and color of the source material are faithfully reproduced here in a stunning 1080p hi-def presentation. Blu-ray and IMAX are perfectly suited, as the full capacity of the IMAX image is given room to play in your living room, thanks to the hi-def format. DTS-HD Master Audio mixes don't often get the workout they deserve, but I'm happy to say that this mix doesn't disappoint. The music is soothing and understated for the most part, but also breaks free from time to time, most noticeably during the rendition of "Octopus's Garden" that plays near the end of the feature. When atmospheric effects or Carrey's narration are given center stage, the audio mix is always well-balanced and immersive, helping the viewer to lose themselves in the gorgeous footage before them.
On the extras front, "Filming Imax: Under the Sea" is a relatively brief but detailed synopsis of the project, bracketed by one of those movie trailer voices that is, I suppose, intended to get you excited about the feature itself. I don't know about you, but the natural world is more than enough to get my heart racing, especially when lovingly reproduced in IMAX. A series of short webisodes are also included on this release, providing some short background information on each filming location.
Whether or not you believe global warming is actually taking place, there's no question that the human race has a negative impact on Earth's ocean habitats. Let's hope that by seeing the astounding array of life on display in stunning productions like IMAX: Under the Sea, more and more of us will see something that's worth protecting.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 40 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Official Site