From Jaws to Nemo by way of The Little Mermaid, for many years now the cinema and the ocean have had a long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship. Under The Sea 3D marks a new chapter in that association with the ascension of IMAX and 3D technology to it’s current position of prominence within the industry, filmmakers now have the opportunity to produce work where the objective is to educate, rather than entertain. Under The Sea 3D, the latest production from veteran underwater filmmaker Howard Hall arrives on-screen with this noblest of intentions, and for the most part, achieves this flawlessly.
Clearly then Hall’s model in making this film is more Jacques Cousteau than Robinson Crusoe, but even with it’s overriding ecological concerns and desire to teach, the film has a beauty and truth to it that is almost unrivalled in cinematic history. Reviewing it proved slightly baffling for me as this is more definable as an experimental collage of mesmering pictures than anything approaching a traditional documentary, Under The Sea 3D is loaded with poetic imagery: eels rise and fall in tandem, water snakes slither elegantly across the screen and a sea turtle devours a jellyfish with his eyes closed to protect himself. In fact, the sequence of cuttlefish mating rituals may be the most romantic image you will see on film all year, as two insignificant colour-changing males chase the all-powerful female along the ocean floor. Sequences like these, or the incredible camouflage of the leafy sea dragon, give this admittedly brief film a magical sense of wonder that will surely delight parents and children alike (releasing it just before half term will prove to be a masterstroke).
After bombarding us with hypnotic sequences more befitting a Werner Herzog movie than a children’s documentary, the film noticeably changes tone in the final ten minutes as the narrator Jim Carrey strives to hammer home the message that these underwater eco-systems are just as affected by global warming as anything on the surface, and that some of the planets more inspirational and entertaining creatures may become extinct as a result. The message may seem heavy-handed and even didactic, but when coupled with the sheer beauty on display here its effect is unquestionable. The less said about the excruciatingly awful cover version of Octopus’ Garden that ends the film the better though.
If you ever wanted to go deep sea diving without getting cold and wet then get down to the IMAX as soon as possible as this is the film for you. In fact, if you have even the slightest love for this strange and beguiling planet that we all call home though, and long to view some of its more exotic and isolated locations (and inhabitants) then Under The Sea 3D contains more than enough to recommend it. Grab the nearest infant you can find and enjoy.