One of the latest entries into the IMAX documentary-scape, Under the Sea takes us on brief journey under various tropical waters that are teeming with coral reefs and exotic wild life. With Jim Carrey on board to narrate the piece, viewers are taken on another fantastic journey by Howard Hall and his team who has brought us several jaw-dropping IMAX pieces in the past. Watching this film isn’t so much a surprise or excitement filled forty-minutes as it is a way to remain slack-jawed in front of your TV set as you gawk not only at the beauty of tropical waters but also at just how brilliant the Blu-ray format can present things.
Imagine a world of incredible color and beauty. Of crabs wearing jellyfish for hats. Of fish disguised as frogs, stones and shag carpets. Of a kaleidoscope of life dancing and weaving, floating and darting in an underwater wonderland. Now, go explore it! Howard Hall and his filmmaking team, who brought you Deep Sea and Into the Deep, take you into tropical waters alive with adventure: the Great Barrier Reef and other South Pacific realms. Narrated by Jim Carrey and featuring astonishing camerawork, this amazing film brings you face to fin with Nature’s marvels, from the terrible grandeur (and terrible teeth) of a Great White to the comic antics of a lovestruck cuttlefish. Excitement and fun run deep Under the Sea!
I have a love/hate relationship with IMAX films. Well, not so much the films as I do with the format in general. While I can enjoy something like The Dark Knight on such a screen fine, put me in the cockpit of a fighter jet and I immediately have to get up and leave a theater less I spoil the experience for everyone in the theater. So while I’ve let one bad experience ruin the only IMAX theater near me that plays these documentary style films, I’m still intrigued by what they can offer. Plus it’s a relatively safe bet that swirling around in the ocean for forty-one minutes while listening to Jim Carrey talk about fishies isn’t going to harm me any.
And indeed it didn’t. The great thing about these IMAX documentaries are also the worst thing: they’re so short. They also cover such a vast age range that it never places itself as a documentary for children or adults and instead just floats aimlessly between the two. Which means that you’ll probably end up with two rather bored audiences rather than just one, but even then it might as well not even be a documentary; I guarantee you if you watch this on a nice TV on Blu-ray you couldn’t care less what Carrey was speaking about or whatever story is trying to be told. You will just be staring aimlessly into the beauty that comes with a 1080p transfer.
The documentary also has a tendency to focus more on the everyday underwater creatures and breeze on by the lesser knowns. Of course in that regard the documentary is pandering to a younger audience, as it’s better to know the basics than it is about whatever random fish that flies by on the screen is. But either way you cut its fun to watch, although if you have anything smaller than a 42” set it’s kind of pointless to even bother with as you’re going to miss out on having your eyeballs flooded with underwater beauty. This is not a documentary you want to squint to see the detail—there’s so much detail that you want to force your eyes to comb the screen in every direction to see it. Of course that’s why it’s an IMAX film—you get that chance when you go see it on such a screen. In that regard these home video releases are rather pointless, as with an IMAX documentary it’s almost always about the experience rather than the content.
Overall a Recommended title, but if you don’t have the necessary size screen to watch it on, then you should probably just ignore it.
Either I got a gutted review copy (there was no top sticky label identifying what the title was, so that is possible) or the images released for this Blu-ray are false because I got a single-disc edition, even though it’s advertised as a dual-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy mashup. Not a huge deal—this isn’t a film I’d want to watch in standard definition or on a 2.5in screen anyway. Of course the packaging also states that it has a bunch of extras, but it ends up only being under twenty minutes worth.
Video is a VC-1 encoded transfer and…really? Do I need to shower it with praise anymore than I have already? It’s a lavish transfer, demo-material worthy, and is really what the format and big-ass LCD TVs are all about. You may shy away from wanting to use a documentary about fish as your show-off piece, but trust me—it’s fantastic. I loved every frame that crept up on screen and there’s nothing about the transfer that felt off at all to me. From the scales on fish to the detail that’s embedded into coral reefs, there is so much to see on this transfer that even my 52” TV probably wasn’t able to show it off as best as it could be.
Audio is similarly magnificent. The soundscape is just brilliant, with just an excess of surround and LFE output. There is a very unique field dedicated to the underwater sequences, so much so that as soon as you dive in it surrounds the speakers as if the water itself was surrounding you. It’s very immersive and there is plenty of thrust from the subwoofer when the water gets pushed around in the documentary. Purely from an A/V standpoint this is an amazing centerpiece.
The extras include Filming: IMAX: Under the Sea, which really amounts to a very long (around seven minutes) trailer for the film with some behind-the-scenes information, and a series of featurettes that focus on filming in Papua New Guinea–New Britain, Papua New Guinea–Milne Bay, South Australia, The Great Barrier Reef, and Indonesia. Those five segments barely make up an additional twelve minutes of extras, so while it looks like you’re getting a lot based on the packaging…that’s not the case. Kind of deceptive, but hey…that’s marketing for you.
I wish I could just flat out recommend this to you and say that it’s worth every penny…but at forty-one minutes and a current sale price of $33.99 on Amazon, that’s almost a dollar a minute you’re paying to watch this film. Plus, again, if you don’t have the proper home theater setup to enjoy and experience it thoroughly, then you shouldn’t even bother. If you are in a position to enjoy it, however, then it is at the very least worth a Rental.
IMAX: Under the Sea arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on March 30th.