Review: ‘Truk Lagoon: Underwater Odyssey’

Al Giddings, the undersea photography guru who helped breathe watery death into James Cameron's "Titanic" and "The Deep" among other films, again showcases his flair with rusted-out hulls in this languid, beautifully shot hour that proves you don't necessarily need a class-clashing love story to tell an affecting shipwreck tale.

Al Giddings, the undersea photography guru who helped breathe watery death into James Cameron’s “Titanic” and “The Deep” among other films, again showcases his flair with rusted-out hulls in this languid, beautifully shot hour that proves you don’t necessarily need a class-clashing love story to tell an affecting shipwreck tale.

Even so, this doc, which illustrates how life can spring from sunken warships, tends to overdo it on the hyperbole. Picking up the legacy from the late Jacques Cousteau, Giddings’ “Truk Lagoon: Underwater Odyssey” finds the vet waterman diving into the Micronesian surf to explore what happened to dozens of Japanese naval vessels attacked and sunk by the Allied forces on Feb. 17, 1944.

It left a veritable graveyard of iron and weaponry in a 40-mile-wide area whose relatively shallow depths allowed for sunlight to intrude and sea creatures to thrive all around the entombed ships.

Giddings shines a spectacular light on a burial ground largely undisturbed for more than a half-century. What he finds is a magnificent array of teeming underwater islands, with exotic fish and plant life of all kinds making for a seductively colorful tableau. Blooming coral shrouds decks once populated by Japanese fighters.

The tropical paradise is now home to everything from bulldozer shrimp to jellyfish to schools of barracuda, clownfish, plankton and sharks.

Yes, it’s kind of amazing — not to mention slightly surreal — just how attractive a bunch of fish can find a bunch of decaying metal and unused rifle cartridges. “The sobering silhouettes of war,” is the dramatic way narrator Peter Scott puts it, interpreting from Giddings’ and George Waite’s slightly heavy-handed script.

Yet while the endless shots of fluorescent colored sea life snuggling up to rust ultimately grow repetitive, those digitally enhanced, high-definition pictures are so impressive that they still cover a lot of overwrought verbiage like, “Relics of an angry age, they now belong to the sea.” Not that the sea ever asked for them, exactly.

But to give credit where it’s due, this edition of TBS’s “Wild!Life Adventures” series rates as a visual stunner that’s technically almost flawless. Giddings’ ability to harness such crystal-clear views of a hidden world is plainly remarkable.

Tech credits are brilliant down the line.

Truk Lagoon: Underwater Odyssey

TBS; Sun. Aug. 30, 6 p.m.

Production

Taped in Micronesia by REBO Studio and NHK in association with Turner Original Prods. Executive producers, Cathy Neukum, Barry Rebo, Tomio Taki, Yoshimizu Kawano, Pat Mitchell; producer-director, Al Giddings; senior producer, Vivian Schiller.

Crew

Writers, Giddings, George Waite; camera, Giddings; editor, Waite; music, Art Kempel; sound, Grant Maxwell, Sync Sound. 60 MIN.

Cast

Narrator -Peter Scott

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