Gorgeous, informative and as gripping as a shark’s jaws, “Under the Sea 3D” reps the apotheosis of the Imax 3-D form. As close as you can get to the feel of deep-sea diving without risking decompression sickness, this superbly mounted item from veteran underwater helmer Howard Hall and his team should score with viewers of all ages.
Pic’s 2006 predecessor, “Deep Sea 3D” (also released by Warner Bros.), is the second highest-grossing Imax 3-D movie to date, so it made good sense to bring Hall back for another venture. (Previous underwater Imax outings include “The Living Sea” and “Into the Deep.”) The ocean remains an inexhaustibly mesmerizing subject, and “Under the Sea” is that rare movie that leaves viewers wanting more.
Whereas “Deep Sea 3D” examined ocean waters off the Americas (California, the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, the Bahamas), “Under the Sea 3D” plumbs the seas of the Southern Hemisphere, shooting in and around Papua New Guinea, Australia and Indonesia. Narrator Jim Carrey — a curious but not inappropriate choice for tour guide — introduces a variety of South Pacific marine life and explains the basic principles of oceanic interdependence.
From the relatively familiar (sea lions, sharks, turtles) to the more exotic (giant cuttlefish, frogfish, crown jellyfish), the pic captures its kaleidoscopic images with inimitable Imax clarity and a mind-blowing immediacy, made all the more remarkable by the 3-D format. (Kids aren’t the only ones who’ll be reaching out to bat away an approaching sea snake.)
More a collection of dazzling images than a sustained narrative documentary, “Under the Sea 3D” has no shortage of unforgettable sequences: A sea turtle gingerly consumes an entire jellyfish, carefully shielding its eyes in self-protection; the color-changing cuttlefish engage in an elaborate mating ritual; a flock of sea lions playfully nose the camera. In one of several shots that rise to the level of visual poetry, a virtual harem of garden eels bends and bows in graceful unison.
While “Deep Sea 3D” focused on oceanic biodiversity, “Under the Sea 3D” imparts a message of ecological sustainability. In simple, deliberate terms, Carrey spells out the consequences of continued climate change on ocean life. That message may feel a bit redundant — even heavy-handed — to grownups these days, but it’s undeniably effective, as the stunning underwater ecosystem is its own best testimonial about the sanctity of ocean life.
A correction was made to the credits on February 10, 2009.