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IMAX: Under the Sea (2009)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/30/2010

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/17/2010

If you've ever seen an IMAX movie in an IMAX theater, then you know what an experience it is. Watching the images projected on the huge, curved theater really makes you feel as if you are in the movie. The documentaries are a true treat, as the enormous, remarkably clear image truly brings things to life, no exaggeration intended. But, how do IMAX movies work away from the theater? Will they have the same impact on a TV in your home? Let's check out IMAX: Under the Sea.

IMAX: Under the Sea is a documentary which examines the ocean life in five different areas; Papua New Guinea - New Britain, Papua - New Guinea - Milne Bay, South Australia, The Great Barrier Reef, and Indonesia. The movie introduces us to indigenous life in each area, and it focuses on unique, interesting, or previously unseen animals. We get to see unusual events like a sea turtle eating a jellyfish or cuttlefish mating. The most unusual event captured here is a crab which wears a jellyfish like a hat for camouflage and protection. We see coral, sea snakes, sharks, and various animals who are masters at hiding themselves. The film describes the life-cycles of some the animals, while it also looks at how pollution has threatened some the creatures.

IMAX: Under the Sea is an interesting mixture of pros and cons. The IMAX films make the image incredibly clear (more on this in a moment) -- some scenes are so crystal clear that we can't even see the water surrounding the animal. The image allows us to see the vivid colors of each creature and the detail of the image is impressive. Obviously, the biggest draw here is that by going to the distant locations seen in the film, IMAX: Under the Sea allows us to see animals which aren't on display at our local aquarium. The variety of creatures shown here is good and the way in which the camera team was able to get near the animals is impressive.

But, I didn't come away from IMAX: Under the Sea wholly satisfied. The narration by Jim Carrey, who keeps things very subdued throughout, is good, but I felt that the script was lacking in places. When I watch a documentary, I want to learn, but I felt that the piece wasn't as educational as it could be. The movie would introduce us to an animal and give a bit of information, but it never went into great detail. This isn't due to any apparent time constraints, as there are many scenes with very little narration -- we are supposed to sit and enjoy the pretty pictures. Yet, I wanted to know more. For example, how can a turtle eat a jellyfish? How can anyone eat a jellyfish? I guess that one could say that the movie would inspire some viewers to seek out more information about the animals seen here, but it could have easily given us more. Also, the variety of animals shown could have been better. The piece spends fall too long on the cuttlefish. And yes, it would have seemed like an attempt to grab a general audience, but the movie could have spent more time with the great white shark.

So, how does IMAX look at home? As noted above (and below), it looks good (especially on this Blu-ray), but not being huge (and in 3-D as Under the Sea was shown in IMAX theaters), the piece looks like any other documentary that one would find on HD cable. And the movie is only 41-minutes long. IMAX: Under the Sea is certainly good for a rental, but this is one fish-tale which you won't be watching over and over again.

IMAX: Under the Sea once again shows a crab wearing a jellyfish on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 22 Mbps. The image here is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. This may be one of the clearest pictures that I've ever seen. Again, some shots are so clear that it doesn't even look like it's under water. The colors look fantastic and the image is never overly dark or bright. The amount of detail revealed by the transfer is impressive. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is an unusual track, as it's comprised mainly of Carrey's narration and music. Only rarely do we get undersea sound effects. The music sounds fine and it never overpowers Carrey's low-key delivery. A few of the ocean effects produce notable stereo and surround sound action.

The lone extra on the IMAX: Under the Sea DVD is "Filming IMAX: Under the Sea" (7 minutes). Here, the filmmakers explain their intentions for the film and we a behind-the-scenes look at the filming process. Due to the remote nature of the locations, it was logistical challenge to make the movie. Not to mention the fact that the IMAX camera weighs 1300 pounds. This piece also includes what can be considered extra footage, as we get to see the divers filming the exotic animals.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long