Thursday, November 06, 2008

"Deep Sea 3-D" Imax film takes us into an alien underwater world of invertebrate life

The IMAX film “Deep Sea 3-D”, (film website here) directed by Howard Hall, simulates scuba diving for forty minutes in Imax, without the viewer getting wet or risking the Bends. The film is bit like an aquarium visit, perhaps, or even a laboratory exercise in undergraduate invertebrate zoology. Or, we can imagine we are visiting a kind of alien world on our own planet.

The creatures are fascinating. There is some strange echinoderm that tries to eat scallops, and they break away and chatter like the langoliers “with an attitude” as in Stephen King’s 90s miniseries. The nudibranch, or sea slug, looks so amorphous we don’t even realize it is a mollusk. The octopus, with its body language based on changing skin colors and textures (race doesn’t exist, and neither does laser depilation for them) appears late in the film. The octopus is thought to have the intelligence of a house cat or so, and has been found to be a very quick learner. Cephalopods, including squid, are among the most intelligent creatures in the invertebrate world, about as high as evolution got without a notochord. The angry Humboldt squid also appears.

Jonny Depp and Kate Winslet narrate, in alternation. Toward the end of the film they talk a lot about the balance of the ecosystem, and the damage that man is doing with overfishing. It wouldn’t take too much to extend the film to deal with global warming, and the release of carbon and maybe methane.

I would love to have seen some particularly bizarre creatures, like sea squirts or tunicates (primitive chordates that “eat their own brains” and become sessile), or tubeworms near volcanic vents. The box jellyfish (covered in an Australian film shown on PBS), the most venomous creature in the world and very bizarre and alien indeed, would have made good subject matter.

The film is distributed by Warner Brothers as a regular release as well as by Imax. Curiously the 3-D tended to overframe the shots; without the 3-D glasses the picture did not have the double images that most 3-D has.

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