The deep sea is a dark place, one where otherworldly creatures’ extremities glow and the intense pressure can crush a man’s lungs. The near-shore reef is a vibrant place, teeming with life and more colorful than most other locations on Earth. Both exist in the same real-world sea, and with Warner Bros.’ new IMAX 3D Blu-ray release Under the Sea, both can be enjoyed in three dimensions from the dryness and comfort of your own sofa.
From the opening menu, it’s obvious that Under the Sea IMAX 3D is going to be more colorful than Image Entertainment’s IMAX Wild Ocean 3D, and the hope is that the 3D effects will be more consistent as well. The potential for 3D definitely seems greater, as Under The Sea spends its entire 40:49 length focusing on shallow-water animals whose environments provide more 3D potential than the vast expanses of the deep ocean. The tone of Under The Sea is also much more educational and driven by curiosity about “what’s down there,” which lends itself to camera angles that capture not only the cool wildlife and cool movements, but how those two things interact in ways that maximize the 3D effects of this new Blu-ray release.
The film opens on the coral reefs in Papua, New Guinea, with volcanic gases bubbling from the ground that create a backdrop for colorful coral, anemones and fish. In terms of color, the contrast can’t be beat, but the extreme foregrounds of just about every early scene in Under The Sea are so blurry and suffer from such crosstalk that some scenes become near unwatchable. In the early going of the movie the crosstalk is frequent and really, really bad, but it seems to clear up as the Jim Carrey-narrated film goes on.
When things do clear up, the film provides some nice 3D effects, such as camouflaged fish darting out to nab an unsuspecting goby ,but the best and eeriest 3D effects come courtesy of the venomous sea snakes. Sea snakes are downright creepy by their very nature, but the way they pop from the screen absolutely gave me the shivers when I saw their two-minute sequence in 3D. With no ghosting and absolute clarity, these things look as if they’re actually coming out of the 3D TV screen, and that’s not something I’ve sensed before. Just to be sure I was exaggerating, I had someone else watch the scene a second time with me, and they concurred: those sea snakes look like they’re there in the room. This is a simply stunning 3D effect.
The use of 3D in Under The Sea also provides some new sensations for otherwise old-feeling scenes, such as sequences that show cuttlefish mating. We’ve all seen cuttlefish video on the Discovery Channel, but seeing the cuttlefish here in 3D makes their color and texture changes all the more impressive, and the effects provide some context that 2D pictures simply don’t. However, a bit later in the film when Warner takes us to some scenes with the Giant Cuttlefish, the bad crosstalk from the film’s early going make an ugly return for two or three minutes. Literally everything on the outer edges and bottom corners of the picture just seem blurry, ghosted and muddled, whereas a small portion in the very center of the frame looks sharp and three dimensional.
Fortunately, that scene is short, and by the time we move to the seahorses you’ll be once again impressed with the 3D. The sea turtle also looks incredibly dimensional as he munches on a jellyfish right there in your living room, and those great white sharks off of Australia? Look, I’ve actually swum with sharks in Bora Bora, and seeing this shark on the 3D TV got my heart pounding just as quickly as the real-life experience. Truly, it’s odd to have so many great 3D effects sit alongside such intolerable crosstalk in the same film, but at least the great 3D effects outnumber the bad ones.
At the conclusion of the film, Jim Carrey notes how humans have caused problems in the ocean but are taking steps to help the large bodies of water. The message is not heavy handed or accusatory, it’s more like “job well done, so keep it up.” Having just watched Wild Ocean, this subtle message is a breath of fresh air and goes a long way toward making Under The Sea more enjoyable than its underwater competitor. Of course, the good 3D effects don’t hurt, even if they are marred by a few horrendous scenes filled with foreground crosstalk. I still plan on keeping this one around for a 3D showcase piece.
Click the following link to make this movie part of your own 3D showcase library: IMAX: Under the Sea 3D Blu-ray.
- Score: 8
- When the 3D is “on,” it really hits on all cylinders, but the sporadic crosstalk issues crop up at inopportune times, and they’re really quite unbearable.
— Jonas Allen