If you are the kind of aquarium goer who can’t help touching the glass in hopes of petting a fish, then if you see Under the Sea 3D at an Imax Theatre you should definitely sit on your hands: thanks to the 3D effect, green sea turtles, cuttlefish, sea lions, leafy sea dragons and other denizens of the Coral Triangle (around Papua New Guinea and Indonesia) and the Great Barrier Reef seem to swim just inches in front of your hands. The children at the screening I attended this past weekend were grabbing for fish in the air more than they were reaching into their popcorn.
The 40-minute film, which opens this Friday at IMAX theatres around the country as well as overseas (click around here to find one near you), seems to bring coral reefs and the animals that call them home within arm’s reach and with a clarity you are unlikely to find without scuba gear. Giant cuttlefish hunt a crab and, later, mate face to face in a prim little waltz; garden eels sway from (and pop straight down into) the sandy sea floor; a crocodile fish lunges directly at you in pursuit of a blue chromis. Filmmaker Howard Hall’s production journal, describing five month-long shoots at five sites, is an epic in itself. I’m not sure how much of the environmental message comes through—the danger that global warming poses to coral reefs through bleaching and the acidification of the ocean—and listening to Jim Carrey’s narration kept me tensed for when he might let loose (he never did), but it’s a spectacular look at a world that may soon exist only on film and in aquariums.