Deep blue sea, great big screen

Since the 2004 release of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, it is no longer uncommon to find documentaries gracing the screens of your local cineplex instead of moldering away on forgotten library shelves. Films like Fahrenheit 9/11 and March of the Penguins not only made it to movie theaters, but were largely successful. But the best way to watch any documentary is still on the biggest screen of all: the IMAX screen.

Deep Sea is the newest IMAX film playing at the Carnegie Science Center’s Rangos Omnimax Theater. Following another recent trend in documentary-making, Deep Sea is narrated by two highly recognizable names: Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. The movie explores the deepest parts of the ocean to find unique undersea creatures living in their natural habitat.

Deep Sea’s ocean inhabitants are not your average hammerhead sharks or humpback whales. Instead, the movie follows some lesser known, yet incredibly impressive, ocean animals. Directed by Howard Hall and produced by Toni Myers and Michele Hall, the film is interesting from start to finish.

“Our goal is really to take you on a magical journey underwater to places that most of us have never been,” Myers stated in a press release. “Even with a large number of people who do scuba dive, lots of them have never met these characters or seen how they interact with other animals.” One of Deep Sea’s uncommon creatures is the wolf-eel, which has “a face only a mother could love,” according to Winslet’s narration. Chomping on urchins with quivering jowls, the wolf-eel looks something like a grumpy old man with a speckled white face. Viewers also meet the giant Pacific octopus, which has tentacles that can stretch up to 20 feet across and can change its color and texture to match its surroundings.

Deep Sea examines the interrelatedness of underwater life, with a focus on the predatory and symbiotic relationships between creatures. A gigantic fried egg jellyfish, named for its curious resemblance to the breakfast food, preys on smaller jellyfish by trapping them in its far-reaching tentacles. The 10-inch mantis shrimp defends itself against the octopus, its natural predator, by raising itself on its hind legs and hitting the octopus with claws as fast as a .22-caliber bullet. Green sea turtles and reef fish, however, share a much more peaceful and charming relationship. Algae accumulations on the sea turtles’ shells can slow them down, so the turtles visit reefs where fish flock to eat the algae: a “healthy vegetarian feast,” according to Depp’s narration.

The movie is visually stunning, thanks to its director, Howard Hall, who is a celebrated underwater cinematographer. In Myers’ words, Deep Sea is “a vivid illustration of the astonishing array of the diversity of life.” Wielding 1200-pound cameras, divers went to incredible lengths to find the captivating footage. The film is rife with alluring seascapes of gently swaying tube anemones (that look very much like palm trees) and multicolored coral reefs. In one of Deep Sea’s most aesthetically astounding moments, the audience sees a frenzy of electrically colorful squids attacking anything and everything — including other squids and, at one point, the camera itself. Changing color several times a second, the squids make for a dazzling light show against the background of the very dark ocean water.

“The filmmakers have put a number of spins on [the movie],” said Frank Mancuso, Carnegie Science Center presenter and production assistant. Deep Sea does have a bit of an agenda: to demonstrate to viewers that the ocean is a delicate habitat subject to disruption by humans. “We’re taking more from the ocean than it can give,” Depp narrates, citing alarming statistics about the number of big fish that are disappearing from the ocean due to shark-killing and over-fishing. However, the didactic tone is only a small part of the movie, which focuses more broadly on the diversity of underwater life.

The Rangos Omnimax Theater screen is an impressive four stories tall. Both the size of the screen and the theater’s 64 speakers make watching Deep Sea at the Rangos Omnimax an incredible experience. The underwater creatures are magnified on the screen and allow the audience to see even the most minute details of the deep-sea setting and inhabitants. The theater is certainly appropriate for capturing the vastness of ocean life.

Deep Sea is playing at the Carnegie Science Center until May of 2007 and is supplemented with a program called UnderSea Alive!, which educates visitors about animal adaptations. Tickets for Deep Sea cost $8 and can be purchased at the Carnegie Science Center, online at www.CarnegieScienceCenter.org, or by calling 412.237.3400. Getting to the Carnegie Science Center by bus takes about 40 minutes and requires taking the 500 inbound and transferring to the 16A outbound.