(G) 4 Stars

Ed Johnson-Ott

Reef fish nibble algae from a green sea turtle's shell off Hawaiian shores.

Before I begin, a brief public service message: If you're one of those people who thumbs through the paper and skims the articles, I suggest you check the last few paragraphs of this piece, as they contain information about a unique experience related to the film that will occur this weekend only.

Fine, now that I've addressed that, we can move on to the actual review. Deep Sea 3D is a corker, one of the best IMAX movies ever. Filmed over the course of a year, the production introduces viewers to an absolutely incredible array of undersea creatures.

Remember the first time you saw the cantina scene in the original Star Wars? Welcome to the underwater version, only the life forms here are even weirder than the freaky denizens of that sci-fi gin joint. What you will see here is far more alien than anything George Lucas ever cooked up. And, thanks to some very effective 3D photography, these alien entities appear to be floating about as close to your face as this newspaper is right now.

Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet offer light, informative narration (thankfully, no attempt is made to anthropomorphize the sea creatures), but most of it probably won't register, as you will be distracted by all the bizarre beings swimming in front of your nose. Some of them are incredibly beautiful, others are astonishingly odd. Longtime Tim Burton collaborator Danny Elfman provides the music, an apt choice for the job, though the real-life creatures are far more unlikely than anything invented for a Burton film (yes, I realize that I'm repeating myself. When you see the movie, you'll understand why).

By the way, I'm avoiding any specific descriptions of the sea life because I think the experience will be more satisfying without knowing precisely what you are about to see.

Director Howard Hall and the rest of the creative team manage to maintain a sense of grace while handling the massive IMAX cameras. They also prove adept at lighting the ocean life without creating an artificial air.

Towards the end of the film, the inevitable note of ecological concern is voiced, but the filmmakers avoid hammering viewers with their message, which is basically this: There are countless mind-numbingly intricate ecosystems under the sea which are in danger of unraveling. Will the human race do their part in preserving the balance?

Why sure, of course we will. Ahem. In the meantime, enjoy the movie.

And now we reach the paragraphs about the unique opportunity. IMAX moviegoers will get an extra treat this weekend as the creators of Deep Sea 3D come to call. Director Howard Hall and his wife, producer Michele Hall, will appear at the theater Friday and Saturday to talk about their experiences as undersea filmmakers, take questions and offer a session on dive photography.

The Halls have been honored with six Emmy Awards for natural history films they produced and directed for television. They will address the extreme demands and dangers of undersea cinematography and the challenge of realizing their artistic visions while wielding giant camera equipment that shoots just three minutes of film at a time.

Friday: The Halls will introduce a screening of Deep Sea 3D at 7:30 p.m. and host a Q&A following the show.

Saturday: The Halls will lead "Deep Sea Photography & Diving" workshops from 2:15-3:30 p.m. and 4:45-5:45 p.m. in the Gov. Frank O'Bannon Great Hall in the Indiana State Museum.

For information on tickets and show times, call 317-233-IMAX (4629) or go to www.ImaxIndy.com.


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