Secrets of the Sea 3D (IMAX) – Film Review

Prepare to meet some of the world’s most interesting and amazing undersea creatures. In the deep blue sea, it is important to keep your friends close and your anemones even closer.

From by the legendary documentarians Howard and Michele Hall, along with Jonathan Bird, Secrets of the Sea 3D is the latest IMAX documentary release currently playing at IMAX Melbourne. The film seeks to show its audience things we’ve never seen before and to dispel certain preconceptions.

While Hollywood and other documentaries have sought to sensationalise the “big fish-eating little fish” nature of the ocean, Secrets of the Sea 3D is different. It aims to portray the natural balance which exists within the ocean’s ecosystems between plants and animals. There are undoubtedly a lot of little creatures being eaten here, but Bird and the Halls demonstrate the importance of marine biodiversity in keeping our oceans healthy.

Being responsible for 2 out the 5 highest grossing IMAX documentaries, director Howard Hall has been amazing IMAX audiences with underwater photography for 25 years. His work directly inspired Bird in his own journey as a natural history filmmaker, and this led to their amazing team up. What’s better than one brilliant underwater cinematographer? Two of them collaborating on the same film!

This allows for Secrets of the Sea to be a whale of an undersea documentary. Being one of the first ever to be filmed with a dual IMAX camera shoot, they capture some truly stunning footage. Working together and apart, the duo filmed in over 15 beautiful locations across the globe from California to the Galapagos Islands, Mexico, the Philippines, Tahiti and beyond!

I really can’t stress enough just how beautiful of a film Secrets of the Sea is. As we explore the vastness of the ocean through schools of fish and beautiful coral, one can be forgiven for just becoming lost in the vibrant colours of it all. There is a Zen-like feel thanks to a wonderfully tranquil score by Alan Williams which reminded this reviewer immediately of James Bond’s underwater adventures.

Our narrator Joelle Carter introduces us to more than 70 types of marine species. We’re shown the impressive lifespan of creatures like the rockfish which live more than 120 years, whales which can live for over 220 years, and sharks which were swimming around over 400 years ago!

We’re also shown the anemone clown fish which fans of Finding Nemo will instantly recognise. They manoeuvre a discarded coconut husk closer to their home to use as an undersea nursery for their hundreds of babies. They, and pygmy seahorses, less than 1cm long, are blown up several stories, appearing gigantic on the massive IMAX screen. Often this sort of macro photography expanded to such extremes can lead to digitisation but not so here and it truly is an impressive sight to see! As is the coconut octopus which uses 2 halves of a clam shell to conceal itself until just the right moment to attack its prey. 

But it is not all about kill or be killed. We are shown “cleaning stations” where shrimp and fish freely nibble and clean around much larger creatures, amazingly even entering their mouths with no fear of being eaten themselves. Such is the mutually beneficial equilibrium of their environment. 

A massive dugong is followed by a multitude of smaller fish, golden jack fish which gobble up the shrimp disturbed by the dugong while feeding, as well as larger ramora fish which clean parasites from the dugong’s skin and feed on its droppings (yuck).

My favourite moments of the documentary however would have to be the playful sea lion. Watching these cute animals playing around like some sort of an undersea puppy was adorable. But more awe inspiring would be the film’s centrepiece: the mighty blue whale feeding on millions of tiny krill, its gargantuan mouth opening large enough to consume an elephant! Our screening’s introduction told us that the footage of this behemoth was captured by Hall over the course of a decade and I must say, it was well worth it!

Secrets of the Sea 3D is yet another masterpiece from IMAX and Howard Hall Productions. Giving us yet another look into to the mysteries of the ocean and sights never before caught on film. For both young and old, this film makes for an incredible experience and is one well worth diving into!

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