Serengeti 3D: Journey to the Heart of Africa – Film Review

IMAX wows audiences again with their latest release, Serengeti 3D: Journey to the Heart of Africa.

While COVID lockdowns forced shutdowns of tourism worldwide, the filmmakers of Serengeti 3D were busy at work. Filming on the tourist free Serengeti, this talented team of filmmakers captured amazing sights. Chief among them is a focus on the stunning annual wildebeest migration. Every year millions of wildebeest consisting of zebra, lions, and countless other animals make a 300-mile (480 km) round trip to greener pastures. Even so, their journey is fraught with danger as they cross terrain inhabited by killer crocodiles.

Narrator Rob Milton’s epic sage-like voice takes us on this expedition into the Serengeti plains. He guides us back to their slow birth over millions of years and hundreds of feet of volcanic ash. The active volcano, which erupts every few decades, seeds the ground with minerals. The rivers grow from them, and the animals live off that water.

Serengeti 3D’s focus is on the great wildebeest migration. However, it is through this that we learn a more important lesson of the ecosystem of that area, the circle of life through several species of Africa. From the African elephant playing in water leading to deeper rivers for hippos, to the crocodiles that wait 6 months for zebra to pass by. The interconnectedness of all species, including us, is the powerful take away.

Any animal lover of course would be thrilled to see this cycle. Serengeti 3D does not shy away from the sadder moments and as Milton tells us “Life is plentiful here but so is death”. As a child, my least favourite parts of documentaries such as this were of course the harsh truths of the food chain. Writer and editor Paul Phelan has managed to present these facts in a none too explicit manor. The vultures are feeding on something but thankfully it is kept age appropriate for younger audiences.

Speaking for educational value too, I feel that Serengeti 3D is exactly what I would have liked years ago. When I was a kid, IMAX documentaries were the best when they were ‘big details on the big screen’. Hearing that Serengeti was made over three million years ago from volcanoes would have kept me interested, and the mention of the elephants, lions, cheetahs, and other animals would have kept me entertained.

These same lands which inspired Disney’s classic The Lion King, are a true marvel to witness on the big screen. Visually, a high bar has been set by other IMAX documentaries. On the surface this may look like something we’ve seen before but director of photography Cam Batten and crew do a wonderful job here. From the great Serengeti plains to aerial footage of active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai, the whole movie is beautifully shot from beginning to end.

The booming sound of the IMAX theatre gets a workout as well, with you being able to feel the building rumble during a stampede caused by a single spooked animal. All of which accompanied by Alan Williams‘ appropriate musical score of drums and woodwind instruments.

Serengeti 3D: Journey to the Heart of Africa is the type of IMAX nature documentary that I love to see. It has amazing visuals and very informative content. It succeeds in teaching us the beauty and importance of the ecosystem without the environmental doomsaying. I would highly recommend it for all audiences young and old.

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