Our friendly turtle guide returns to the deep blue sea with "Sharks," a semi-sequel to the 2003 production, "Ocean Wonderland." Once again detailing the activity of the ocean, the focus is on the titular creature here, though director Jean-Jacques Mantello doesn't always have the patience to stay glued to shark incidents. Often swimming around to observe the rest of the neighborhood, the film creates more of a community feel here than anticipated.
As with "Ocean Wonderland," we have a turtle assuming the docent role, peacefully swimming about, pointing out the various creatures of the deep with a moderately comedic flair. Since this is an IMAX production after all, time is of the essence (the documentary runs 40 minutes), with Mantello working to encapsulate the shark experience, but making a few pit stops along the way to retain some flavor and reinforce the circle of life message stapled bluntly to the body of the picture.
The underwater visitations include: a view of pregnant sand tiger sharks and their moss-coated mouths (due to inactivity); a display of fish defense tactics, including a look at vast swarms of sardines who keep a fluid sense of survival; an encounter with large tooth sawfish; and a bizarre run-in with sea lions, who Mantello depicts as a group of party animals on the hunt for a good time (even including some funky editing tricks to underline the whimsy). While the picture is titled "Sharks," there's actually a rolling sense of discovery, observing behavior from a wide assortment of life. Purists might be disappointed to find few sharks in "Sharks."
Mantello saves his stars for the final moments, displaying the hunting skills of the great white shark (cue a "Jaws" theme sound-alike), the fury of smaller reef sharks, and the gigantic presence of the whale shark, a fish that can grow up to 60 feet in length. While lacking a direct concentration on shark nuances, Mantello delivers some intriguing footage of feedings and predator poise, with our turtle narrator contributing stats and sharing a few fears. Just to keep the shark's reputation as a fierce hunter, there's a moment that finds a baby dolphin and its mother targeted for lunch. Don't worry, parents, there's a happy ending.
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation provides a colorful range of creatures, with hearty sense of natural hues, though the primary focus is on blue water and silver/gray shark skin, presented with satisfactory separation. The HD cinematography is clear and inviting, with plenty of detail in the frame to study (from fish to ocean floor developments), though the image is very clean. Shadow detail is supportive, with darker encounters easily observed. A 3D presentation is also available.
The 5.1 DTS-HD HR sound mix does a sufficient job transporting listeners into the water, with a circular feel of expedition, offering sweetened sounds of sea life and pressure in the surrounds. Scoring is extremely overpowering at times, threatening to drown out the narration with its force, providing a loose sense of separation when excitement kicks in. Overall, it's a busy track with lots of energy but only moderate control. 10 other language tracks are included.
English SDH and 20 other subtitles are offered.
Ecological concerns bookend "Sharks," which doesn't sugarcoat its message on extinction and pollution, targeting man as the true predator of the deep. It's frank, but effective, concluding the film with a roll call of endangered sharks, hoping to jolt viewers into action. It's a spark of passion in an otherwise distracted feature -- an entertaining, enlightening picture, but not quite the sharkapalooza promised.
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