The latest in a long line of films from talented director Greg MacGillivray ("Everest", "Stormchasers", "Journey Into Amazing Caves"), "Coral Reef Adventure" has husband-and-wife diving team Howard and Michele Hall (Howard has been the director of 2 IMAX films himself, "Island of the Sharks" and "Into the Deep") journeying into the ocean depths to try and explore the coral reefs, educating the audience about the creatures that live there, some of the relationships between the creatures that live within, how the reefs provide homes for some of the more unusual creatures of the reef, and how the reefs can benefit humans (such as the source of medicines).
Unfortunately, the fragile reefs have also been destroyed or damaged in recent years, due to a number of issues, including ocean warming, pollution and overfishing. The Halls and director MacGillivray manage to turn this IMAX feature into both a visually stunning and educational feature, keeping a nice balance of education and entertainment. We learn how significant the loss of reefs have been over the past years and see some of the devastation close-up (time-lapse photography in the film shows algae leaving a piece of coral due to a shift in water temperature, and the effects of the coral's food source departing.)
The Halls make good leads, projecting a sincerity, passion and intelligence that make them compelling and believable presenters for the tragedy of the reef loss. In one dramatic sequence, Howard gets a severe case of the bends after a dive and nearly doesn't recover from the illness. In the later half of the film, the divers go down 350 feet into the darkness, a dangerous dive that eventually causes the cameras to break down. Michele has a funny moment where a little cleaner shrimp crawls into her mouth to play dentist.
The film includes a fun score by Crosby, Stills and Nash that fits with the film, as well as fine narration by Liam Neeson. Jean-Michel Cousteau and others are also featured.
VIDEO: Image Entertainment presents "Coral Reef Adventure" in 1.78:1 (1080p/AVC). The IMAX feature is celebrating its 5th birthday, but on this Blu-Ray edition, it still looks almost as fresh and vibrant as if it was released into theaters this week. While some of the underwater sequences are either dark or in slightly murky water, most are striking, offering astonishing clarity and the feeling of three-dimensionality in many scenes.
While some slight grain is seen at times in the underwater sequences, the rest of the picture is generally crisp, clean and smooth, save for a couple of minor specks at times on the print used. No edge enhancement, pixelation or other concerns were seen. Colors were vivid and beautifully rendered, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 on this release (a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in French is also an option.) As for the film's sound mix, it is not as "aggressive" as most IMAX soundtracks in delivering ambient/environment sounds, instead primarily using the surrounds to extend the nice, wide spread of the score (a mix of Crosby, Stills and Nash classics and some tribal music) further out into the room and provide some bubbly underwater sound effects. The narration by Liam Neeson remained clear and easily understood throughout the presentation. The DTS-HD presentation did offer excellent audio quality, as the score sounded rich, crisp and airy, while narration sounded clean and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: An excellent 30-minute documentary offers interviews with the filmmakers, more information about the reef and plenty of behind-the-scenes footage that discuss how the filmmakers attempted to film in the dangerous deep diving situations. There are also more details about the terrifying moments that Howard encountered when he realized he had decompression sickness. As with the other IMAX "making of" documentaries that have been on other IMAX DVDs, this is a superb, in-depth and very informative feature that gives a terrific overview of the production. In addition, there is a featurette on MacGillivray/Freeman films, trailers for other IMAX features, a bio for MacGillivray, movie trivia quiz.
Final Thoughts: "Coral Reef Adventure" is a terrific film that educates about not only the creatures that make the beautiful reefs their home, but how they benefit us and what hope we have to try and save them. The cinematography is fantastic and the balance of education and entertainment keep the pace moving along nicely. The Blu-Ray edition offers lovely video quality, enjoyable audio quality and a few nice supplements. Recommended.