Venturing into the depths of the ocean or discussing how we can save our oceans are certainly two of the main topics of many IMAX pictures. "Island of the Sharks" is one of the better films of this subgenre - while not as fun and entertaining as "Dolphins", it's certainly less sleep-inducing than "Into The Deep". The film is set off the shores of Cocos Island, which is near Costa Rica. It's also the largest uninhabited island in the world.
Unusual for some of these films, "Island of the Sharks" simply documents the fascinating life forms that exist in this section of ocean. While other, similar films would likely try to keep adding a message about the environment, this film succeeds without one - I would be amazed if, after watching the amazing creatures and fish shown, anyone would not agree that the inhabitants of this underwater paradise need to be protected and respected.
As with any good IMAX feature, "Island of the Sharks" shows imagery that I found absolutely stunning. Two sequences in particular showed what I consider to be one of the most amazing sights I've ever seen - a school of fish, believing that they are in danger, start spinning around in the water until they resemble a silvery underwater tornado. Unfortunately, the sharks really don't seem to care about the fishy spiral, as they just pick off however many they like. Still, it's an incredible image to see these silvery fish spin so quickly.
Of course, the film also profiles the different kinds of Sharks that exist in the area, but surprisingly, the title creatures are a fairly small part of the nearly 40 minute whole. The remainder of the running time profiles a series of fascinating underwater inhabitants, from little, tiny plankton to barber fish, who pick off parasites on other fish, who actually line up to get the painful parasites removed.
As happens with some IMAX films, there really is no story connecting the events of "Island of the Sharks" and the film ends rather abruptly. However, the picture moves at a rapid clip (even though most IMAX films are in the 35-40 minute range, I've seen some that feel like twice that) and the narration by Linda Hunt is quite good. Overall, I liked "Island of the Sharks" - it's not one of the most memorable large-format films I've seen, but it certainly does provide incredible visuals of undersea life.
VIDEO: Image Entertainment presents "Island of the Sharks" in 1.33:1 full-frame (most IMAX films are presented on home video in 1.33:1 full-frame; however, this has changed, as some are now presented on DVD in anamorphic widescreen. Still, this depends on materials available and other factors.). The image quality of this presentation was consistently excellent, with a few very minor concerns not taking away from the otherwise terrific image quality. Sharpness and detail were superb, as the image remained crisp and well-defined during the underwater scenes, while bright, daylight sequences on the island looked well-defined and had nice depth to the image.
I only noticed a few very minimal, brief flaws during the presentation. Slight instances of edge enhancement appeared during a few scenes, but not enough to be much of a distraction or even that noticable. Some little print flaws - a speck here, a tiny scratch there - were also spotted. No pixelation was noticed, though, nor were any other faults. Colors, as one might expect from a film that follows underwater life, were beautifully presented. The film's vivid color palette appeared bright and well-saturated throughout. A very nice presentation.
SOUND: "Island of the Sharks" is presented by Image Entertainment in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio. The film's soundtrack was not terribly active, as most of the sequences took place underwater. Although a few underwater whooshing sounds could occasionally be heard, most of the ocean sequences stuck to providing a combination of the narration and score. During the land and air sequences, the surrounds did provide some additional ambience, but their use throughout the film was fairly limited. Still, audio quality was very enjoyable, as the score and narration remained crisp and clear.
MENUS: Basic, non-animated main and sub-menus.
Making Of: The main supplement is a "making of" documentary that, at about 35 minutes, is nearly as long as the feature itself. As with all IMAX "making of" documentaries, this one is certainly more interesting than most behind-the-scenes pieces for feature films. Given the fact that the IMAX crew went underwater in an area that has an very high population of sharks (and also had to carry enormous cameras in areas with extremely strong currents), the filmmmakers certainly have quite a few interesting stories to tell. There's even a "deleted character" of sorts, as the filmmakers show footage of a giant eel (8 feet long) who is viewed, but never completely came out of the hole it lives in. If not as visual as the film itself, the documentary is almost more interesting, as it gives a little more information about many of the creatures shown, as well as a terrific amount of technical information about the obstacles the filmmakers faced. Definitely more than worthwhile viewing.
Also: Trailers for "Island of the Sharks" and "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure" (which comes to DVD also on 9/3/02), as well as bios, credits and a trivia quiz.
Final Thoughts: "Island of the Sharks" is a somewhat flawed, but visually stellar IMAX movie that makes for entertaining viewing. Image Entertainment's DVD provides great audio/video quality and a great supplement, too. Recommended.