At the tender age of 7 I saw the much-ballyhooed 3-D version of Jaws 3, sitting on the edge of my seat, clunky cheap plastic glasses perched atop my wee nose. The first time the shark leapt out at the audience scared the everlasting shit out of me — and I spent the rest of the film with the glasses tucked in my lap, watching the nearly-indecipherably blurry screen.
We all sort of forgot about 3-D after the ’80s passed, but it’s back again (with sturdier glasses) thanks to IMAX theaters. James Cameron joined with IMAX to produce the 3-D documentary Ghosts of the Abyss, in which he ventured deep into the sea to explore the remnants of the Titanic. Now, Cameron descends into the deep once again, giving us an extremely up-close-and-personal look at the strange creatures that lurk deep below our planet’s waters.
Rendered chock-full of eye-popping 3-D goodness, the film is a joy to watch, for kids and adults. It’ll take your eyes a minute or two to adjust to the 3-D effects, but after that, you’ll be tempted to reach out and touch the freaky fish (one actually has feet!) and gorgeously diaphanous jellyfish that seem to be hovering over your nose. It’s also great fun to watch the scientists express shock and delight when discovering truly odd or breathtakingly lovely life forms that may never have been seen before by other humans (It’s also amusing to watch clips of James Cameron commenting on the life forms in an authoritative manner — what, this guy does a couple of ocean flicks and thinks he’s a marine biologist?)
Despite its earthly settings, the film is about astrobiology, the study of life in the universe. The scientists in the film hope that studying oceanic creatures will provide a blueprint for similar aquatic life that may exist somewhere else in the solar system, as water is a universal element. While this may or may not prove true, it provides a basis for some nifty computer-generated scenes on other planets. However, the whole shtick really begins to wear, and detracts from the natural beauty found in our own world. It would have been more fun to spend the remainder of the film exploring the ocean, instead of watching a bunch of computer-generated alien fish that sprang from some astrobiologist’s imagination.
But the all-too-brief film (it clocks in at less than an hour) is still a fantastic escape into another world, with jagged rocks, spindly worms and albino creatures reaching out at you. There’s at least one “jump in your seat and spill the popcorn” moment that might be too much of a scare for little kids, who just may spend the rest of the film with the 3-D goggles in their laps, content to watch a scare-free, indecipherably blurry screen.
Showing at the Henry Ford IMAX Theatre (20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn; 800-747-4629).
Sarah Klein is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.