October 18, 2007

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Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure (NR)
Giant aquatic reptiles terrorize a slightly cuter prehistoric ocean-dweller in Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure, a 3-D look at one chapter of the fossil record.

This is basically a documentary (with a few charmingly nerdy reenactments of archeological digs) featuring a Liev Schreiber narration and a CGI recreation of the prehistoric middle-America sea that was something like the Mediterranean in size. The star is a plucky little “dolly” — a female dolichorynchops that looks a little like what would happen if a flatter dolphin had an extra set of flippers and a mouth like a serrated bread knife. We meet this dolly at the beginning of her life as she and a male dolly are born to an adult dolichorynchops. We watch her and her brother make their first tentative flipperings up to the surface for the gulp of air that is required by their lungs. As we watch them learn how to catch fish and not get eaten by bigger prehistoric creatures, the movie fades to more modern scenes of archeologists from the early 1900s dusting off bones and guessing as to the lives of these animals. (“Violent and short” seems to be a reoccurring theme as many of the animals are found with the bones of smaller animals in their stomachs.) We see sharks and a giant crocodile-looking T-Rex of the seas-type reptile (the “monster” in Sea Monsters) as well as big turtles, nifty-looking squids, spawning glowy fish-like animals and giant shell-covered creatures. Disney never came up with an under-the-sea as awe-inspiring and full of wacky-looking beings as this film does.

Of the IMAX movies I’ve seen, the documentaries using real footage to show off some feature of nature are the best. Because so much of Sea Monsters deals in a recreated nature that was instead of a photographed nature that is, some of the wow factor is lost. I didn’t get the same “ooooo” feeling that I did from Space Station 3D, a straight-up documentary about the creation of the international space station. The CGI is still very good, though, and even if they aren’t stunning, the pictures in Sea Monsters are captivating. And, though I might not have been blown over by the pictures, it sounded like the youngster sitting with her family several rows back from me did feel quite a bit of “wow,” as in “wow, what is that?” and “wow, a giant monster thing with big teeth is coming RIGHT AT ME.” She didn’t say these things but her yelps and screeches suggested she might be thinking these things. So, as with the little dollys, maybe start easily-scared younger movie-goers on something gentler before heading out into deep waters. B

Not rated. Directed by Sean MacLeod Phillips, Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure is 40 minutes long and is distributed by National Geographic Feature Films. It is currently playing on the IMAX screen at the Cinemagic in Hooksett.