With sights locked on the South Pacific, Coral Reef Adventure blossoms thanks to its startlingly rich images of saturated underwater locales. Diving into the richest sections of these natural sanctuaries, IMAX cameras take snippets of varied life including its most bizarre forms.
Liam Neeson (barely) narrates a story of conservation, notably kicking the logging industry, commercial fishing, and general human intervention. It’s not a subtle message. Scientist peer over the healthiest specimens in this documentary as often as they swim over grayed out, lifeless ones. Visually, Coral Reef Adventure is not always endearing – with a purpose.
This 2003 offering is as somber as it is beautiful. Variations in fish life mingle with the human divers, interacting harmlessly. Octopi and sharks provide uniqueness to more familiar lifeforms, while the weird remain the draw. Snapping maws of flowing coral or spindly spines are dazzling in motion. Time lapse shows their growth (or death) over the span of only a week, images rarely seen by most.
Coral Reef Adventure is all about diversity and how much is contained in only a sliver of these ocean sections. With Crosby, Stills, and Nash musical accompaniment, pleasant pans over the surface prove lively and spirited, carrying positive energy. A comical moment introduces a favorable relationship between shrimp and a fish set to, “Our House.” It’s well considered.
The feature rakes in a positive vibe despite preachy messaging from understandably worried scientists and islanders. Too much beauty encompasses these frames for Coral Reef Adventure to be anything other than a marvel. Learning a few tips to protect these ocean features never hurt anyone either.
Released in 2008 and almost certainly using a shared master from the HD DVD release, Coral Reef Adventure joins in the unfortunate output of filtered, murky IMAX features, copied on these Image releases consistently. While peeking above the glut of digitally touched up flubs, there remains too much interference to share in the inherent 65mm quality that goes into such work.
Up close, the brush up of sharpening and low resolution scanning has only a mild impact. Reef creatures appear natural if a touch fuzzy. Here, stretched out color is more of a hindrance, giving these weirdly alien critters ballooning reds without much control. The same goes for divers wearing bright jackets, reds and oranges too poky to be natural.
For the land-based shots, thick foliage is sloppily defined as boats drift down rivers. People lack definition in close or from afar, edge enhancement leaking into the frame to bound halos to contrasting edges. Considering the documentary’s penchant for naturalism, video is anything but.
As an aside, corals are splendid to view even if the print shows signs of damage and back-end processing renders them digitally. Even splotchy grain can only take so much away. Clear waters add no additional bothers at the source. This is still a disc that can be run on repeat to appreciate large scale cinematography, bothersome processing or not.
Pushing heavy into the rears, aural highlights are certainly the breadth of musical selections. Deep drums highlight organic, native themes, digging into the LFE with satisfying depth. Lyrics from Crosby, Stills, and Nash are dumped into the surrounds in equal force with the stereos, coming through uneven if brilliantly clear.
Underwater footage is bolstered by comical foley effects to add a liveliness to the scenery. Rushing currents are pushed into each channel for a strong audio envelopment. Some waves crashing are notably vigorous too. Most dialog is recorded in post, while a few live discussions are muted more for background noise.
Thirty four minutes of a making-of becomes the extras suite highlight, followed by a familiar selection of trivia, MacGillivray Freeman Films promo, and trailers.
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Note: This disc is part of the MacGillivary Freeman Limited Edition Gift Set, containing 10 of the IMAX features from their library. The Coral Reef Adventures disc in the set is identical to the stand-alone retail release.