Purely stunning

IMAX’s modern nature documentaries continue their fight for conservation, The Last Reef more so than others. Stern, even foreboding, this 2012 short opens with glamorous images of marvelously alien-like sea life. On that exotic beauty, it’s soon to pull the splendor away, much as it happens in our day-to-day reality.

Using an intriguing angle in which our civilization compares to coral, Last Reef states its case with nervous enthusiasm. Narration joins to an enormous score, bringing ample scale to these staggering images of sea life. In doing so, the struggle of these sensitive life forms builds a case of scientific importance within Last Reef.

Such beauty needs little propping up. Organic, peculiar life forms feed on more exotic creatures in a unique, symbiotic food chain. Flushed with color, these animals make their own case for existence. In pacing, Last Reef aggressively makes the statement for them too.

Rather then close on a morose future, Last Reef finds the means to inspire.

Detached from New York for some 20 minutes to show off the underwater grandeur, the film brings cities back with force. Now, focus is less on shared survival between human and sea life than it is on the impact of the former. Suddenly, the dirt and grime of city life gains ugly contrast.

Preachy, yes. Effective however. Rather than close on a morose future, Last Reef finds the means to inspire. Cameras swirl around underwater statues which have become home to new reefs, helped by human impact instead of damaged. Splendid closure to a critically relevant documentary short.

The Last Reef Blu-ray screen shot 19


Filmed in astonishingly clear waters, each new scene from Last Reef steals the show. Stupendous color from marine life combined with the backing of brilliant blue water creates endless scenery. Neon-like corals spread across the frame, while various animals find their homes. They’re just as colorful.

The IMAX 65mm format generates superlative details. Every bit of algae, every rock, every fish; all of it defines generously. Shout’s encode processes hundreds of fish schooling at once sans artifacts. Although, at 38 minutes, there’s plenty of room on the disc.

Last Reef goes above water too. Striking images of New York, both street and aerial levels, produce remarkable results. Images of a time lapsed Times Square rank among the best footage of the location on this format. New York being New York, buildings stretch for miles into the horizon with minimal problems.

Although 3D will amplify minor aliasing, the impact makes up for the issue. When situated under the sea, 3D Blu-ray finds its purpose. Natural, clear, and organic, cinematography pays attention to foreground and background elements. When looking to impress, corals reach toward the lens and create spectacular – even flawless – pop out effects. Those schools of fish are integral too. All of this applies to city scenes too. Low camera angles create the opportunity, with a fish eye-like style applied to gain the greatest possible fall-in depth.

At its peak, a swell of jellyfish fill the screen. Gathering in numbers, they float across the frame with endless layers. History buffs will find the Bikini Atoll nuclear bomb tests quite spectacular in 3D. The conversion of this footage excels. Last Reef finds plenty of ways to accentuate 3D’s capability.


TrueHD/Atmos work features bold and rich audio if lacking in balance. Loudly mixed, the score features heavy LFE support from drums. Narration stays centered while few ambient sound effects make minimal impact. Overcome by the score’s reach, wind and splashing waves dissipate.

Last Reef does open on a slew of 1940s radio broadcasts, sent around the available channels in an audible circle. It’s a highlight.


Shout offers trailers and a behind-the-scenes feature, split into seven parts. Each runs two to three minutes long which at times become redundant.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

  • The Last Reef
  • 2D Video
  • 3D Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


Exceptional (or even essential) 3D highlights this rich, alarming IMAX documentary short about the beauty and loss of coral reefs.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.

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