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BMZ Review: Galapagos
By Herb Lash


BMZ Review of Galapagos
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: November 2000


Category: Reviews

There is an ongoing evolutionary struggle within Galapagos in IMAX® 3D that makes the film worth seeing. Breakthrough technology allows for some of the most strikingly clear 3D film images ever seen. And yet, these images are not guaranteed survival as they have been captured by a thoroughly average process of documentary filmmaking. The film is mildly informative, but things only come alive when land lizards suddenly land in your lap and when red and blue footed boobies fly over the seats.

The Smithsonian Institution has teamed up with Mandalay Media Arts in producing Galapagos in IMAX 3D and we are, "allowed to see things before unseen," both around the Galapagos Islands and beneath the surrounding ocean waters.  We follow in Dr. Carole Baldwin’s path as she ambles over rocky formations, drops into cave tunnels and plummets to the ocean floor - she is more traveling chum than informative scientist. Dr. Baldwin mentions that because of modern equipment, we will be seeing areas of the Galapagos in a way that Charles Darwin never could have. But this misses the point – high tech gadgetry proves much less important than human imagination of the sort Darwin brought to the Galapagos. Darwin unlocked the mysteries of this place with a sketch pad and his eyes. The filmmakers here use their impressive equipment to do little more than photograph – little is discovered or explained.

There are striking landscapes and species scattered across the planet, some that match Galapagos in intensity and color (if not variety) – but the Galapagos Islands are unique because of what they have meant to human understanding. The light doses of evolutionary science come by way of  Kenneth Branagh’s capable narration. But the film conveys no real sense of discovery and adventure fueled by imagination – it is instead an exotic scavenger hunt.

The Galapagos Tortoise, the many varieties of finch, land and marine lizards, sea lions, hammerhead sharks and other creatures get their due here with an interesting and unsurprising Discovery Channel sort of flare. Cruising at 3000 feet below the ocean surface inside the futuristic bubble cockpit of a Johnson Sea Link submersible provides for some remarkable images. Alien looking fish are spotted and inhaled by sucking probes – these are the sorts of sci-fi moments that Darwin could never have imagined.

The real star of the film is the IMAX in 3D technology and the spectacles it delivers. Pretty fish are always nice to look at – but Galapagos will have you flinching as you are overtaken by a quick, shifting school in vivid 3D.  While not perfect, the IMAX 3D technology is a gold medal performer. The Ground zero of 3D filmmaking were the1950s Monster Movies; IMAX 3D is the most evolved species to date. What is needed now is that luckiest of mutations – a filmmaker with a good story to tell, one that is able to maximize the potential of IMAX in 3D.

IMAX® is a registered trademark of IMAX Corporation.

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