Deep Sea 3D

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A documentary by Howard Hall. Narrated by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. Rated G. Now playing at the IMAX Theatre at Canada Place

Thanks to nightmare creatures, Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet's playful narration, and Danny Elfman's soaring B-movie symphonies, Deep Sea 3D is imbued with all the dark wonder of a Tim Burton film. This isn't just another IMAX fish story: director Howard Hall's dazzling mix of real-life monster flick and urgent ecological warning is one of the most entertaining works ever produced in the megascreen format.

Part of Deep Sea's power is in the crazed carnival of marine life it manages to film in in-your-lap three dimensions. Even the maker of Mars Attacks' aliens and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's Oompa Loompas could not have dreamed up these things. Humboldt squid, flashing a new colour every six seconds, dart back and forth to catch prey in their horrific tentacled mouths. Huge black manta rays with flapping wings and gaping mouths swoop in perfect loops to catch their food. Galaxies of ethereal, glowing jellyfish create a scene from outer space.

That last horror show, like many of the shots, was filmed off B.C. This IMAX underwater adventure reveals magical kelp forests, jowly wolf eels, and swaying palm-tree-like tube anemones every bit as spectacular as its footage of half-mile-high coral reefs in the Caribbean and half a dozen other seas around the world.

In subtle, nonlecturing ways, the film also stresses the now-threatened interdependence of ocean creatures. When they're not focusing on gruesome predator-prey relationships, many scenes highlight symbiosis: watch a green sea turtle relax for her spa treatment as a school of fluttering yellow and black cleaner fish flock in to remove algae from her shell at a "cleaning station".

Hall, who also made 1994's IMAX hit Into the Deep, went to arduous lengths to capture his footage. Wielding a 1,200-pound camera system, divers needed about two hours to set up every three minutes of film. In B.C. waters, they had the added complications of cold temperatures and the powerful currents of the Inland Passage.

Hall makes it look easy, and more: he's jacked up the Jacques Cousteau stuff with a bit of Jules Verne, and kicked in more than enough kitschy fun to earn the 3-D glasses.