A documentary by Jean-Michel Cousteau and Jean-Jacques Mantello. Rated G
Call it species privilege. You know, that thing that makes humans unmindful of the true nature of the sea, content as we are to think of it as a place to find sushi, sunshine, and Pixar movies. Shot over a period of five years by Jean-Michel Cousteau (Jacques Cousteau’s son, now 80) and codirector Jean-Jacques Mantello, Wonders of the Sea 3D isn’t a cartoon, but it is aimed at children.
The very simplified narration here is divided between the oceanographers involved, whose explorations extend from Fijian reefs to Mexico’s Sea of Cortez and its underwater forests of kelp, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who helped produce the fast-flowing 82-minute doc. It’s not clear if wee ones will have any idea who the guy with the funny accent is (making his one Terminator joke particularly ill-advised), but the ex-Governator does impart some needed passion to the project, which gets pretty dreamy at times.
Of course, the film’s real pull is its imagery, which uses cutting-edge 4K and 3-D cameras to document things we’ve rarely seen before, and never in such detail. Cousteau and company do us a special service by focusing on tiny plants and animals, especially among brightly coloured corals. These include the “mermaid’s wineglass” and neon-hued “Christmas tree” worms, popping out of their hidey-holes to filter passing plankton.
Even if the filmmakers don’t always provide the scale to let us judge the subjects’ size, these are fascinating beings to meet, not least because we are rapidly losing the larger, more familiar creatures, thanks to our negitoro habits. Among the bigger beasts we should not be eating, there’s a nice glimpse of the octopus, which uses “thinking” skin to blend into any environment.
In fact, the images are so vivid, you may be tempted to take a vape break, grab some earbuds, and use your own Pink Floyd or Stravinsky to drown out the anodyne soundtrack, which leans toward Celtic Kenny G. Later, when the kids ask how those hot-pink crustaceans got that way, just smile and tell ’em, “It must have been the CO2!”