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Image Entertainment presents
Coral Reef Adventure (2003)

"Coral reefs have been going strong for 60 million years."
- Liam Neeson (narrator)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: January 05, 2004

Stars: Howard Hall, Michele Hall, Richard Pyle, Rusi Vulakaro, Jean-Michael Cousteau
Other Stars: Liam Neeson, narrator, Crosby, Stills & Nash, music
Director: Greg MacGillivray

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for suitable for all audiences
Run Time: 0h:46m:17s
Release Date: January 06, 2004
UPC: 014381208825
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+A-A A-

DVD Review

Coral reefs are stunning creations that baffle the mind with their remarkable colors and marine life. Aquariums in cities like Boston and New Orleans present impressive exhibitions of these living structures to visitors who live far from the oceans. Yet these indoor miniatures only scratch the surface of experiencing coral reefs on an intimate level. Numerous marine enthusiasts (including this reviewer) have never witnessed them in person, which is a shame, but all is not lost. The IMAX kings at MacGillivray Freeman have crafted an engaging picture that provides a close inspection of the majestic reef environment.

Featuring music from Crosby, Stills & Nash, Coral Reef Adventure contains plenty of compelling footage documenting some unique ocean creatures. The tale begins at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia as naturalists attempt to discover the origins of some new reef problems in Fiji. The first segment includes some wondrous shots of small fish interacting with divers and even crawling into a woman's mouth. Moving onward to Fiji, they quickly discover that the larger creatures were missing from that ecosystem. What calamity had befallen them and seriously damaged the reef? Problems do relate to global warming, but overfishing and mankind's removal of the tropical rainforest upstream also played a major role. Could this damaged be reversed, or is the Fiji coral reef doomed?

This film does veer into saddening territory concerning environmental destruction, but at its heart is a positive depiction of beautiful corals. We learn about the advantages gained by humans on land, especially in regards to scientific research. The education process is still ongoing and even allows some children the opportunity to become inspired into a lifelong career. The adult scientists also have intense curiosity and want to dive deeper, but dangers from the bends could be disastrous. One personal story reveals that exploring uncharted regions may not always so easy. Facing a pressure 12 times that of a normal dive, these guys take considerable risks to discover new marine areas.

Coral Reef Adventure follows the typical MacGillivray Freeman model of combining entertaining natural footage with educational materials. The pictures become more interesting due to the involvement of scientists who describe their own reactions to the experience. This film may lack the joyous excitement of Dolphins or the intriguing material of Journey Into Amazing Caves, but it still provides an enjoyable experience. Flying above the green mountains and crystal-clear waters of French Polynesia, the inspiring shots again reveal the chilling effects of this type of film. Even when viewed on the small screen, these images take your breath away and nicely complement the information conveyed.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationono

Image Transfer Review: Coral Reef Adventure gives viewers the option of choosing between a 1.33:1 full-frame picture and a far superior 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While these images obviously pale in comparison to seeing them on an eighty-foot screen, they still provide an impressive experience. The colors are very bright and especially sharp, which presents the diverse marine life in stunning fashion. The transfer includes minimal defects and translates the grand IMAX shots wonderfully to the small screen.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This disc includes two impressive 5.1-channel audio transfers in the DTS and Dolby Digital formats. I've found that the MacGillivray Freeman IMAX releases generally contain excellent audio transfers, and this one is no exception. Both transfers provide powerful experiences and enhance the effects of the colorful images. The DTS version contains a bit more movement through the sound field, but it is only slightly better than its Dolby Digital counterpart.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dolphins, The Magic of Flight, Stormchasers, The Living Sea, The Discoverers, Journey Into Amazing Caves
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Video montage (with music)
  2. Movie trivia quiz
  3. Companion book information
Extras Review: Coral Reef Adventure includes a compelling 34-minute documentary that provides a nice behind-the-scenes look at the picture. Director Greg MacGillivray discusses the personal importance of the film for him and his goals when crafting it. Cinematographer Howard Hall worked behind and in front of the camera, which made him a bit uncomfortable. He also developed a nasty case of the bends, which could have caused his death. This feature takes us through each location and gives us worthwhile background into the production. Lugging the heavy IMAX gear through the water was especially arduous and makes the final result even more impressive. This piece stands well on its own and complements the movie better than your typical documentary.

A second featurette offers an 11-minute summary of past MacGillivray Freeman films through scenes and discussions from many of the pictures. A promotional narrator discusses the company's successes and leads into the different moments. Another intriguing offering is a 26-minute video montage of coral reef footage that can be run continuously. It offers the option of including music from composer Patrick Ryan. The remaining supplements include preview trailers, a movie trivia quiz, and a biography of director Greg MacGillivray.

This release also includes an extra disc that allows you to view Coral Reef Adventure in high definition on your PC. My computer was not powerful enough to use this disc, but I'm guessing it is a striking experience. The requirements include Microsoft Windows XP, a Windows Media Player 9 Series, and a 2.4 GHz Processor.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Coral Reef Adventure works both as pure entertainment and as an informative scientific film. The short running time provides a benefit in keeping our attention focused solely on the events unfolding. Supported by top-notch visual and audio transfers, this release is a recommended addition for viewers interested in the natural world.


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