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Image Entertainment presents
Volcanoes of the Deep Sea (2003)

"We know now that the spirit of life also thrives in the darkness, among the emperors of the dead stars."
- Ed Harris (narrator)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: September 02, 2005

Stars: Ed Harris, narrator
Director: Stephen Low

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 0h:44m:43s
Release Date: May 24, 2005
UPC: 014381267020
Genre: documentary

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

DVD Review

A middle-aged man strolls amidst the impressive landscape of a Spanish island and describes his love affair with the amazing rock structures of the area. He inspects them and searches for past life forms that have long departed from this Earth. Actually, they do exist in another faraway place that few humans can access. The unique beings live far below the surface in the furthest depths of the ocean. Among the blazing volcanoes that shaped our world, strange, colorful marine life still exists and is waiting to be discovered.

Volcanoes of the Deep Sea takes us to remote areas accessible only to scientists with the most technologically advanced equipment and submersibles. Narrated by Ed Harris, this IMAX documentary asks the larger questions about mankind's origins and our connection to these organisms located in the deep ocean. For that reason and its description of evolution, this film was pulled from theaters in certain southern states because its scientific explanations were too convincing. Conservative special interest groups feared that children might become inspired by this effective tale and attempt to learn more about science, which is a dangerous sign. Viewing this picture, it's surprising to know that it was a part of a controversial tale, as it takes a generally straightforward look at the subject matter. Harris introduces us to the odd marine life and showcases their amazing forms of subsistence.

Although it avoids delving too much into the scientists' personalities, this film does introduce us to several older guys who remain fascinated by the sea's depths. They utilize the mechanized probe Alvin and send it more than 12,000 feet below the surface to explore areas situated near fiery volcanic rock. One of these places is the Azores, an active rift in the central Atlantic that houses some wondrous scenery. The landscape is not the bleak place you might expect, but instead offers rock structures that mirror those discovered on the Spanish isle. We also witness the stunning habitats of tube worms, which sport red-and-white colors that stand out within the blackness. This story describes the connection between the organisms, including bacteria and shrimp, which helps to keep this environment thriving amid the volcanoes.

Executive produced by undersea devotee James Cameron and directed by the accomplished Stephen Low (Titanica), Volcanoes of the Deep Sea provides an interesting perspective on forms of life rarely presented on the screen. One drawback is the use of computerized images, which are probably necessary but detract from the realistic nature of the documentary form. The flow also drags a bit at times, as the grand score might inspire some sleepiness from the audience. However, the picture works successfully and gave me a new outlook on the extreme deeps of our oceans. Scientific devotees and curious people of all ages are recommended to spend an hour with this film. Its attractive images and educational ideas should keep you thinking well beyond its brief running time.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Volcanoes of the Deep Sea is the type of film that shines on the large screen, but it does suffer considerably from the translation to the small screen. The central reason for the difficulty is the considerable amount of black elements in the frame, which works on an IMAX screen. This isn't the fault of the DVD producer, as the colors are sharp, but instead just relates to the nature of the movie itself.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: This release follows the typical IMAX pattern of offering both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS audio transfers. Both versions are excellent and definitely immerse you inside the undersea world. The rear speakers nicely convey the ambient sounds of the deep and enhance the complexity of the sound field. The DTS track is more powerful and sharper, but either one is a solid choice to enjoy the film.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Super Speedway and Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag
Production Notes
2 Documentaries
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Deep Sea Trivia Quiz
  2. "Hot Film - Cool Facts"
  3. Educational web links
  4. Music Soundtrack
Extras Review: Volcanoes of the Deep Sea offers a solid collection of extra features that falls short of the best IMAX releases but does provide some worthwhile information. The behind-the-scenes documentary lasts 17 minutes and offers the filmmakers' opinions on their project. Most of their comments are fluffy and provide little more than the obvious details. Too much of the running time is occupied by film clips that are mostly unnecessary. The other major inclusion is Voyage Into the Abyss—an educational film that gives basic information on the subject. This feature appears designed for school kids and includes some science experiments that would fit within the classroom setting. The film runs a surprising 27 minutes and does provide some good details, if you can handle the cheesy music.

Composer Michael Cusson has developed countless scores for dramas, films, and television shows. This disc offers you the option of playing his score as background music to a slide show of filmed images. It lasts for about 20 minutes and would be more effective if it ran on a continuous loop. Several extras also provide more information on the film, its director, the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Science, and other elements. This release also provides preview trailers for this movie, Super Speedway, and Fighter Pilot-Operation Red Flag. The first two utilize widescreen transfers, and the last one is full-frame and only lasts about 40 seconds.

The final supplement is a Deep Sea Trivia Quiz that lets you prove if you were really paying attention during the movie. A teacher could also utilize this quiz to make sure the students weren't sleeping. Eleven questions cover the basic facts, and I struggled with many of them. Luckily, you're able to keep answering until the correct choice is made.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Volcanoes of the Deep Sea explores intriguing subject matter in an intelligent manner, which should please viewers interested in scientific issues. It does not offer an overly enjoyable experience, as the narration is dry and the pace is slow. But it still deserves a recommendation for audiences fascinatied by the marine world.


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