On a recent trip to Galvestion Island, TX, my family and I visited Moody Gardens, a venue that consists of three large pyramids, a 3-D IMAX theater, a really cool 4-D theater, and a number of smaller exhibits with each focusing on different fields of science.
We purchased all-access tickets which allowed us to explore the entire complex and we also received tickets to one IMAX show of our choosing.
The kids decided they wanted to see Wild Ocean, a forty-five minute look at the yearly sardine run in South Africa. When I read the description for the film I thought, "I bet Sea Rex 3-D would be a lot cooler," but since the kids were taking center stage on this trip, I agreed to check out the film with them.
Since this was my first IMAX experience, I have to admit that I was quite excited to see the film, even if it was about sardines. As we entered the large theater, we were given our 3-D glasses and told to move to the center of each aisle in order to fit everyone into the theater. It turns out that sardines can pack a house, as there were no empty seats.
I prepared for the worst as the film began with young African children singing and playing on the coast. I just knew that this was going to be a boring documentary-style feature that would leave me with a sour taste in my mouth for IMAX.
I was wrong.
While the film was a documentary, it was very enjoyable to watch. It begins in the cold waters of the Cape of South Africa where the sardines' dangerous journey begins. The small fish head northward up the KwaZulu-Natal Coast and face danger almost immediately. Cape seals pick off a number of the fish and actually follow them up the coast for a long distance. Once the sardines put a bit of distance between themselves and the seals, however, dolphins, sharks, other fish, and seabirds are there to greet and eat them too. At the end of the line, humans join into the fray.
The film spends most of its time showing the viewer how sardines come together to form giant shoals as a defense mechanism to scare off and confuse predators. The sardines spin in tight circles, called bait balls, making it hard for predators to see exactly what they are biting into. Some of the predators, like penguins, bolt in and out of the spinning mass of bodies with their mouths open hoping to snag a quick meal. Cape Gannets dive from the sky into the shoals trying to grab a bite as well.
While the sardines are the star of the show, a few of the predators get a good dose of screentime as well, as we witness their own migration to the coast in order to line up at the sardine buffet. Of particular interest is the journey of dolphins who leap into the air, spinning wildly, as they head for the coast.
One of the most amazing things about the whole run is that when the sardines reach the coast, man, shark, dolphin, seabird, and any other predator in the vicinity attack the shoals at once, often side by side, without a care as to who they might be fishing with. The focus of the attack is strictly on the sardines and not on any other creature who happens to be around. It's quite violent, but amazing to see as well.
The film's cinematography shines when it focuses on the coastline. Breathtaking panoramic views of Africa's beautiful coast are given to the viewer that give them a sense of flying. The film's 3-D aspect takes center stage with the dodging of penguins and divebombing of Cape Gannets.
The documentary is narrated by John Kani, who most Americans will recognize from The Ghost And The Darkness and any of a number of the plays he has written. His voice is dignified and sets the overall mood of the film as it plays out on the screen.
If I have any complaints about the film, it's that some of the scenes get repetitive after awhile. The bait balls look cool in 3-D, but get old after awhile. I'd much rather watch penguins attack the shoals than watch the sardines spin around and around for eternity.
Overall, this was a very cool film to experience on the IMAX screen. I still want to see Sea Rex 3D, but I am glad to have witnessed Wild Ocean. It's an excellent documentary on a subject that I would have never sought out without the help of my kids.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Kendall Fontenot (kfontenot)
Despite looking extremely cool, I have to admit that I'm a dork. I grew up on the outskirts of the small town of Oberlin, LA. I have since relocated to the Lake Charles, LA area.I love my home state … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.