Blue-footed boobies, in 3-D

What: Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland

Where: Imax Victoria, Royal B.C. Museum

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When: Opens Friday, plays daily 1, 4 and 7 p.m.

Tickets, info: imaxvictoria.com, 250-953-IMAX

Rating: Three stars

 

The Galapagos archipelago is a Pacific Ocean paradise unlike any other, we’re reminded in Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland, a documentary that is as close as most of us will ever get to this remote natural wonder.

From its opening shots, including a stunning close-up of a white, yellow-beaked seabird that appears to be eyeballing us, to the striking visual effects employed to put these enchanting isles in historical perspective, director Martin Williams and his collaborators don’t skimp on visual splendour. It helps make the latest giant-format film to open at Imax Victoria a transporting experience, despite some minor shortcomings.

Indeed, it’s hard to get into too much of a tizzy over conservationist Jeff Corwin’s over-the-top narration (where’s Morgan Freeman when you need him?) with so much beauty and spectacle built into a film that, unlike so much 3-D fare dumped into Hollywood multiplexes these days, makes terrific use of this technology.

The Galapagos Islands, one source of Darwin’s theory of evolution, are a natural for 3-D. The format adds depth and intricate detail without drawing attention to itself by bombarding us with digital detritus.

The Darwin angle is conspicuously absent in the film, but Galapagos 3D, written by David Attenborough, does skew more closely to the educational documentary model than the narrative Imax films often seen here.

Although it’s ultimately as shallow as some of the crystal-clear waters lapping the shores of this marine oasis, this picturesque film is suffused with plenty of the requisite landscape-beauty footage. It’s supplemented by a considerable number of awe-inspiring shots of a diverse and fascinating array of adaptable creatures whose other-worldliness is effectively captured.

Younger viewers in particular will be entranced by shots of creatures such as moss-munching marine iguanas that spit out, from their noses, the sea salt they ingest; a cave-dwelling scorpion; lightfoot crabs skipping across pools of water; spotted whale sharks, the biggest fishes on the planet; schools of hammerhead sharks; and half-tonne tortoises that have a 150-year lifespan.

Indeed, there are plenty of such surprising revelations about the volcanic islands located 900 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador.

Who knew, for example, that this hotspot renowned for its abundance of unique plants and animals would attract a population of penguins, albeit smaller than their Arctic cousins thousands of kilometres away from their natural habitat.

Other highlights include clusters of dandelion trees that play an important role in the complex ecosystem, and other examples of what Attenborough describes as the sanctuary’s “charismatic wildlife” — lava herons, sea lions and cormorants that dive en masse into the ocean. Adding some spice are the fascinating mating rituals of “blue-footed boobies,” with male birds appearing to be flaunting their blue-webbed feet to prospective mates, as well as tropical albatrosses who look as if they are duelling as their beaks clack together during a courtship dance.

While the point is overstated during an extraneous recap, Galapagos 3D also benefits from a nifty computer-generated rendering that conveys four million years of geological history in one minute. Its explosive origins are vividly documented, from volcanic eruptions in the Pacific to gradual erosion over time, flattening these mysterious land masses into the unique crater-marked island chain and science lab it is today.

Note: Galapagos can be viewed either in its digital 3-D format (7 p.m. nightly), or the 70-millimetre 2-D film version (1 and 4 p.m.).

mreid@timescolonist.com

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