Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure (2007)
Directed by: Sean MacLeod Phillips
Premise: A 3-D documentary from National Geographic that explores large aquatic creatures that inhabited the world’s oceans during the late Cretaceous period, recreating them with computer graphics and simulating realistically shot nature footage.
What Works: The 3-D effects of Sea Monsters are very impressive and this really is the primary reason to see the film. Sea Monsters uses the technology to give a sense of the size and weight of these creatures and the detail involved is very good. The film is enthralled by nature and its complexity and uses cross cutting between the ancient seas and contemporary paleontologists to convey that sense of wonder.
What Doesn’t: As a nature documentary, Sea Monsters lacks new material. The film does not do much to inform the audience and most of its facts about prehistoric creatures are covered in any elementary-level book on the subject. Echoing Finding Nemo, the film attempts to create a narrative around two newborn dolichorynchops starting out into the dangerous world of the ancient seas and encountering predators that try to eat them, but the story is not the main thrust of the documentary. Unlike The March of the Penguins, Sea Monsters remains too distant from its subject and the picture remains more like a hundred other dinosaur documentaries featured on educational television channels. This is disappointing because other documentaries have managed to create narratives with all animal casts, and since the story of Sea Monsters is completely CGI the filmmakers had a chance to conceive and craft an exciting and engaging story but failed to seize on that opportunity.
Bottom Line: Sea Monsters is stuck in a dilemma. On one hand, the film is very short, less than an hour long, and it is hard to justify purchasing a full price theater ticket to such a short picture. On the other hand, if the film were any longer it would probably start to drag because it lacks any narrative for the audience to grab onto for the duration of the picture. Ultimately, Sea Monsters is worth a matinee admission if only to experience the 3-D effects.
Episode: #162 (October 21, 2007)