Wonderfully crafted, the triumph of this film is in the presentation. The caves
were very wondrous, and the people interesting, which helped a lot, too.
Without the near-constant soundtrack of music, this film could have been very
dry. I'm not sure it would have lived up to the best IMAX films without it. But
the music, performed by the Moody Blues, was terrific. When searching for
extremophiles, the lifeforms that live in the extreme conditions on Earth, we heard
the faint traces of the Moody Blues song "I know you're out there somewhere", and
there were others to recognize, as well.
The cinematography was also excellent. When coming upon the cavers in the Grand
Canyon, we first do the typical IMAX thing of flying fast and close to the rock
formations, barely missing them. This has been done in countless IMAX films, mostly
because it takes full effect of the technology and the giant screen. Then, we pan
and zoom around in circles, watching the climbers as they scout for caves. The
scene is dizzying, but it is also beautifully crafted, probably the best scene in
the whole film. But I'm not sure it would do well on a smaller screen.
We meet up with the two cavers, searching for those extreme lifeforms. They
take rock samples from caves that have likely never been touched by man. That
seems an extreme statement, but it could be true. Who knows how many nooks and
crannies there are, that can only be stumbled upon, way off the beaten paths? The
lengths they go to prove only one thing: that they are crazy! Crossing two pillars
of the Grand Canyon on a length of cable, with a drop of who knows how much below?
Certainly something I could never do. But the heat-singed caves are probably the
least dangerous of all the caves they visit...
They travel to Greenland, where they explore an ice cave. This is even scarier!
Wow! I really don't know how these people do it. It was so dangerous, in fact,
that the experienced cave climber didn't let the featured team down to the bottom
of the cave. He climbed down, didn't like what he saw, and took the ice and water
samples for them, racing up again immediately afterwards. He didn't spend more time
than he had to down there. That was incredible. The pure water, formed from melted
glaciers, some of which is millions of years old, could hold special secrets that
could cure diseases. But the view was also spectacular. Seeing people hanging
from cables hammered into such fantastic ice formations was breathtaking. It was
really a memorable event.
I do have to take issue with Nancy and Hazel's opinions of cold, however. Minus
12 degrees C with a wind chill of -26 degrees Celcius is a mild winter day here in
southern Ontario and Quebec! Come mid-February, we can go down below -30 to -40
without the wind, and much, much colder as the wind picks up. And Ottawa can be
very windy. (That's not to say it's not a nice place to live. We got up to +38 C
this summer, which became +45 with the humidity factored in! Conversion: +40 C is
about 104 degrees F, and -40 is the same in both C and F.) But I guess being from
Georgia, that's quite cold.
Back in Georgia, Nancy took her young students to a bat cave. That was pretty
cool, especially when she held the bat in her hands and showed it to them. Seeing
those thousands of bats soar in the sky was awesome. And the kids, as Joanne put
it, were standing there like "little sponges", soaking up all the information
Nancy was spewing out.
In another round of searching for extremophiles, Nancy and Hazel moved to
Southern Mexico, where they scouted out the rain forests for underwater caves.
There, fresh water from the lakes merge way underground with salt water from the
sea. The mixing layer there forms another harsh environment.
As far as humans are concerned, the harsh environment is the cave itself. What
happens next just proves that these people are crazy! I have to admire their
courage, though. I could certainly never do what they do. Neither could Nancy,
who acknowledged that cave-diving was so dangerous that she promised her family
that she would never do it. Hazel and the guide, not to mention the camera
operator, reach a dead end in a narrow passageway. Squeezing through the small
opening in the rocks, one air cylinder at a time, they follow the water to the rock
wall. While searching for another way out, they stir up so much sediment that
visibility goes down to zero. Absolute zero, except maybe for a few shadows. As a
rule, they always tie a line at one end of the cave, and unwind it as they go
along. This way, they can follow the line back -because one turn and they could
be lost. It also helps them get out of the kind of situation they found themselves
On the second try in another cave, they follow a guide wire left by a previous
diver, and go
beyond where that diver went. They reach the mixing layer of fresh and salt water,
the halocline. Hazel takes some samples, and they continue swimming on, to the exit of the cave. Pretty cool, and very nasty stuff.
The divers and all the cavers seemed like they had a lot of fun. It was
amazing to watch them in their elements. Such extreme behavior is not for most
people, but for others, it is what they must do.
While watching them kayak through the Grand Canyon, in the blue limestone
rapids, and the cool, placid pools, I thought, hey, I could do that. But then the
hard rock music started, and they swept over rough water, into rapids and
waterfalls, being daredevils and absolutely having a blast -but they were way out
of my league. At other points, they flaunted their climbing skills, climbing down
under a waterfall, through the spraying mists, and then dashed around each other.
I was worried their lines would tangle. But they had such a fun time, not a care
in the world! It was awe-inspiring.
It was amazing to watch the cave scenery, from the red rocks of the Grand Canyon
to the blue glacier ice of Greenland, and then to the dark recesses of the
underwater caves in Mexico. Add to that the daredevil antics of the cavers, and
especially the raging music that fit the scenes and scenery so well, and we have a
very entertaining film. Finally, the choreography of the camera operators, what
they must have done to get those spectacular shots, was amazing.
This film, by the same producers as Dolphins, proves
that IMAX film-making has come a very long way, and that it has finally reached the
stage where, in good hands, it doesn't have to be dull to get the message of a
documentary through. Spice and pizzazz like this can go a long way towards
audience rapture. Keep them coming!