"Sea Monsters 3D: A Prehistoric Adventure" features an improbably charismatic central character: a female Dolichorhynchops, "dolly" for short, that plied North America's great inland ocean 250 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period. It's during that watery time that much of "Sea Monsters" transpires, occasionally zooming back to the future to re-create the paleontological digs that have unearthed crucial evidence of prehistoric life.
And it was a wonderful life, as "Sea Monsters" tells it, full of danger and death, yes, but also wonder and Zenlike balance. Narrated by Liev Schreiber and set to music by Peter Gabriel, this Imax extravaganza, produced by National Geographic (and funded in part by the National Science Foundation), follows its little dolly from birth to her extraordinarily peaceful death from old age. The film, which is sure to spark passionate interest in young minds, keeps "March of the Penguins"-like anthropomorphism to a minimum, instead focusing on spectacular 3-D effects that make it seem as if the dolly and her slithery contemporaries are gliding overhead or, more terrifying, sticking their 17-foot-long necks out to get right in our faces.
In the tradition of what we've come to expect from National Geographic, "Sea Monsters" has been produced with taste and a strong sense of storytelling; although the main events are underwater, even the computer graphics depicting a multimillion-year timeline and a modern-day rock explosion are dazzling. It's "Finding Nemo" with a "Wow!" factor of about 100.
-- Ann Hornaday (Oct. 5, 2007)
Contains potentially frightening images of prehistoric creatures, both as predators and prey.