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Humpback Whales (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 39 minutes.

OK for children.

200 years ago, before global whaling became a huge industry, there were approximately 250,000 humpback whales in existence throughout the oceans of the world. These are huge creatures. Just as an example, when a baby is born it weighs approximately 1 ton. Full grown they are 55 feet in length and weigh 50 tons!

Large-scale whaling killed approximately 95% of the humpback whales. Recently, however, the world has become aware of this tragedy and the cutback in whaling, which is recognized and followed by most of the world within noteworthy exception of Japan and Norway, the worldwide population of humpback whales has come to approximately 40% of its previous level, or approximately 100,000 humpback whales presently in existence.

Father and son team Greg and Shaun McGillivray are the world’s foremost independent producers and distributors of giant screen 70 mm films with 38 giant screen films to their credit. This film was four years in the making and it contains never-before scenes of humpback whales in action.

What the McGillivrays do is not just take a small, one square inch Go Pro camera and go out and film whenever they find a Humpback whale. Because they are shooting for IMAX, the cameras weigh more than 200 pounds and are the size of a small refrigerator. They have to get these underwater and enable them to have extreme mobility.

For this film, Greg says they had extraordinary luck because when they visited the Polynesian independent state of Tonga for a month looking for whales they had the clearest water in 10 years. They also found a mother with her calf and spent four hours swimming with her and the calf. While they can shoot at a distance of 250 feet to get good visibility, for this shoot they got within 2 feet.

Everything you see is real, except for one thing. I asked Greg after the screening if they had enhanced the audio for the loud clap one hears when the Humpback whales tails flop down on the ocean top when they jump and he admitted that they had because there was no conceivable way for them to get that kind of audio. That’s the only thing in the movie that is not real, and it is almost too minor to mention.

The film is augmented by an excellent narrative by Ewan McGregor, who attended the screening I attended.

As usual with the McGillivray’s work, the IMAX photography is mind-boggling. Because of the size of the film, 10 times larger than normal 35mm film, it has 10 times the clarity. When you add 3-D to the IMAX, the result is a film you will never forget. Unlike other 3D, this 3D does not dilute the gorgeous color one iota.

With IMAX you don’t just sit there and watch the middle of the screen and see everything. There are things going on all over the screen and you have to move your head to see what’s happening in the upper left and then move your head to look all the way over to the lower right to see something different.

This exceptional view of these magnificent mammals in IMAX 3D is an exhilarating film-viewing experience you can get nowhere else. I hated to see it end.