Urban Cinefile
"I got completely intimidated by it and I was totally afraid of it. "  -Laurence Fishburne on playing Othello
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Saturday February 1, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



The film follows husband and wife cinematography team, Howard and Michele Hall on a 10 month quest across and under the Pacific Ocean - during which they attempt to create a lasting cinematic record of the reefs as they exist today - the film captures unprecedented, underwater images as well as the sobering images of dying reefs. It reveals both their remarkable contribution to life on earth and the imminent dangers they are facing right now. 

Review by Louise Keller:
A truly magical experience, Coral Reef Adventure entices us deep into the ocean’s wonderland, dazzling us by the wonders of life beneath the surface. On the giant IMAX screen, the vibrant reds, yellows, pinks and blues of the coral offer a joie de vivre that a production designer could only dream about. 

The coral sways or remains stone-like, as myriads of fish and sea-creatures of all kinds zip in, out and around these reefs that not only form their habitat, but also are a valuable source of medical cures. It’s a carnival of life, and with underwater cinematographers Howard and Michele Hall as our guides, we journey with them to the reefs in the Great Barrier Reef, Fiji and Tahiti. Their quest is to make a cinematic record of the reef, whose survival is now being threatened by global warming, as well as over fishing and siltation (from logging, usually). The sheer beauty of living reefs is a stark contrast with those that are dying. 

Narrated by Liam Neeson, we learn how the reefs and the creatures that inhabit them form partnerships to survive: fish like the potato cod which has a working relationship with smaller fish that prunes unwanted seaweed from its mouth. We join the deep-sea divers as they dive 350 feet, where the water is dark and cold. It’s called ‘The Twilight Zone’, and here we discover new species of fish and corals that don’t rely on sunlight. We are swept into the midst of a large school of grey reef sharks, and there’s a wonderful scene when a diver follows a giant turtle, as he swims effortlessly. An octopus sweeps the coral reef floors to feed, two parrot fish fight for their territory, coral buds open and close (to synchronised music); life is a hive of non-stop activity.

‘Teach your children’ goes the Crosby, Stills & Nash song, which is heard several times through the beautifully integrated music that includes ‘Marrakesh Express’, Beatles tunes and the 12 member Fiji Cultural Group’s songs about the creation of the islands, reefs and sea. Educational, entertaining and visually fantastic, Coral Reef Adventure may only touch the surface, but leaves a lasting impression of the extraordinary beauty of the reefs and nature’s creatures.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The world underwater has always left me speechless, both literally and figuratively, with its fantasy concepts for creatures that seem even more exotic than those above the waterline. I’ve dived or snorkled in places as varied as Tahiti, southern England, Fiji and Thailand, never growing tired or bored of the exhilaration of coming close to fish, or the sheer extravagance of colours in the shallows of the ocean. It’s like slipping into a world created by a team led by Salvador Dali, Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg.

In this IMAX-size film environment, it’s like taking a dive with an oversize facemask, and getting close ups in 45 minutes you could never get in a real dive of that duration. Some of the creatures make you laugh with their apparent playfulness, some seem like contraptions, not animals, while some scenes of the dying reef are plain sad. 

But there’s no better medium than the large format camera to capture the reef world with such clarity and precision. The objective of the film is made meaningful by the scientific nature of the exercise, in which the filmmakers work in tandem with scientists to try and find the cause of coral reefs dying in particular locations, and perhaps engineer ways of saving others. The threat of the world’s reefs dying within the next 30 years is devastating; in a very tangible way, this work shows that films can and do make a difference in the world, in more ways than the obvious.

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0


(USA / Singapore / Taiwan)

CAST: Documentary narrated by Liam Neeson featuring Howard Hall, Michele Hall, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Rusi Vulakoro, Richard Pyle.

PRODUCER: Greg MacGillivray, Alec Lorimore

DIRECTOR: Greg MacGillivray

SCRIPT: Osha Gray Davidson, Stephen Judson (narration written by Jack Stephens)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Howard Hall, (underwater) Brad Ohlund (topside)

EDITOR: Stephen Judson

MUSIC: Bob Brozman, Brent Lewis, Steve Wood


OTHER: PRODUCTION MANAGER: Cris Andrei, Teresa Ferreira, Michele Hall, Anne Marie Hammers

RUNNING TIME: 46 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: MacGillivray Freeman Films Distribution Company through Imax

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 25, 2004

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020