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1999 | 1997

1 item from 1999

Film review: 'Galapagos'

12 November 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Surprisingly dull, "Galapagos" is an Imax 3-D film with great shots of sunbathing amphibians and snapping eels that never reaches beyond a layman's explanation of evolution and the adaptability of species according to scientific theories first brought to the world's attention by Charles Darwin.

In effect a giant-sized, biogeographic education film aimed at the widest possible audience, "Galapagos" is sponsored by America Online and the Smithsonian Institution, with assistance from the National Science Foundation, and it's produced by Mandalay Media Arts.

The behind-the-camera talent includes narrator Kenneth Branagh and co-directors Al Giddings and David Clark.

Darwin visited the Galapagos group of 19 islands and 42 islets -- located 600 miles off the west coast of Ecuador -- 164 years ago and he ignited a Copernican debate that still continues in some circles. Running the usual 40 minutes for a big-format film and centered on an expedition by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, "Galapagos" is a breezy visit to the volcanic archipelago, heavier on mood than content.

"Galapagos" presents visual proof -- along with a friendly host in marine biologist Dr. Carole Baldwin -- that the isolated environments of the islands offer a multitude of examples of how migrating species "evolved." It also builds up expectations of seeing researchers investigate the rich marine life, something Darwin could not do. Indeed, the underlying message of the movie is that much work overall remains to be done, with the oceans and ocean floors still mostly unexplored.

With Giddings in the role of underwater director of photography -- he has worked on many Hollywood productions, including "Titanic" -- and the use of the research vessel Seward Johnson, with its submersible capable of reaching a depth of 3,000 feet, Baldwin leads the audience on a dive into the abyss, where unsuspecting denizens of the deep are sucked up a tube and captured for research in a kind of creepy reversal of the usual alien-abduction scenario.

The whole project could have used some more passion and poetry, with only a few of Giddings' underwater shots truly transporting one to a different world. As part of a series of Darwin-themed works and traveling exhibits, "Galapagos" is reverential but not essential.


Imax Film Distribution

Sponsored by America Online

The Smithsonian Institution and Imax Ltd. present

in association with the National Science Foundation

a Mandalay Media Arts production

Directors: Al Giddings, David Clark

Writers: David Clark, Barry Clark

Producers: Al Giddings, David Clark

Executive producers: Laurence O'Reilly, Andrew Gellis, Peter Guber, Barry Clark

Directors of photography: Al Giddings, Andrew Kitzanuk, Reed Smoot

Music: Mark Isham

Narrator: Kenneth Branagh


Running time -- 40 minutes

No MPAA rating


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1999 | 1997

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