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Originally published Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 3:06 PM

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‘Journey to the South Pacific’: a fresh, lyrical peek under the sea

A three-star movie review of “Journey to the South Pacific,” a lyrical IMAX documentary that uses underwater 3D IMAX photography to emphasize the need for keeping the oceans clean.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 3 stars

‘Journey to the South Pacific,’ an IMAX documentary narrated by Cate Blanchett. Directed by Stephen Judson and Greg MacGillivray, from a screenplay by Judson. 40 minutes. Rated G. Pacific Science Center’s Boeing IMAX Theater.

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During the past month, the Pacific Science Center has been holding an unofficial festival of IMAX classics, including “Beavers,” “Rocky Mountain Express” and “The Polar Express.”

But this week there’s a new IMAX movie on the schedule that’s so fresh it didn’t exist a few months ago. Principal photography on “Journey to the South Pacific” began in January 2013. Seattle is one of the first cities to show the completed film.

Co-directed by IMAX veterans Greg MacGillivray (Oscar-nominated for “Dolphins” and “The Living Sea”) and Stephen Judson (“Everest”), it follows the film­makers as they explore the West Papua islands where the Indian Ocean mingles with the Pacific.

After a 65-hour journey to this remote location, the filmmakers had no access to phones or the Internet. Much of the film was shot under­water, and the 3D visions of tropical fish, manta rays, whale sharks and sea turtles are the main attraction.

Lacking teeth, one in 10 baby turtles reach the sea before they’re picked off by predators — a spectacle that Tennessee Williams transformed into the grotesque poetry of “Suddenly Last Summer.” Here it’s presented as a fact of life.

Also part of the IMAX package is a plea for ocean conservation. Images of dynamited fish and rising sea levels blend with a strong sense of native commitment to keeping the oceans clean.

The exuberant score by Steve Wood (‘Dolphins”) is the perfect accompaniment for scenes of kids fearlessly surfing and dancing and bouncing in the waves.

Although it’s officially a documentary that takes us places we’d rarely have a chance to visit, the filmmakers come close to turning the picture into a lyrical and rather joyous musical.

John Hartl:

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