"Aliens of the Deep" brings some of the deepest-ever (3,500 meters, or more than 2 miles) underwater exploration to completely amazing and mind-blowing hard-core 3D IMAX film. This film has been playing at the Metreon movie theater downtown (San Francisco) for about the last two months, and literally several times a week I've talked about going to see it. Aimee and I planned on it first, then with Derek. Well, Derek and I finally went to see it yesterday, and it was worth every penny ($10).

First of all, the concept is fascinating. At these depths, life exists completely without photosynthesis -- sunlight has never touched these areas. At these depths, the environment is as unwelcoming as imaginable: incomprehensible extremes of pressure, darkness, temperature. It would be easy to imagine that zero life exists in these environments, and yet it thrives. For the people who look to space, these environments are quite similar to what may be encountered on distant planets and moons. These environments are also quite similar to the earliest days of Earth. And so, to find life in these areas -- massive amounts are down these -- is to realize that oceans under the deep ice of Jupiter's moon Europa, or the surface or core of an ancient Mars may have identical conditions. As they say a few times in the movie, exploring [life at the] the awesome depths of the oceans is the best experience to prepare for exploring [life in] outer space.

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Second, the movie is the best possible eye candy. IMAX screens are already a treat, and 3D put it way over the edge. I don't remember ever being to a modern 3D movie, but I highly recommend it. It works. It's great. Whomever's working on this stuff has nailed it. After a few seconds, your eyes calibrate and you're in for a treat. In addition to all the underwater sequences, there are several other sequences that totally max out the visual experience. One is an exploration of earth's life forms. An elephants trunk comes right out of the screen and touches you in your seat. In another, animation brings you from 10 light years distant, in through our atmosphere, through the ocean, down to the thermal ridges where the newest ocean-bottom crust is formed. It's probably a 60 second sequence, and one of the treats of the movie. I could almost feel the smoke coming out of my ears as my brain cranked overtime to process the scale, orientation, detail and 3D-ness of it all. Totally fun.

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But of course the most amazing part of the movie is the underwater photography we came to see. One sequence gets centimeters away from a giant 10-foot bizzaro jellyfish creature. One of the most amazing creatures, the film is so high quality that you can see the incredibly fine network of cells that give it shape. You seem to see it nearly pulsing with energy, and it's translucent skin reveals internal organs moving around beautifully. Truly alien. Other animals life in the volcanic plumes of 750-degree superheated water that the earth's center vents through ocean-bottom chimneys along the central-ocean spine. In these areas, new crust is continually formed, representing some of the most primitive geology observable. Massive amounts of animals live in the boundaries between this awesomely-hot gassy water, and the awesomely-cold deep-ocean water.

Academy Award®-winning director James Cameron combines his talents as a filmmaker with his passion for exploration in all forms in "Aliens of the Deep," an Earthship Production presented in IMAX® 3-D by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media. Inspired by concepts from the field of astrobiology-the study of life on other worlds-Cameron explores the idea that the bizarre creatures living in the extreme environments found on the ocean floor might provide a blueprint for what life is like elsewhere in the universe. The director is joined in the journey by a team of young marine biologists and NASA researchers who share his interests and excitement as they consider the correlation between life under water and the life we may one day find in outer space.

"Aliens of the Deep" presents the dramatic and visually stunning highlights of a series of expeditions to deep-ocean hydrothermal vents, where super-heated, mineral-charged water gives life to some of the strangest animals on Earth-6-foot-tall worms with blood-red plumes, blind white crabs, and an astonishing biomass of white shrimp, all competing to find just the right location in the flow of near-boiling water. This adventure brings the audience face to face with what it might be like to travel far into space and encounter life on other worlds.

I wish Hollywood made more of these. Bringing exploration, understanding, big questions, and inspirational science to the big screen is good for the world. I think everybody in the audience left inspired. I'd go see a movie like this at least once a month, and I'd probably even pay 3 times as much. Nothing but the biggest props to James Cameron for putting his money into something besides his Hollywood mansion. Keep it up.

Go see it while you can. (It's only 48 minutes -- you could even check it out during your lunch break.)

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