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Galapagos: The Enchanted Voyage

Education and fun do not always go hand in hand. Fortunately, the folks at IMAX films seem pretty in tune with the fuzzy line between the two, and more often than not, they get involved with imaginative large-format pictures that dazzle the senses and fine-tune the mind.

Such is certainly the case with "Galapagos," filmmakers Al Giddings and David Clark's epic journey above and below the sea. Shot in IMAX 3-D, "Galapagos" follows marine biologist Dr. Carole Baldwin on a Smithsonian expedition to the Galapagos Islands -- some 600 miles west of Ecuador.

Best-known for Charles Darwin's expedition there more than 160 years ago, the Galapagos represent a world virtually untouched by human existence. Made up of 19 islands and 42 islets, the terrain is rough and treacherous -- the result of hardened lava. More fascinating still, however, are the species that inhabit the region. Literally covered with lizards, birds, turtles and varying sea mammals, the Galapagos are a living, breathing creature -- perfect subjects for the massive IMAX lenses to document.

With creatures wandering, eating and swimming off the screen, the 3-D experience is captivating. Between Andrew Kitzanuk and Reed Smoot's above-water photography and the film's shift to the underwater spectacle lensed by "The Abyss" cinematographer Giddings, "Galapagos" is finely paced and makes swift yet subtle transitions. The sight of a full school of hammerhead sharks on the prowl is not something one will quickly forget -- especially 40 feet tall and in full 3-D.

As with any feature, music is essential to creating and switching moods. Giddings and Clark wisely signed on composer Mark Isham ("A River Runs Through It"), and the result is decidedly positive. With a full spectrum of species and locations, Isham's multifaceted score provides just enough punctuation to season the images.

Viewers will have their own favorite moments, yet it would be hard to top the film's spectacular opening. The depth 3-D creates is put to full advantage as the landscape and one of its creatures is brought into full screen -- placing the audience in the middle of a seemingly endless panorama in a place few could even dream of going.

At a painless running time of less than one hour, "Galapagos" is the kind of large-format feature that takes full advantage of the format and its strengths. Easily enjoyed by both children and adults, the film is an entertaining trip to a faraway place where wildlife is carefree and abundant and, through the process of IMAX 3-D, just barely out of reach.

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Carole Baldwin: Herself

John McCosker: Himself

Dave Pawson: Himself

Dave Steadman: Himself

An IMAX presentation. Directors David Clark and Al Giddings. Screenplay David Clark and Barry Clark. Producers David Clark and Al Giddings. Directors of Photography Al Giddings and Andrew Kitzanuk. Editor James Lahti. Running time: 40 minutes.