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'Volcanoes of the Deep Sea' offers different kind of deep-sea exploration

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In "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," a giant cranes hauls the deep-sea submersible Alvin aboard its mother ship, the research vessel Atlantis. The giant screen film, opening at the Clay Center Saturday, explores the depths of the ocean in search of what may be the oldest species still living on earth.
Courtesy photo
In a scene from "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," lights from deep-sea submersible Alvin illuminate a towering structure at a recently discovered vent site in the Mid-Atlantic.
WANT TO GO?"Volcanoes of the Deep Sea"WHEN: Saturday through July 5SHOWTIMES: noon, 1, 3 and 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 1, 3 and 4 p.m. SundayWHERE: Clay Center ElectricSky TheaterTICKETS: Film only: adults $7.50, children $6.50; with gallery and planetarium: $14.50 and $12INFO: 304-561-3562 or CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Explore the darkest depths of the ocean with "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," the new giant screen film opening this week in the Clay Center ElectricSky theater. Winner of the 2005 Best IMAX Film of the Year at the Paris Film Festival, "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" is a visually compelling and remarkably engaging for a film that takes place in the deep gloom of the ocean.Directed by Stephen Low and produced by oceanic-obsessed film director James Cameron ("Titanic," "The Abyss," "Ghosts of the Abyss," "Aliens of the Deep"), the film follows a team of scientists as they search the ocean floor for the paleodictyon nodosum, a never-before-seen creature that produces a strange honeycomb pattern and may be one of the oldest species still living on earth. It's theorized the animal might live near volcanoes on the undersea floor.
At first glance, a documentary about a couple of old guys puttering around the ocean floor, looking for a fossil near some old volcanoes doesn't necessarily sound like that great of a time. (Even if the documentary is produced by an Oscar winner.)Underwater adventures have been done before, and after a certain point, it's easy to imagine there's nothing all that new to cover. Sure, there might be a few new, weird creatures to see, but they always seem to fall into one of a few specific categories: they're albino versions of other creatures, they're boneless or they glow in the dark.Otherwise, the very bottom of the ocean looks like a silent wasteland rendered almost incomprehensible, not just because of its inhospitableness to human life, but its general hostility to all life.As it turns out, that's not the case and with "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea." Even at the deepest depths, there is plenty to see. In fact, with the film, what's found along the way becomes more interesting than the hunt for the paleodictyon nodosum.The hunt for the ancient beastie fades into the background as a broader discussion takes place regarding the tenacity of life and how living things somehow manage to thrive in abundance in places where they should not."Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" challenges the very idea of what is considered habitable. Rationally speaking, nothing should be able to live in total darkness, next to volcanic plumes of poisonous chemicals venting in water hot enough to boil a man alive.
Yet, it does. Life endures. Astonishingly, it thrives.Eventually, of course, Low gets back to the hunt for paleodictyon nodosum, which serves as kind of an interesting way of encapsulating what the exploration of the ocean is about."Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" may not be for everyone. There aren't a lot of jaw-dropping visuals, scenes of wild action or any cool looking dinosaurs to keep younger viewers entertained, but it's a good piece of documentary filmmaking.Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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