Directed by: Jean-Michel Cousteau, Jean-Jacques Mantello | 83 minutes | documentary | With: Arnold Schwarzenegger
In “Wonders of the Sea”, French oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of the renowned Jacques Cousteau), accompanied by his son and daughter, takes the viewer on a voyage of discovery through the fascinating underwater world. The coral reefs of Fiji, the mangroves off the west coast of California or the paradise archipelago south of the US that we call the Bahamas; numerous special places are reviewed. Thanks to the latest camera equipment, the beautiful marine life in many of its rich forms comes to life optimally. Beautiful and venomous lionfish, graceful hammerhead and reef sharks, adorable clownfish, immense lobsters, colorful octopuses and some of the world’s most charismatic marine mammals are examples of creatures that make their appearance in the rich procession of underwater wildlife that passes by.
Some of the commentary is provided by action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger, a man who has been a strong advocate for a cleaner environment throughout his political career as California governor. The last quarter of Wonders of the Sea focuses on the threats and problems facing the oceans today and reminds us that the myriad of life we have just witnessed may be temporary. Corals are fading on a massive scale due to the warming and acidification of the world’s oceans, while plastic has become a real bane for marine life. Penetrating images of dead, bare and virtually dead reefs reinforce the message of Cousteau and Schwarzenegger: if we want our seas to remain beautiful and healthy, we must finally dare to take concrete and far-reaching measures on a political and economic level. It is good that this message is not lacking, but it is sometimes conveyed somewhat forced and superficially in “Wonders of the Sea”.
Although the message of Cousteau and Schwarzenegger makes sense and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the nature images that we are presented with, ‘Wonders of the Sea’ still lacks that extra dose of urgency to really distinguish itself from some other high-quality nature documentaries that have appeared in recent years. Moreover, the somewhat corny, sometimes very rehearsed-looking conversations between the Cousteau family members sometimes distract from the core and content of the film. For example, a series such as “Blue Planet II” tells the story of the world’s oceans (including the problems and not very bright future prospects) in a deeper, more original, subtler and more fascinating way. Despite the visual spectacle, “Wonders of the Sea” remains a somewhat superficial film about the broad spectrum of life in our oceans.