“Deep Rising” has plenty of visual charm, if a somewhat ambiguous conclusion to draw from it. This second documentary feature from photographer Matthew Reitz (“Annot’s Ark”) mixes spectacular views of deep-sea life with opposing sides in an under-the-radar international battle over whether to mine minerals from the hitherto pristine, barely-explored. . the depth
The problem is, the potential consequences are not fully known, nor does the director do a great job of describing the arguments in the pro- or anti-mining camp. So this conservationist statement seems a bit vague — though in an undeniably cute way, narrator Jason Momoa brings some marquee value. As aquatic eye candy alone, it should have strong appeal to programmers of non-fiction nature content around the world.
John F. Rytz. Blasting his way through a 1963 address, Kennedy began by announcing “an important national effort to acquire and apply information about a part of our world that will ultimately determine the condition of life in the rest of the world”—that part being “the oceans around us. ”
It is not clear what this effort consisted of or led to. But later we learned that in the 1970s, as ore prices soared, heavy duty players including Lockheed Martin and Standard Oil formed a multinational consortium to investigate deep-sea mining. That, in turn, combined with scant regulation of international waters, led to concerns among developing countries that “seabed strategic materials” could be another resource looted by first world corporations. An effort by the United Nations to declare the deep ocean “common heritage to mankind” was remarkably endorsed by nearly all member nations—but not President Reagan’s U.S. delegation.
Decades later, technology has improved, both commercial and environmental, as well as the desire to find “alternative” energy sources, especially when the effects of climate change are increasing undeniably. Rytz first introduces us to a man who presents a dashing image of a visionary in this regard, Gerard Barron, CEO of Deep Green Resources, recently rebranded as The Metal Company. Flying around giving glossy presentations to electrically-blurred conference attendees and potential investors, he pitched mining for “deep-sea nodules” found in places like the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the Pacific as a miraculous problem-solver. Electric vehicle batteries in particular “have all the metals we need to power the green economy”. What don’t you like?
Notably unpleasant is Dr. Sandor Mulso, a marine biologist with the opposite unslick demeanor. He’s director of environmental management at the International Seabed Authority, a low-profile but powerful organization discreetly headquartered in Jamaica – until he quit, protesting things were moving “from exploration to exploitation” too quickly. He later prompted an independent review of the ISA’s operations, citing “lack of transparency and conflicts of interest”.
Mulso takes the long view that these metal-rich nodules took millions of years to form and are part of the building blocks of life on Earth. Oceans are not infinite, nor do their ecosystems evolve rapidly. What disaster could such a mine cause without the discovery of still mysterious creatures two miles or more beneath the surface of the sea? Can we afford to toy with a natural balance still barely understood? And for all the “green” PR corporate missionaries like Baron, are seeking fossil-fuel alternatives (when they’re not just a “greenwashing” cover for the same old dirty energy) even the right ones? Are they chosen simply because of profit? The suggestion here is that solar and wind are less aggressively pushed by industry because they are self-sustaining and low-cost.
But these speculations are only mentioned in passing. Baron’s smooth salesmanship may incriminate itself on a subtextual level, but he is never asked any tough questions. (You can learn more about his and The Metal Company’s controversies in his brief Wikipedia entry.) The film sets up Muslow as his idealistic counterpart, but the two men never address or refer to each other. For focusing so much on these contrasting personalities (the other officers and experts get only brief airtime), Rytz provides “Deep Rising” with a kind of character-driven narrative structure, but refuses to do much of it.
Sounding like he just rolled out of bed at 3 a.m., Momoa restlessly delivers alternately philosophical and hyperbolic descriptions drawn in part from marine biologist Helen Scales’s recent tome, “The Brilliant Abyss.” It underlines that the film, for all its globe-trotting, is less interested in conveying hard facts than simple warnings. But it reinforces the success of “Deep Rising” in more poetic terms, as a showcase for incredible underwater sights that is occasionally interrupted by talking heads, archival footage and business summits.
A long list of entities is ultimately credited with providing “deep sea cinematography,” and rare glimpses of old such clips show just how far the field has come since the heyday of Jacques Cousteau. We see stunning sightings of variably transparent, sharp, eye-poppingly colored creatures (many falling into the catch-all category of “jellyfish”) whose surreal shapes and movements defy description. The diversity is mind-blowing — and a comical contrast to the frequent official assemblages of our human heroes, which, like the executive levels of “Mad Men,” are overwhelmingly white, male and Western.
As DP on Terra Firma, Rytz keeps things visually impressive, whether it’s surveying a pristine sunset or destroying rainforests through global mining operations. Even if its jumble of issues and ideas doesn’t coalesce into a coherent thesis, “Deep Rising” is edited to vivid, fast-paced effect by Elisa Bonner, while Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds elevates an interesting package with a score deftly traversing many instrumental idioms. .