Sharks in 3D

Great white sharks prepare to invade Austin in 3D

Great white sharks prepare to invade Austin in 3D

On August 2, the ocean’s greatest predator will arrive in Austin — on film, that is. Great White Shark 3D debuts at the Bullock Texas State History Museum’s IMAX Theatre.

Shot throughout the great white’s swimming grounds — from Mexico to New Zealand, South Africa, and even along the California coast — the documentary seeks to set the record straight on the much-maligned animal.

The movie arrives amid ongoing controversy, and misinformation, about sharks. Reunion Island, east of Madagascar, is known for world-class waves, pristine swimming beaches and, in recent years, shark attacks. After the latest attack, the fifth since 2011, officials of the French-controlled island banned swimming and surfing in all but the island’s shallow lagoon. Anyone violating the ban will be fined. The government also plans to kill 45 bull sharks and 45 tiger sharks — that's 90 animals in all — in a controversial shark cull.

Several studies have shown that removing sharks harms the entire marine environment. As top predators, sharks affect the abundance of species all the way down the food chain in a chain reaction known as a trophic cascade. For example, too few sharks can result in too many large reef fish preying on smaller species that keep coral reef algae in check. As a result, the reef can become overwhelmed by algae, killing the coral. This, scientists and conservationists say, has caused some shark species to decline by as much as 90 percent.

Further, the random slaughter won't necessarily remove the threat of shark attacks. For one thing, no one knows why so many attacks have occurred at Reunion Island. For another, human behavior is often at least partly to blame in most wild animal attacks. While shark attacks scare us, even five fatal attacks in three years represents a tiny risk. In fact, more people drown in the sea on a regular basis than are attacked by sharks, but governments seldom forbid swimming in the ocean.

Then there's Sharknado. The made-for-TV movie involved an extremely far-fetched scenario: a huge storm sucking sharks from the ocean and literally raining them down on innocent people (which, miraculously, didn't kill the sharks but made them really, really mad). It certainly isn’t the first time movie makers let their imaginations run ridiculously wild, and surely most people recognized Sharknado as a campy summer fantasy. Suffice it to say, sharks don’t usually catch a break on the big, or small, screen.

The Bullock museum’s director of theaters, John Lewis, is quick to point out, too, that Great White 3D is a serious documentary backed by good science and top-notch digital footage shot for the giant screen. Not to mention that seeing a huge shark 60-feet wide on the largest movie screen in Texas beats watching a fake one eat New York commuters (okay, maybe not).

Impressive trivia from the movie includes the fact that sharks swam oceans before dinosaurs arrived; they also give birth to live pups. The visual feast also includes a great white breaching for the first time in 3D.

The G-rated Great White Shark 3D runs 40 minutes and will screen every day at the IMAX through the spring.

Great White 3D movie poster
Great White 3D plays at the Bob Bullock IMAX. Courtesy of Great White 3D