Sometimes, we watch a documentary to be sucker-punched by its investigative uppercut. Other times, it’s to be awed by nerdy info and eye-candy. “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland,” which hits the New England Aquarium’s Simons IMAX Theatre in time for February vacation week, may not be subtle or particularly brilliant. But this science-y doc sates that second desire just fine.
Written by nature superstar Sir David Attenborough, the narration can feel bombastic, especially in tandem with the thunderous score and requisite helicopter shots swooping over the Galapagos Islands. But the voice-over skills of Animal Planet host and Norwell resident Jeff Corwin bring the verbiage down to earth. Corwin seems just as amused by the oddball flora and fauna as kids will likely be.
Once on the ground where, Corwin reminds us, “strange creatures thrive,” we examine a fraction of the nearly 9,000 animal species that have adapted to suit the varied habitats of this archipelago scattered off the Ecuadorian coast like some evolutionary joke. Cameras capture blue-footed boobies grooving to their goofy courtship ritual, waved albatrosses gathering on the shoreline, and giant Galapagos tortoises lumbering in the mud. The half-spider, half-scorpion amblypygid lurks in rocky caves, and microscopic plankton float like luminescent stars against a field of dark ocean water.
The 3-D effects are a non-factor — take them or leave them — but sped-up digital graphics illustrate the idea that “here, evolution is proceeding with spectacular speed.” Before our eyes, a Galapagos cormorant loses its large wings and becomes flightless. An ordinary land iguana morphs into its seafaring version 2.0, the marine iguana, a species that can dive, hold its breath, and snack on seaweed. To deal with the overload of salt in their system, Mother Nature again comes to the rescue: These lizards can shoot excess sea-salt from their nostrils. Kids should dig seeing that.
In short — and these IMAX films are short — “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland” presents a kind of earthly paradise of adaptation and tolerance. Sit back, revel in the wash of facts, and be as tickled pink as a pink iguana lounging in the sun. And be mindful of potential human lessons. In one telling sequence, three animal classes — birds (Galapagos penguins), mammals (Galapagos fur seals), and reptiles (those marine iguanas) — all bask on the same outcrop, oblivious to each other. Presidential candidates of differing stripes, take note. Perhaps you, too, could evolve to coexist on the same rock without trying to devour each other?
GALAPAGOS 3D: Nature’s Wonderland
Directed by Martin Williams. Written by David Attenborough. Narrated by Jeff Corwin. At Simons IMAX Theatre, New England Aquarium. 40 minutes. Unrated.Ethan Gilsdorf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.