"FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES 3D"; directed by Mike Slee; written by Wendy MacKeigan and Mike Slee, produced by SK Films; cinemtography by Simon De Glanville and Paul Williams; Clark Planetarium IMAX, 110 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City; 44 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — If you've a passion for the monarch butterfly or even just a mild interest is where they go every year, if you enjoy really well-done photography, this 44-minute film "Flight of the Butterflies 3D" is for you.
Following the 40-year story of Fred Urquhart — and eventually his wife Norah and a young Mexican couple as well as hundreds of citizen scientists — as he takes on the task of tagging and tracking the monarch, the film traces the annual migration that takes three generations and 3,000 miles over skyscrapers, large bodies of water and busy cities from Mexico to Texas to Canada and back.
The photographers (using balloons, helicopters, cables and cranes) somehow caught the butterflies laying their eggs carefully on the underside of Milkweed plants, working their way out of their chrysalis' and journeying from the central hills of Texas to a gathering spot high in the mountains of Mexico where curtains of butterflies fill the trees, bushes and ground.
It's a miraculous result as anyone who's ever tried to surprise or catch a butterfly knows. It's not easy to sneak up on one.
There's no evidence that the butterflies are aware of the cameras even when they get close enough to count the tiny scales on their wings and the sheen on a probiscus.
Hundreds of millions of butterflies entertain in this film without doing anything different than what they do every day, year after year.
This is an absorbing piece of film work as the story goes from Urguhart's first attempts to tag the butterflies to his successes years later when he finds one of his tagged butterflies thousands of miles away.
It's probably not for really young children simply because it's not animated or cartoonish. But middle-age children, teens and adults could stay with this and see it more than a few times.
It's a beautiful documentary with some simple but not overdone statements about what is happening to butterfly habitat. The monarch butterflies only lay eggs on the milkweed and the caterpillars only eat milkweed. As the milkweed disappears, so do their butterfly nurseries. Crop dusting shakes up their world and given the predators they face along with climate change, less than 1 percent of the eggs laid survive, though each butterfly lays more than 300 eggs.
There are gorgeous shots of butterflies in the air and fluttering from the tree tops.
The 3-D effect makes it seem as if the butterflies are landing on your shoulder and tickling your hair.
It's definitely worthwhile for anyone who cares about where these lovely creatures go and what's happening in their world.
It also makes one want to go home and plant a butterfly-friendly garden full of milkweed and flowers.
If you go:
What: "Flight of the Butterflies 3D" (IMAX)
Where: Clark Planetarium, 110 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City
When: Feb. 8 through March 21
Cost: $9 adult, $7 child 3-12, call 385-468-7827
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.