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Imax Movies!

We take a look at 3D films playing in exclusive engagements in the largescreen format.

By Steve Biodrowski     October 05, 2000

ALIEN ADVENTURE
Many early Imax films were documentaries (Speed, The Dream Is Alive). Gradually, narrative films have emerged in the format. But as with any specialty format, the temptation for visual thrills has often outweighed narrative concerns. In this particular case, we have what suspiciously resembles a handful of motion-simulator rides strung together by a very simple premise. The story follows a group of aliens wandering the galaxy who come to Earth and stumble upon an amusement park all ready to go but not yet open to the public. One by one the go on each of the rides (without realizing that they are rides), and the camera shifts to a subjective point-of-view shot as if we in the audience are sitting in the front seat of a roller-coaster. If you've ever been on Star Tours or any Showscan motion simulator, you'll immediately recognize what follows: twists and turns come flying at you every second, so fast you can barely keep up. Then as each ride ends, we return to the aliens, who move on to the next ride. The spectacular effects are achieved with computer-generated imagery. The story is slight, but the experience is fun, nonetheless. The only thing missing is the actual motion simulation.

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL JOURNEY OF MAN
The famous circus brings its act to the big screen (and we do mean big). As the title implies, the film structures these sequences as if they represent stages of growth and maturity in the life of an Everyman character. This narrative thread is rather thin, but it is bolstered by a narration ready quite nicely by Ian McKellen (X-Men's Magneto). Somehow, it works just well enough to imbue with film with a sense that it is more than just the circus acts trotted out one after another.

Of course, much of the impact of the live show is the fact that you're seeing it live. What these people do is not only spectacular but also very difficult, and you're always in suspense as to whether or not they can pull it off without a mistake. That element is completely missing from the film, but the 3D camera offers some compensation. The choice of angles puts you right down in the middle of the action. Even if you've seen these particular routines before, you will behold them in a whole new way in this film.

L5: CITY IN SPACE
A sort of pseudo-documentary of what an orbiting city in space might be like, the film actually uses fiction characters and some narrative to tell a story, but most of the attention is paid, quite effectively, to visualizing the satellite and convincing us that it could, indeed, be functional. In this context, the story works fairly well, as the father of the narrator flies off on a dangerous mission to divert a comet that poses a threat to the titular city. The real appeal, however, is the special effects rendition of the satellite, as spectacular as (and very similar to) the one seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

SIEGFRIED AND ROY: THE MAGIC BOX
This wonderful movie is the best of the bunch, easily the best thing ever directed by Brett Leonard (LAWNMOWER MAN, HIDEAWAY), who previously helmed T-Rex:Back to the Cretacous. For a complete review, see the editorial link at the bottom.

T-REX: BACK TO THE CRETACEAOUS

Hey, it's got 3D frickin' dinosaurs splashed across a screen so big that they look even bigger than life! What more could you ask for? Well, how about a story and a decent performance from the lead actress? Sorry, can't help you there! This film is about the daughter of a paleontologist who wants to impress her single father with her theories on the maternal behavior of T-Rex. Her work is highly theoretical, until a newly found egg cracks open, releasing some kind of hallucinogenic gas that gives her visions of going into the past for a first-hand look. The computer-generated effects have that cartoony look, as they so often do, but they are nevertheless spectacular. No doubt, they are the ingredient that has made this one of the most successful films ever in the Imax format. And to be fair, the story itself has its moments. Too much time is spent in the present, but when we do start flashing into the past, it's worth the wait. Besides the climactic view of the titular dinosaur, there are also encounters with famous paleontologists from the past, including an artist who admits that he managed to capture dinosaurs in his paintings by relying for inspiration on a combination of information and imagination. You won't be terribly impressed with it as a film, and the dinosaurs aren't quite up to Jurassic Park standards, but you'll love them anyway.

Imax is opening CyberWorld at its specialty theatres around the world today. The computer-animated fantasy adventure, which features guest appearances by characters from Antz and The Simpsons, is the latest 3D extravaganza to be filmed in the trademarked large film format. Structured as a kind of guided tour of a 3D cyber-museum, the film is designed to use its new characters as a means of linking several sequences (called 'exhibits') together, some new, some old. No doubt, it will pack a powerful visual punch (with the illusion of depth added to the football field-sized screen), but it will also be short. After you've made the trip to the Imax theatre and sat through the film, you're probably going to be wondering what else to do with yourself for the rest of the day. Well, the easiest thing would be to turn right around and buy a ticket for one of the previous Imax 3D movies. Here's a rundown of titles of particular interest to science fiction, horror, and fantasy fans.

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