Two Imax Films from Disney
Roving Mars (December 23/08)
It's immediately apparent that Roving Mars has been designed to appeal primarily to viewers with an inherent interest in all things outer space, as director George Butler's dry approach will surely leave neophytes wondering just what all the fuss is about. The movie - which documents the efforts of NASA scientists to send two unmanned robotic vehicles to the Red Planet - does stand as a fairly effective introduction to NASA's Mars Rover mission, however, as Butler peppers the proceedings with a myriad of facts and tidbits revolving around the space program (including the revelation that two-out-of-three jaunts to Mars end in failure). Butler's decision to include several computer-generated sequences to illustrate the Rover's journey proves to be near disastrous, since it becomes increasingly difficult to tell which footage is real and which is animated. It's also worth noting that the movie, even at a running time of just 40 minutes, is simply unable to completely sustain one's interest from start to finish, although it's admittedly hard to deny the strength of a few individual moments (ie a group of anxious scientists await the news that the Rover has safely landed). There's ultimately little doubt that Roving Mars' impact is somewhat lessened in the transition from IMAX-equipped theaters to home video, and it subsequently goes without saying that the film is far from an ideal showcase for the larger-than-life format.
Sacred Planet (January 9/09)
In spite of its admittedly impressive visuals, Sacred Planet generally possesses the feel of a hopelessly dry education video - as director Jon Long bogs the proceedings down with exceedingly dull chunks of narration from the various locales' indigenous figures. The eye-rollingly overwrought voice-over work proves effective at detracting from the sporadically breathtaking images, and it's certainly not surprising to note that the film is simply unable to sustain one's interest for the entirety of its 46-minute running time. There are a few highlights within the proceedings, however, with the film at its best when focused solely on the majestic scenery of such exotic destinations as Borneo, Alaska, and New Zealand. It subsequently goes without saying that the animals that occupy the various territories traversed by Long and his crew provide Sacred Planet with its most striking moments, as the filmmaker effectively places the movie's myriad of creatures within the context in which they clearly belong - resulting in awe-inspiring shots of, among others, giraffes stampeding across a vast wilderness and snakes slithering along a desert floor. The pervading atmosphere of New Age silliness renders the film's positive attributes moot, ultimately, though it does seem likely that a viewing on an IMAX screen might ensure that such concerns become relatively easy to overlook.