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Five fascinating large-screen IMAX format films, each with extensive behind-the-scenes “making of” footage, in one box! “The Discoverers” (1994, 72 min.) –
From the earliest voyages that mapped the Earth to today’s launches into space, this film examines our desire to expand the boundaries of knowledge.
“Dolphins” (2000, 77 min.) – Brimming with details about the complex lives of these fascinating animals, this ocean adventure film takes you into the very heart
of the world of Dolphins. “The Living Sea” (1995, 77 min.) – Come face to face with life-sized humpback whales, thousands of golden jellyfish and giant clams.
Go 3,000 feet down to view strange creatures which live where sunlight never penetrates deep down. “The Magic of Flight” (1996, 81 min.) – Relive the first flight
of the Wright Brothers, soar with the world-famous Blue Angels and more in this technological thrill ride with some of the most amazing airborne footage ever
captured on film. “Stormchasers” (1995, 67 min.) – Join storm-chasing meteorologists who put themselves in the heart of extreme weather conditions–hurricanes,
monsoons, and tornadoes–in order to understand how they form.
This The Big Picture Box contains five IMAX documentaries:
Originally filmed in IMAX format, The Discoverers features some astoundingly spectacular footage all centering around the act of discovery. The story of the great
navigator Ferdinand Magellan’s search for a passage to the Pacific is presented with film of spectacular sunsets and scenery, and a visit to a re-creation of Sir
Isaac Newton’s laboratory while he refracts light with lamps and prisms is equally beautiful. The various vignettes, which range from a child and her father discovering
paintings of bison painted on cave ceilings thousands of years ago to a scientist on a team analyzing data sent back from a probe sent to the planet Venus, don’t
proceed in a linear path. But that’s the whole idea. The production was inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin, and the
goal was to put the viewer alongside those who explore the unknown as they experience the joyous moments of discovery. There is some serious science presented
in the course of the film, but fear not, it’s all done in a highly entertaining manner. Simply sit back and immerse yourself in the utterly gorgeous cinematography.
–Robert J. McNamara
The Living Sea
The films from IMAX have come to be known for their cutting-edge cinematography. They don’t disappoint with The Living Sea, an Academy Award-nominated
documentary exploring exotic marine locales. Using dizzying aerial and time-lapse footage, they provide underwater imagery usually accessible only while
wearing fins and a mask. From heavy-surf Coast Guard drills off the coast of Oregon to jellyfish in Palau to North Atlantic humpback whales, veteran IMAX
cameraman and director Greg MacGillivray takes viewers on a vivid journey into some of the world’s most breathtaking environments and shows us some of
the rarest and strangest marine life. Ten years from conception to finished product, this documentary’s intended message is the importance of protecting the
“world ocean” by displaying its wild beauty and diversity.
The Living Sea does an excellent job of showcasing the more visually satisfying aspects of the sea (standout footage includes schools of jellyfish performing a
graceful migratory dance and a giant cuttlefish changing brilliant colors for the purpose of camouflage), although ultimately it fails to shed much light on the
hows, whys, and urgency of marine conservation. However, despite the short running time (unfortunately characteristic of IMAX productions) and a soundtrack
that only true Sting fans will fully appreciate, this film proves to be a remarkable treat for the eyes and is sure to elicit heartfelt oohs and aahs from anyone who
loves the sea. –Ed Noble
Believe it or not, an IMAX film can make the transition to video perfectly well. It might not be three stories tall, but Dolphins is still a lovely, larger-than-life
exploration of these strangely intelligent creatures. Visit the Bahamas, Argentina, and beyond to see different varieties (like the graceful duskies) play and hunt.
Pierce Brosnan’s narration and Sting’s music fill the water with sound and add counterpoint to the dolphin’s shrill cries; the film is an overwhelming experience
even in the living room. Two short features follow the main attraction: see behind-the-scenes footage of the making of Dolphins as the enormous IMAX camera
follows the sleek, gorgeous beasts, and learn some hard facts about marine science including how dolphins fit into their complex environment and why their
numbers are at risk. Few nature films bear repeat viewing as well as this one–new details leap out at the audience each time. –Rob Lightner
Magic of Flight
Fly with the U.S. Navy’s elite Blue Angels demonstration squadron in the breathtaking documentary The Magic of Flight, which explains the basic principles of
what enables airplanes (and birds) to fly, what creates lift, how planes maneuver, how planes land again. Going back to the Wright Brothers’ experiments at Kitty
Hawk, the documentary explores how the intrepid bicycle makers ruminated on the elements of flight for many an hour before even attempting to assemble their
first aircraft. The Blue Angels put into action the discoveries made by the Wright Brothers, as they make their selections, train, and perform.
Pilots push their high-performance fighter planes through difficult but graceful maneuvers for amazed audiences, demonstrating where the state of the art really
lies for 21st-century flying. For all the skills of the pilots, however, the most astonishing part of the video would have to be the camera work, with cameras mounted
on the planes’ bellies, noses, and cockpits to give an up-close view of what the machines are really capable of doing. Planes fly an arm’s length apart during
maneuvers where the slightest misstep would mean certain catastrophe. The Magic of Flight does indeed go a long way toward capturing the wonder of flying,
with spectacular camera work, editing, and production. –Jerry Renshaw
The power of tornadoes, hurricanes, hailstorms, and other severe weather serve as a reminder that, despite technological advances, there are elements of nature
that still have us at their mercy. Stormchasers follows the meteorologists who put their lives in danger to chart and research severe storms. Scientists drive hundreds
of miles per day to chase down tornadoes in the Midwest, lingering until the last possible second when they actually encounter a twister. Weather Service personnel
send an airplane through the middle of Hurricane Emily, with everything that can be shaken loose inside the plane tethered down for the rough ride. The “making of”
segment of Stormchasers documents the crew’s hair-raising experiences as they placed themselves directly in the path of danger and doubted their own sanity for
doing so. Interestingly, the filmmakers were forced to manufacture a monsoon when shooting in India; the results were convincing indeed. Originally shot in large
format for IMAX theaters, Stormchasers gives the formation of menacing storms a beautifully lyrical quality and goes a long way toward explaining the weather
phenomena that shape our lives. –Jerry Renshaw