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|Kevin Krock, editor|
I am a pretty big IMAX fan. In fact, I have grown up watching and enjoying classic IMAX titles such as The Dream is Alive and Chronos, from a museum or planetarium theater seat. More recently, this very large film / screen format has become more commonplace, and now thereís probably an IMAX theater in a megaplex somewhere near you. As its general popularity grows, more filmmakers look to it as more than just a documentary or "art" medium, with an increasing number of plot-based IMAX movies being released over the past several years.
As if a five- story- tall movie wasnít enough, IMAX also developed an incredibly natural, theatrical 3-D technique that uses two separately projected, synchronized film prints and a specially designed headset. Originally used for science documentaries, the technique was rapidly adopted by filmmakers in order to "punch-up" their storytelling with impressive visuals that canít be achieved with conventional film. The unfortunate side effect of the relatively short IMAX films, which run about 40 minutes on average, combined with the focus on the specialized 3-D visual effects is that many of the story- oriented IMAX movies end up feeling forced, and lacking story depth.
Unfortunately, T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous does not break the mold. The story follows Ally Hayden (played by Liz Stauber), the daughter of a museum paleontologist, as she inhales dust from an ancient Tyrannosaurus Rex egg that she drops in her fatherís museum laboratory, and begins to hallucinate about traveling back in time. During Allyís travels, she meets several dinosaurs from the Cretaceous period in their native habitats, and she also gets a chance to meet and talk with a couple of famous early paleontologists.
Also thrown into the contrived plot is her father, Dr. Hayden (played by Peter Horton of TVís 30 Something fame) running around the museum trying to find her. Before Allyís trip ends, she meets her favorite dinosaur, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, face to face, and she learns that the T-Rex was a lot more like a bird than many researchers of the past believed.
Not much to say here. Hereís the total sum of the bonus material: a theatrical trailer that is so-so and a five-minute "behind- the-s cenes documentary," which barely passes as one. This pseudo- commercial glosses over many aspects of the production and contains a lot of shots from the film intertwined with interviews with the stars, director, and producers. Itís disappointing that there is no mention of the 3-D aspects of the filming or of the audio and visual advances of the IMAX format.
The Video, Audio and Interface
The video is acceptable, but itís nothing special. The film is presented in the IMAX native full- frame format (4:3 aspect ratio), and the transfer is pretty clean and lacks visible film defects. The colors look natural and bright, and the image detail is good throughout the film. One annoying point is that there are no chapter stops for this movie, so if you have to come back to watch it later, be prepared to fast forward to where you left.
The audio is probably the most impressive part of this whole disc. In addition to getting Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtracks in English, French and Spanish, the surrounds in each are active with ambient sound throughout the movie. For example, the echoes inside of the museum and the prehistoric jungle noises add a nice touch of realism.
The interface is virtually a single static screen with some audio attached to it. While simple to navigate for everyone, the menu system is uninteresting, utilitarian, and does not measure up to the interface expectations set by many other current DVD releases.
The Final Evaluation
While the computer-generated dinosaurs are pretty impressive, they donít make up for the mediocre and contrived plot Ė less Ally, more dinosaurs. Additionally, the DVD lacks the ability to reproduce the theatrical 3-D effects that would have helped a bit to maintain interest in the movie. The specially constructed 3-D enhancing shots are now quite obvious and simply look silly in 2-D. If you or your kids are big dino fans, youíll probably want to rent this one to give it a spin.
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