Movie Review By Casey McCabe
There have been a lot of changes in the 100 years of moving pictures, but people still go to the theater expecting them to be larger than life. If it were just about the story, wouldn't everybody wait until a film comes out on video, save a few bucks and be able to pause the action to hit the john?
Only on the big screen can you can almost feel the weight of the Titanic going down, or detect a caraway seed lodged in Julia Roberts' massive teeth. That's why film going remains an experience and videos remain rentals.
I've always thought the people at IMAX were a bit slow to realize just what they have with their 80 foot screens. Either they've wised up, or run out of travelogue subjects, because lately they've been getting more creative. At least relatively so.
The latest IMAX offering is CyberWorld. It doesn't tell a compelling story. In fact it's mostly cobbled together with snippets of previously screened computer graphics animations. It revives 3-D gimmicky with considerably goofier and only slightly more comfortable goggles. It only runs 48 minutes and they still charge more than the average feature. And for my money...well the screening was free, but I paid for parking...CyberWorld is still worth it. The most shamelessly techno modern film you can imagine, it's a movie going experience in the most old-fashioned sense of the term.
Between the goggles and the 80 foot screen, you enter a brave new world where, yes, the occasional screaming beast might lunge to within inches of your face, but mostly the fantastic environments simply envelope you. There is an attempt to make things cohesive. An impossibly thin, wisecracking cyber-hostess voiced by Jenna Elfman purports to be taking us on a tour of a Cyber Galleria. There's an amusing running joke about tech-support and computer bugs. But for the most part CyberWorld is an excuse to show just how much a lot of painstaking time, money and technology can produce. It's Fantasia with a gimmick, but a good gimmick indeed.
It's refreshing that the creators, perhaps I should call them the compilers, of CyberWorld, temper the awe with a healthy dose of whimsy. It's as if they realized that we may look back — some day very soon — and find these early stabs at massive 3-D environments amusingly quaint. With great irreverence, they treat us to a 3-D segment from an old Simpsons episode, where Homer utters the immortal words: "I feel like I'm wasting a lot of money just standing here."
That's one clue as to why CyberWorld runs mere 48 minutes. It's quite possible the novelty will flatten out over time. But since they've already got the 80 foot screen and the mind-blowing technology, you might as well indulge. Larger than life doesn't get much bigger than this.
© 2000 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 10/00
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