The scenery was amazing, and it was really interesting to see
the native ways of life, but the story that the movie was framed around
was ultimately unfulfilling.
The idea for the story was a good one. It compared and
contrasted the visions of two medicine men, one from a native tribe, and
the other from a Western scientific institution. The native travels
from the start of one of the Amazon tributaries, at a mountainous glacier,
down to a city probably near the mouth of the giant river. The scientist
travels to individual pockets of native tribes in search of the secret
healing properties of the rain forest.
The scientist played himself in the movie, but I was disappointed
to see that the native was filmed as an actor. The scientist interacted
with other tribes in what seemed like unscripted encounters. But
I wonder how long the IMAX crew stayed up there waiting for the opportune
moment. Unfortunately, the scenes among the tribes did not seem to
require the IMAX camera to tell their stories. Gathered in low buildings
within closely grown trees, there was not much that the IMAX format could
do for them.
But the information was interesting nonetheless. The fact
that there are still people out there, in the heart of the Amazon rain
forest, who have never seen outsiders, because they fled when the Spanish
came to America, is amazing. The natives have cures for many illnesses,
most accompanied by rituals to give them power. All are based on
the incredible medicinal powers of the rain forest species, most of which
are not catalogued.
The native medicine man was the most interesting, though.
He roamed along the river until he encountered civilization. He went
from tribe to tribe, trading knowledge and articles for supplies, trips
farther down the river, interesting medicines, and shelter. He participated
in rituals that he may never have seen before. Ultimately, he trades
glacier water for some leaves that may offer a cure for diseases that have
no cure in his village. I really enjoyed the shot of the Inca ruins
on the mountain top, but I wish they would have taken the shot when there
were no tourists around.
The IMAX format was put to good use in the scenes where the forest
or the river take center stage. The producers put it to good use
wherever they could. The opening scenes take us on a wild ride along
the river. There are some eerie underwater scenes, which show off
some native animals, including snakes (awesome on the big screen) and dolphins.
Insects abound, including all manners of spiders. But the best was
the foliage itself. Panoramas of the forest, mountain valleys, and
the river were breathtaking. Unfortunately, there was not enough
of it. Waterfalls were aplenty, but the camera sailed right by them,
refusing to linger where our hearts could beat a little faster at the beauty.
For all that the radio advertisement made this movie out to be,
there was very little terror. Besides the snakes and the cheetahs,
there were no obvious dangers to spook viewers. One of the native
tribes split their lower lips so that they could place bones through the
hole (the reason for which was never explained satisfactorily), and that
was quite spooky in itself, but, like the ad for T-Rex,
it was misleading.
A lot of effort went into this movie, and it was nice to see
that. A story framed the rain forest and the river, so that we were
not looking just at scenery, and that was very much appreciated.
As interesting as it was, it did not use the IMAX format to full effect,
and focused too much, I think, on the people. To see that the medicine
man finds his trophy leaves in a fair sized city (with cars and a large
marketplace) was a little disappointing.