George Casey (1991, Graphic Films Corp.)
Narrated by Robert Foxworth
A visit to several volcanoes around the world, and the cultures
that live in the constant danger of eruption.
March 20th, 2003,
on the OmniMAX dome
A rather impressive look at volcanoes,
with computer animation that is quite illustrative, considering its
Fortunately, the movie has an international flavor. It starts off in
space, showing us the ring of volcanoes that border the Pacific ocean.
The movie can be forgiven if it stops at three American locations for so
long, though I don't know if I can forgive the narrator's statement that
San Francisco is the heart of civilization.
The film was made partially in the wake of the San Francisco earthquake
of 1989 (or 1990?). My parents went to a conference in that city only two weeks
after the quake, and were awed at the scale of damage. Seeing it on IMAX
is something that really underscores how life was impacted. Of course,
the devastation by nature, which was spread out over the entire city,
leaving nothing completely unaffected, is somehow not as awful as the
very concentrated damage from New York in September 2001.
Mount St-Helen's was extremely exhilarating. To think that people
witnessed the destruction of that mountain is terrifying. I liked the
way we actually saw the side of the mountain slide away in a series of
still images put together and superimposed over the IMAX film.
The Hawaiian volcanoes were by far the most impressive. I was completely
overwhelmed by the flowing lava, as it moved like a river, burned up
streets and houses, and dripped into the ocean. The heart of the volcano
was beautiful. I could not keep my eyes from the rivers of lava,
especially as it was constantly churning over itself, like mini tectonic
plates. It was really difficult to remember that this was molten rock,
and not some grit layer on churning water.
Except for San Francisco, the American sites played mostly on the
devastation, and not on the way lives were affected. Fortunately, though
we don't really get personal with those who live in the shadow of a
volcano, we do get to see the impact in places like Japan and India. We
witness evacuation drills on small Japanese islands, which are then
covered by grey ash. It was almost absurd watching one man wipe off his
car afterwards, as if he was brushing off snow! We don't get to see the
Hindu worshipers who must visit the temple facing the volcano, but the
Buddha statues seem to say it all, as if we are facing death proudly.
The computer graphics that show us the layers of magma and mantles, as
they grind against each other and mount towards the surface are done in
a wire-frame outline. This give a surprisingly detailed show of what is
happening, especially since it doesn't allow fancy backgrounds or
cross-sections to interfere. The scene where we travel up a magma shoot,
through a bubble-like reservoir and finally into the cone of the volcano,
sticks in mind because of the intensity of the movie.
The narrator stays, for the most part, behind the scenes, not bringing
attention to himself. He mainly lets moving images of the volcanoes and
the raging magma, not to mention the devastation it lays in its wake,
tell the story for him.
Definitely not a standout IMAX movie, this one is still entertaining and
informative, in the style of the infant IMAX movies of the late 1980s.
It takes advantage of the IMAX camera to wow us with close-ups and quick
passes over and around things that we would not normally want to get
close to. The only annoying feature was the near-constant ghost of the
helicopter rotors at the top of the domed screen, as they were barely
visible, but left traces every once in a while. Distracting. The film,
though, and the subject matter, made the movie worthwhile.