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Ossus Library Index Non-Fiction Movie Index

YELLOWSTONE

Directed by Keith Merrill (1994, Destination Cinema)

A exploration of the relationship between the national park and the people who made the creation of the park possible.

 

 

D++

March 2nd, 2002 on the Omnimax dome

 
    Naturally beautiful, but excessively campy when describing history.

As long as the producers stayed away from humans, the movie was beautiful.  It was really nice to see the dynamics of wildlife and some of the natural splendor of the park. Unfortunately, we didn't get enough of it.  And sometimes, we got too much of it.  Either the shots were so short that we barely glimpsed what was being shown, or the images were kept on-screen for too long.   As wondrous as the geysers were, did we really need to see a dozen of them?  Besides, the shots were so static, that they didn't seem as wondrous as they should have.  But maybe we were better off with those static shots.  Many of the dynamic ones were way too jumpy, or way too close up.  The falcon (or eagle?) was, as usual, nice to watch, but as we followed it from tree to tree, the camera would bounce and slew too far at times.  

The technique was not very good on this film.  Besides the jerkiness of the camera, especially on close-up shots, we as the audience had to move our heads too often to see the action.  It is one thing to frame action on the side of the screen in a regular movie, so that the scenery takes up the rest of the screen.  But on a large screen like this -especially on the dome- to have to move from the extreme left to the extreme right is distracting, and nauseating, as well.   

I enjoyed the trip down the Columbia river, but that, too suffers from the problems of the early IMAX film style.  In films made earlier than this one, travelers down the river would get swept up into the rapids, getting dunked, and providing us with an exciting experience only possible on the IMAX screen.  But during those exciting travels down the river, the camera becomes way too jerky.  I guess steady-cams have been developed for these kind of things, as the similar experience on the roller coaster in Wild California fared better.  I don't mind the thrill of jouncing up and down; it's the jerkiness of the film that I disapprove of.

The music of the movie was also outstanding.  Performed by Bill Conti, who also did the wonderful instrumentals for The Karate Kid Part II, every scene has some accompaniment.  And all of it is relevant.  Energized when going through exciting parts, quiet and melodious when required, it was actually the best part of the film.

However, whenever humans came onto the screen, I had to cringe.  From the natives who inhabited the area centuries ago, through the explorers of the Columbia river, to the Jesuit priest who brought fame to the area and the others who explored it more thoroughly and helped bring about the creation of the park, the actors were bad.  And the situations were bad.  And the dialog was also pretty poor.  The (obviously) trained bear attack on the campsite was absurd.  The researcher who founded the theory of a volcanic caldera was hilarious (in a bad way) in his attempts to appear surprised and awed at finding evidence for his theory. And it went on and on.  

Still, the natural beauty of the Yellowstone national park made seeing this movie barely worthwhile.  Or maybe not quite.  But added to the wonderful music, it was worth seeing.  Being a fairly old movie, I think the quality of the film stock has degraded, and that's a shame.  It made the park seem a little washed-out in places.  Still, watching geysers erupt like Old Faithful and others did, and seeing the obvious beauties like all the waterfalls and the not-so-obvious ones like the mud springs, made the time well spent.  While this film was by far one of the worst IMAX films I've seen, it is not terrible, because they did show us some nature, and that can't be too bad.

 
   

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