Over the past two decades, IMAX films have become increasingly popular. Using 70mm film with frames ten times larger than standard 35mm stock shown at the local multiplex, IMAX is projected onto huge five-story screens with startling clarity. With IMAX productions now on exhibit in most major cities, a family outing to a local museum may often include one of these films. Three of the newest IMAX films illustrate some of their most common strengths and shortcomings. ANTARCTICA is hands down the best of the three new IMAX films, and arguably the finest in the entire series. The beauty and terror of this arid, forbidding continent is captured in astonishing images. The narration in this film is just right: intelligent, informative, understated. NIAGARA: MIRACLES, MYTHS AND MAGIC demonstrates the hazards of using IMAX as a storytelling medium. This film pads the screen time with dramatizations of stories and legends. Without skilled writing, directing and acting, these leave much to be desired. RING OF FIRE represents a more traditional use of IMAX imagery, a tour of the volcano and earthquake ravaged Pacific rim. However, discerning families might benefit from a critical discussion of some politically correct comments and very brief references to evolutionary dogma. Indeed, viewers should be aware that some IMAX films adopt a naturalistic or even neo-pagan view of the cosmos and the origins of life.
(B, H, V, P) ANTARCTICA: Superb exploration of a continent few have ever seen; NIAGARA: Younger children may be frightened by vivid scenes of people swept over Niagara Falls; and, RING OF FIRE: Excellent photography of volcanic activity around the Pacific rim; very brief statement of evolutionary dogma; implied endorsement of animistic religion and rituals.