Film Reviews:

T-Rex: Back to The Cretaceous

(Brett Leonard, US, 1998)

T-Rex is a 3-D Imax film. Unlike most Imax Corporation output this is not a documentary - it is a work of fiction, with a plot (of sorts), real actors and a real  Hollywood director in Brett (Lawnmower Man, Virtuosity) Leonard. Although it runs for only 45 minutes (like most Imax films) it’s all that’s required to showcase the technology on offer. I’m a big fan of the Imax format and think the flat version is impressive enough. I couldn’t wait to see the Imax image in 3-D, and T-Rex not only provides that but delivers it in a Jurassic Parkish, fantasy-genre plot.

A palaentologist’s daughter is visiting her father at work in his museum after closing time. She accidentally inhales smoke given off by a recovered dinosaur egg, begins to hallucinate whilst wandering around the exhibits trying to find her father. She soon believes she has somehow travelled through time, all together now, "back to the Cretaceous" and discovers what it was really like in the age of the dinosaurs.

Although the advertising for T-Rex (understandably) concentrates on the image of a screaming T-Rex, this is definitely one for the kids and isn’t all blood and gore. It’s a straight forward excuse of a story to showcase the Imax 3-D process. And that is truly incredible. The combination of the huge size of the Imax screen image, the quality of the picture and the 3-D effect is very, very impressive. Even when flat, Imax can easily give you the feeling of ‘being there’. The 3-D version feels really weird. This isn’t like 50s 3-D, or even 80s 3-D for that matter, both of which suffered for a variety of reasons but always lacked clarity. Here the image is bright and has a staggeringly deep and multi-layered perspective - very true to life. The dinosaur effects are Jurassic Park-style CGI’s and are up to the same high standard. However, no doubt due to budgetary constraints, there aren’t as many on screen as there are in the Spielberg movies.

To be honest, I actually preferred the non-Cretaceous scenes at the beginning of the film. Here we see a bunch of young scientists on a field trip, excavating for fossils in some picturesque rocky mountains. The bright blue skies, amazing natural landscape with its awe-inspiring vistas are a natural for 3-D exploitation by the Imax format. A tense sequence which has a couple of our doctors (including thirtysomething’s Peter Horton) abseiling over the edge of a 1,000 ft drop with the ropes twitching in the wind left me fighting to keep my mouth closed - amazed at the reality of the 3-D. Of course, you know what the bottom line is gonna be on T-Rex before you go into the theatre - daffy plot, great effects, and that’s exactly what it delivers. But, and it’s a big ‘but’, the glasses (if you can call them that) that you have to wear to experience Imax 3-D are absolutely HUGE. I’m not exaggerating when I say putting them on is like wearing a motorcycle helmet. When the 45 minutes were up I had a headache. Not the internal type of headache one normally associates with watching 3-D, but an external one from the uncomfortable weight that had been pressing on my forehead for the last three quarters of an hour*. If this is state-of-the-art 3-D then we’ve a l-o-n-g way to go yet. But until we get there, this is worth checking out for the novelty value alone.

Rob Dyer

*Footnote: It seems that Imax Corp. has improved its glasses technology. T-Rex can be wacthed in new lightweight glasses.