Film Reviews:

Encounters in the Third Dimension

(Ben Stassen, US, 1998)

The first 3-D Imax film I'd seen was T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous which was okay but the heavy, helmet-like 'glasses' were a major problem*. Encounters in the Third Dimension however uses a more traditional polarised lense set of plastic glasses, although because the Imax screen is so huge the shades themselves do look like a pair of giant joke sunglasses. But don't let this small matter of appearing like a idiot when wearing them put you off seeing this film because the 3-D effect is truly amazing.

The wrap-around 'story', such as it is, has The Professor and his 'cute' flying robot assistant, M.A.X. developing the latest 3-D technology in his cavernous laboratory. Whilst working on his newest 3-D project - a song and dance routine featuring Elvira (!) - he fills in time providing a potted history of the stereoscopic image. These clips and photos of classic 3-D films and images are interspersed with real cutting edge CGI clips, including the liquid metal spider creature from the Terminator 3-D ride in Universal Studios and an incredible, vertigo-inducing ride on a runaway mine cart. The much-touted Imax ad line 'you feel you're in them' is 100% accurate when applied to Encounters in the Third Dimension.

Most impressive is the incredible depth of field, showcased to maximum eff|ect in The Professor's lab, which is cleverly designed and filmed to capitalise on the effect without having to resort to the cheesily obvious 'spear in the face' routines of 3-D films of the 1950s. The kids I saw the film with were going berzerk at the effect with them constantly jumping up and reaching out to 'grab' the images floating just inches from their noses. Encounters in the Third Dimension may be nothing more than a shiny showcase for the technology, but it boats the best 3-D effect I have ever witnessed. Period.

Rob Dyer

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

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