'Stars': 3-D IMAX film a bit too shallow

MOVIES

May 28, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff writer

IMAX

What: "We Are Born of Stars" and "Speed"

Where: Maryland Science Center IMAX Theater

When: Noon, 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., and 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Fridays; hourly 11 a.m. through 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Beginning June 14, the films will run hourly 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and hourly 11 a.m. through 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Tickets: Included with Science Center admission of $8.50 for adults, $6.50 for children 4-17, senior citizens and military personnel.

:. Call: (410) 685-5225; TDD, (410) 962-0223.

First things first: Yes, the 3-D effect of "We Are Born of Stars," part of a double-feature opening today at the Maryland Science Center's IMAX Theater, probably works better than any 3-D film you have encountered.

But once the novelty of seeing big, white fluffy shapes floating past fades, viewers may well ask: Is that all there is?

As with most movies in the surprisingly long history of stereoscopic cinema, the answer is pretty much, "Yes." The computer graphics movie lasts but 11 minutes, and its subject -- the microscopic building blocks of matter and life -- seems vastly simplified.

When released in Japan in 1984, "We Are Born of Stars" was billed as the first movie to apply the 3-D process to the giant-screen, large-image format of the IMAX system.

The feature consists of computer-generated graphics and you must wear those hokey cardboard-framed glasses to get the effect. (The specs come free with the movie.)

Note to viewers: It works best if you sit back and relax your eyes, trying not to focus precisely on any particular object. (The use of blue and red lenses to create the illusion of depth is known as the "anaglyph color process.")

At times during the film, most viewers should feel they can reach up and touch the popcorn-like nuclei of molecules floating past overhead, or the graceful double-helix of the DNA chain of life spiraling in mid-air.

In a particularly effective moment, viewers sit at the center of a merry-go-round of animal shapes illustrating the variety of constructs possible, including a human figure that gets up and walks away.

But the film is then suddenly over and the screen fills with credits, many of them written in Japanese. (The glasses do not help in deciphering these.)

Fortunately, "Speed" follows immediately. You take off your glasses to watch in just two dimensions, but this 1985-vintage exploration of humankind's quest for velocity paradoxically puts you into the action far better than the 3-D feature.

In "Speed," the film that opened the local IMAX theater in 1987, viewers take some equilibrium-challenging rides with bicycle racers, automobile racers and airplane pilots, including the Navy's Blue Angels and a sailplane flier soaring over high mountain peaks.

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