IMAX theater offers a bug's-eye view of the rain forests

March 29, 1994|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Sun Staff Writer

In yesterday's editions, a review of "Tropical Rainforest," the new film at the Maryland Science Center's IMAX theater, contained incorrect information about the price of admission. Admission to the center, which includes the theater, costs $8.50 for adults; $6.50 for children ages 4-17, senior citizens and military personnel; children under 4, free.

The Sun regrets the error.

Sometimes understanding the big picture requires examining its smallest parts -- which explains why "Tropical Rainforest" offers so many close-ups of beetles, spiders, butterflies, frogs and other little life forms that thrive in the rain forest.

On the gigantic screen of the Maryland Science Center's IMAX theater, the new attraction studies the large problem of rain-forest defoliation in small pieces.


The film by environmental director Ben Shedd, produced by the Science Museum of Minnesota, was filmed in Australia, Costa Rica, French Guiana and Malaysia. It joins "Search for the Great Sharks" in daily alternate screenings.

To its credit -- and unlike many a documentary with a strong environmental message -- "Tropical Rainforest" acknowledges that humans comprise merely one more part of the long evolution of the lush forests that ring the equatorial regions of Earth. Indeed, upright, two-legged creatures do not appear in the film until late in its 400 million-year chronology. Yet our impact is out of proportion to our numbers, the film contends, largely through burgeoning timber-harvest activities.

"Species which no human being has ever seen are driven to extinction every day," intones narrator Geoffrey Holder. "The challenge is to understand the rapid changes in our planet we have wrought."

In contrast to many IMAX-format films, "Tropical Rainforest" draws the viewer in through minutiae rather than sweeping camera movement.

As we see one ant chomping away at a leaf -- one of the workers vital to a symbiotic relationship with fungi on the forest floor -- the eye is drawn to surrounding details, as if looking through a microscope.

IMAX cliches are included, of course: an aerial camera shot that takes viewers soaring out over a waterfall gorge, and time-lapse footage of metamorphosing clouds.

A very intriguing sequence shows how French scientists are studying the rain forest from its topmost surface: They use a blimp to lower an inflatable raft that settles onto the canopy of trees, providing a more or less secure study platform.

And while it sketches briefly the consequences of too much disruption of rain forests, the film has a hopeful, if not exactly optimistic, tone.

The narration suggests the difference between humans and the planet's other evolving species: "We can understand what's going on . . . we have foresight. Future is a time that we can change."


When: Alternating hourly with "Search for the Great Sharks," through May 26

Where: Maryland Science Center's IMAX theater

Cost: Films with center admission. Adults, $8.50; children 4-17, $6.50; seniors citizens, military personnel, and children under 4, free

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

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