Landscape and speed give IMAX viewers a glorious rush

UP FRONT

October 07, 1999|By CHRIS KALTENBACH

"Olympic Glory" is awash in just that -- even if the time limitations inherent to the 70mm format tend to leave the viewer frustrated and craving more.

Far more effectively than the TV format on which most of us watch the Olympics, the 50-foot-tall IMAX image suggests the size of the stage on which these athletes play -- particularly the downhill skiers, whose high-speed assaults on the Nagano, Japan, course are shown in both breathtaking close-ups and awe-inspiring wide shots, where the majestic landscape seems as integral a part of the action as the competitors.

The big screen also reveals the outrageous speeds of the speed skaters, particularly when the camera pulls back far enough to see the track-side cameras, used to film their performance, whizzing along their tracks.

The point-of-view shots alone are worth the price of admission; they're the closest most of us will ever come (or want to come) to driving a bobsled or leaping off a ski jump.

Less well-served are the figure skaters, who are really not meant to be watched in five-second bites (and the close-ups here, while technically wonderful, are no better than what CBS offered during its coverage in 1998).

An opening meant to suggest the origins of winter sports only delays what we've all come to see. Instead of watching primitive man fall down while trying to master the ice, how about more footage of Dominik Hasek, the Czech goalie who seemed to stop pucks through force of will, or those American women who skated off with hockey gold.

Still, such quibbles are minor -- and, in truth, perhaps beside the point. The opportunity to see such picture-perfect athleticism displayed five times larger than life is not to be missed.

Pub Date: 10/07/99

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