I saw the following two films back on Memorial Day weekend at the California Science Center IMAX for extra credit. This was my report, which I'm finally sharing, with some minor edits.
National Park Adventure 3D
I went to the IMAX at the California Science Center on the Sunday before Memorial Day. It was impressively busy. I saw two films: National Park Adventure and Beautiful Planet, both in 3D. Overall, the IMAX experience was marred by people filing in after start time and by people generally taking a long time to situate themselves.
Before National Park Adventure, there was a trailer for the other film that I saw. Then there was a Subaru spot advocating environmental protection, someone behind me commented on the “irony” of that.
National Park Adventure is relevant to the class as it features various areas of our planet, covering some of the natural science. For instance, the beautiful blue/green pools in Yellowstone get their brilliant color from heat-loving bacteria. Unfortunately, the film was light on science and heavier on other aspects. Furthermore, there was too much irritating contemporary pop music, such as a rendition of the dreadful “Hallelujah.”
I was also introduced to the culture of gap climbing at Devil’s Tower. Devil’s Tower is apparently a natural lightning rod. The Native Americans said that the land belongs to no one, whereas, the narration asserts that the land belongs to all of us. By that logic, our planet is potentially as much the aliens’ as ours’.
Near the end came one of the best parts of the film, which focused on Pictured Rocks National Park in winter. Visitors are shown walking on frozen Lake Superior, and one of them is portrayed ice climbing. The narration informs us that the weather is 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and that the steel of the ice picks can shatter in those temperatures.
Beautiful Planet 3D
The second film, Beautiful Planet, was far more substantial in terms of the science and valuable insights. It depicts the activities of crewmembers on the International Space Station as well as some great views of the Earth from the station. As the grand imagery washes over the audience, the film imparts various facts. For instance, the Namib Desert in Africa is the driest on the planet. Speaking of deserts, the once dense forest areas of Madagascar are beginning to look like a desert due to deforestation, resulting in the extinction, or nearing extinction, of lemurs and other various species.
More morsels of information from the film include the fact that the Colorado River supplies the water supply for a population of 40 million, whereas, the Himalayan snowcap provides the water for 500 million, and both sources are dwindling. California’s increasingly drought-stricken Central Valley is also featured.
Beautiful images of the Aurora (not specified) are shown while the soundtrack informs us that this phenomenon is evidence of our atmosphere protecting us from solar radiation.
Observing the crew, we are shown that there are no showers in space, just the use of wet wipes. The International Space Station is definitely benefiting from cutting edge accommodations, such as an Italian-made espresso machine and zero-gravity cups (replacing the much less glamorous pouches).
I was enthralled by the images of lightning from space, which I have never seen before. An image of a hurricane funnel was also pretty impressive. Christmas in space is also portrayed. A medical doctor is shown growing lettuce in space with the help of pink light, several crew take a taste. Another scientist is on the station to research the affects of space on vision, as there have been reports of declining vision after extended times in space.
The most powerful part of the documentary featured the planet at night. The crew remarks that from space there are no borders, with two noticeable exceptions. First, the India-Pakistan border is highly visible with all sorts of reddish light along the whole length. Second, the border between North Korea and South Korea reveals the shocking differences in quality of life. South Korea is filled with light, which reflects a vibrant and bustling country; North Korea is nearly pitch black with only a small concentration of light in the Pyongyang area. Both countries have roughly the same population. I was blown away by this revelation.
Lastly, the film covers the search for other planets hospitable to life. One planet was found, according to the film, 500 light years away, it is in the Goldilocks zone (not too far, not too close to its sun).
Annoyingly, despite being in line earlier for the second film, I didn’t get in on time due to the long lines. Both times I took an equally brief bathroom stop. I believe that the IMAX would be improved by incorporating terraces and multiple levels of auditorium ingress and egress. This is more than possible with seven stories at their disposal.
Overall, I had a good time and look forward to reliving Beautiful Planet at home. Speaking of home, I prefer my home theater, which consists of a 3D-capable digital projector and 90-inch and 120-inch screens. I always have the best seat in the house with no distractions, and healthy snacks if I so choose. If I get close enough, I can definitely have my own private IMAX moment.
In fact, after getting home, I re-watched Space Station 3D, from the same director as Beautiful Planet. Space Station 3D is one of my favorite IMAX films and one of my 3D favorites. It was interesting to note how much the space station has advanced since then. Space Station 3D, like Beautiful Planet, featured observations about the apparent absence of national borders from space, holidays in space, and the lack of showers in space. Overall, the IMAX spirit was one of the highlights of my Memorial Day Weekend.