Two very different IMAX films about nature

For the last weekday of vacation, I spent the entire afternoon at the Museum of Science, including watching two IMAX films. The verdict is thumbs down for Tornado Alley, thumbs up for To the Arctic.

So what’s wrong with Tornado Alley, other than being surprisingly boring? Principally it’s a cinematography problem: chasing a tornado and going into its midst may sound exciting, but basically all you have is lots of gray. By far the best scenes are the views of horrific destruction that show up in bright sunlight the day after the tornado. Maybe a tornado is one of those many events that are better viewed from a distance than from the inside.

To the Arctic, in contrast, is a stunning film. Of course the natural scenery of the arctic helps a lot in this regard. So do the beautiful polar bears that form the focus of this documentary, and even the occasional walrus doesn’t detract from it much, ugly though it may be. The not-so-hidden agenda of To the Arctic is climate change, as we track the effect of the breakup of polar ice on the habitat of polar bears. Meryl Streep is an effective narrator, and the cinematography is an unqualified success.

Each of these showings, by the way, was preceded by the famous New England Time Capsule, which I’ve watched too many time in the last 25 years — so I didn’t really need to see it twice more, especially twice in the same day. But I must admit that the scenes of flying over the downtown and zooming along the highways were every bit as effective as ever. So go see To the Arctic, and enjoy the short feature before it as well.

Categories: Movies & (occasionally) TV