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CAN'T TOUCH THIS: The Sun in SolarMax

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Written by: Herb Lash
Date: September 19, 2001

Some moments in some films have the odd power to become instant memories.

  

Category: Columns

Some moments in some films have the odd power to become instant memories. Every moviegoer owns their own particular assortment of images, sounds and feelings that cannot be forgotten - sudden sensations delivered in the rush of individual film moments. Where are these moments in recent Large Format films? Watch SOLARMAX and witness just such a moment. . .Secure in our stadium seats, we make a slow approach through deep, dark outer space…we pull up at a respectful distance and are granted a sudden, intimate audience with the living sun. It is a nuclear reaction, it is a gargantuan fireball, it is a molten planet and it is happening right in front of us - words fail here. The image on the giant screen reaches out with a bone vibrating hum and becomes a terrible/beautiful living energy - it is a seconds long sensation that is impossible to describe and impossible to forget.

How many media saturated Earthlings are able to imagine the intimate details of space and space travel outside the context of Kubrick and Lucas? The Apollo lunar mission provided a generation of TV viewers with a mind-blowing and yet fuzzy, black and white image of mankind's giant leap into the space age. But it took the special effects breakthroughs within 2001 and STAR WARS to create a human sense of outer space - a feel for what is like to really BE there. . .There is the spinning spacecraft ballet of 2001 and a feeling of vast, silent loneliness. There is the sheer scale and gravity of Lucas's floating Death Star viewed from a distance - accompanied by the terrifying bass rumble of the unknown. And now joining these pioneer moments of outer space cinema is SOLAR MAX.

The giant screen theater is always able to flex with giant beautiful pictures and flood with giant beautiful sound - unique size and image quality enable most IMAX movies to serve up a total experience that is never less than. . ....giant and beautiful. But the filmmakers behind SOLARMAX succeed in moving beyond the Big and Beautiful. Here, the power of a brilliant, originally conceived image is put first, ahead of the more obvious powers of the Large Format medium (bigger is better, size matters, ours go to eleven, etc., etc.). Still, this SOLARMAX sun is the sort of image that can only be delivered within a Big Movie - it is felt not watched, it is an immersion and it is like nothing seen before.

A single masterful scene does not necessarily make for a Large Format masterpiece - but transcendent moments are a rare achievement in any film. Is there another example of a single Large Format image that better harnesses the extraordinary potential of the medium? What is it?
Email herblash@hotmail.com with your opinion.

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