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BMZ Review: Solarmax
By Herb Lash


BMZ Review of Solarmax
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: November 2000


Category: Reviews

Every solar eclipse blinds a few humans around the planet - some people just like to watch. Clearly, in real life, staring into the sun is one of the least good ideas around. But when the moon blots out our nearest star there is something undeniably attractive about gazing up and watching it happen – something like magic.

The expression "Solar Max" refers to the peak moment of violence in an eleven-year cycle where the sun’s magnetic poles reverse themselves.  It is a an inferno where waves of radiation blast out and across the solar system, flares rise up in impossible to imagine heights and trillion megaton explosions riddle the sun’s surface. Amidst all of this chaos, if you were able, you would hear the sun’s magnetic field making a peaceful Zen-like humming sound. Solar Max makes it possible to see and hear all of this on the giant screen without going blind and without getting burned.

Director John Wiley’s Solar Max incorporates everything under the sun about the sun – from the extraordinary to the ultra-ordinary. It is an unapologetically rigorous and comprehensive study of the science of the sun and the relationship of humans to it. This is the sort of documentary that will leave some shaking their heads in awe and wonder. These same people should do the courteous thing and wake up the other half of the audience before leaving the theater. The film is like a good professor in that it seeks to educate in an entertaining fashion – not the other way around.

Solarmax traces the evolution of human sun studies from Egypt to Peru to Stonehenge to Copernicus to outer space. For thousands of years there have been Great Pyramids in the sand and there will soon be a pyramid system of sattelites orbiting the sun - humans have praised, pondered and revered few things in the universe like we have our sun.  The stunning computer generated images within  Solarmax (images now utilized by scientists) provide yet another way appreciate the wonder that is the Sun.

Solarmax does suffer from too much of a good thing.  In a zeal for total inclusiveness, the film too often meanders and loses momentum.  We move from engaging scenes of humans around the world watching the latest total solar eclipse to the hard science of the sun's chemistry to the hard science of the sun's magnetic field to the overblown search for a lost and frozen in space satellite sent out to study the sun.  But the film moves along in self-contained snippets - and this is a saving grace as something new and riveting is never too far behind the more numbing digressions.

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