“Yellowstone,” the newest addition to the IMAX Theatre film series, has all the format’s familiar super-big-screen touches.
A helicopter shot takes us off a snowy ridge, then causes our stomachs to lurch as our whole worldview shifts with the movement of the IMAX camera, first one way and then the next.
We watch a dramatized scene of early “Yellowstone” explorers being run out of camp by a hungry grizzly bear.
Water splashes over our picture of the raging Yellowstone River as we watch another group of explorers run the rapids.
We watch a team of scientists, doing research on geysers, slip a special camera down the cone of Old Faithful to see what happens just before a eruption.
And so on, and so on.
Which is exactly the problem. Not so very different in form or content from any of half a dozen other IMAX shorts, “Yellowstone” is something of a disappointment for one very reason reason: familiarity.
We’ve seen it all before.
The problem seems to have started with writer-director Kieth Merrill. In the film’s productions notes, Merrill explains that he intended all along to emphasize “the human and geological history of Yellowstone.”
“I knew I could make a stronger artistic statement if we interjected the human perspective instead of shooting 30 minutes of gorgeous postcards,” Merrill says.
And, of course, he’s right. This isn’t Disneyland where the educational qualities of a specific ride, say Pirates of the Caribbean, never intrudes on the magical fantasy of the overall experience. IMAX movies have forged a reputation by blending education (the why of Yellowstone) with pure entertainment (the adventure of Yellowstone).
But Merrill seems to have blended in a bit too much of the dry stuff. And the gorgeous postcards he did include are, apart from their basic big-screen thrills, nothing more than what other IMAX films have provided.
The saddest aspect to that reality is that Yellowstone boasts more raw visual material than any IMAX subject outside the underwater world of “The Living Sea” and the outerworldly environment of “The Blue Planet.”
What Merrill seems to have forgotten is why we go to the IMAX in the first place: for the pure stomach-churning thrill of those chopper dives off snowy peaks.
If we wanted mere education, we could rent the video.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Yellowstone” Location: IMAX Theatre Credits: Written and directed by Kieth Merrill Running time: :35 Rating: Not rated **-1/2