There was one point a couple of years ago where I'd sworn off IMAX films completely. The ones that I had been seeing were either mediocre or poor and for $9.00 at any time of the day, the 40-45 minute experience often seemed like a complete waste of money. Better large-format films that never seemed to arrive locally (Dolphins, Stormchasers) were also arriving on DVD.
Recently though, a few films have brought me back towards the format. "All Access", a highly entertaining concert film, brought me back three times to see it. "Everest", of course, was also one of the biggest of IMAX's success stories. I thought the experience of seeing Cirque De Soleil on the big IMAX screen would be interesting and entertaining after seeing the DVD version of their "Dralion" performance.
Boy, was I wrong.
As with many of these films, they somehow feel the need to throw in a story to hold everything together, and that's where things go terribly wrong. Between the scenes of the troupe performing in different places across the world (bungee dancing in the jungle, spinning around in a cube above the desert, swimming underwater...somewhere), we see this boy growing up from a little tyke in the jungle to an adult who is reminded of his childhood by a bunch of people dancing around in his big house.
None of this is helped either by the narration from Ian McKellen. A terrific actor who also has a voice perfect for narration, he is forced to offer some embarassingly new-agey voice-over, most of which is read with such ultra-seriousness that I couldn't help but laugh a few times. To make matters worse, this is presented in the 3-D IMAX format, which requires the viewer to wear large, annoying glasses. Some of the films in this format have put the 3-D feature to good use.
This isn't one of them.
In fact, there's little reason why this film had to be in 3-D; it could have been more entertaining in the 2-D version. The last of my many complaints is the acting - the actors who play the main character are all terrible. They're followed by two equally awful clown sidekicks, who babble nonsense. "Journey Of Man" is also one of the shortest IMAX features I've seen. Coming in at 38 minutes, the weak attempt at a story takes up far too much of the time when it should have focused on the performers, who do a couple of sequences that are quite impressive and a couple that seem rather less amazing in comparison.
VIDEO: "Journey Of Man" is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame. While some IMAX presentations lately have started to be presented in anamorphic widescreen, the usual aspect ratio for IMAX on home video has been 1.33:1/full-screen. Anyhow, as the film recently has been in theaters, it generally looked terrific. Sharpness and detail were impressive, and the picture often contained that kind of strong depth that only IMAX features usually provide.
The picture appeared free of all but a couple of tiny print flaws and did not display any instances of pixelation or edge enhancement. Colors were the best part of the presentation; they appeared almost unbelievably bright and beautiful throughout much of the film, with the vibrant costumes of the irritating clowns giving off the most stunning colors. Very nice work from Tristar.
SOUND: Although this certainly isn't one of the most agressive sounding IMAX features that I've had the pleasure of listening to, the Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack does what it can with the material. For example, the drummers that populate the first sequence have their playing additionally presented in the surrounds, while the forest sequence that follows a few minutes later has an impressive helping of convincing ambient sounds. Audio quality was terrific, as the music sounded rich and dynamic and the narration by McKellen came through crisply and clearly.
MENUS:: Static menus with film-themed images as backgrounds.
EXTRAS:: Trailers for Cirque's "Dralion" and "Quidam". No "Journey Of Man" trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Journey Of Man" has a few strong moments, but is unfortunately more sleep-inducing than it is awe-inspiring. Although Columbia/Tristar's DVD offers strong audio/video quality, there's little in the way of special features and the $24.95 retail price seems a bit steep for rather weak and certainly short film that doesn't boast many additional features. Fans of "Cirque" or those with a general interest may want to check it out as a rental, but otherwise, I'd not recommend a purchase.