As most IMAX films do, "Ride Around The World" takes us on an informative journey - one that traces the history of the cowboy and the differences and similarities that span across cultures. The film opens with breathtaking shots of horses galloping across grassy plains and then the narrator takes us back to the beginning in Morocco. A present day wedding is taking place and the men involved must wait outside the village of Casbah with their horses as the bride is prepared. The beginning traces of the cowboy we know today originated here with the men's ancestors 1,500 years ago - it was then that they perfected cavalry warfare with their Moroccan barb horse.
What makes this segment so interesting is the reveal of each familiar and often iconic cowboy item that has spanned centuries and seen only little alterations over the years. We get a quick glimpse at these pieces that have made their way around the world including the horse itself (an athletic-endurance horse that proceeded the horses used today) to the stretched rawhide saddle, to a bit with leather arms for better control over the horse, and finally there's the wide, flat stirrups.
From Morocco, the film takes us to Spain, and it is here that the original Cowboy begins. "Ride Around the World" follows the great journey of the cowboy to the 1520's in Mexico, where the Conquistadors brought with them their barb horses, all the way to present day Veracruz, Mexico, where men and women practice the Vaquero traditions and lifestyle in hopes of preserving their long history of horse culture. Part of what makes this film so enjoyable are the glimpses of the people of each country and how they go about preserving the cowboy legend and history.
"Ride Around the World" progresses nicely and at a quick pace, especially considering it only runs 40 minutes. It's nice how each explored horse culture presents something new and interesting, such as how from 1600 to 1800 thousands of cattle escaped Mexico and multiplied by millions in what is now Texas. "Ride Around the World" is also full of interesting bits of information, including how Vaquero culture made its way to Argentina, but was adapted differently than in Mexico by the Gaucho's due to the wet conditions.
Technically, the film is quite impressive, with gorgeous large-format cinematography capturing the rolling hills and other striking landscapes. The picture certainly provides the memorable visuals that the IMAX format is known for (and given the subject matter, I wasn't exactly sure before sitting down to watch it how much of a visual impact the film would have) and a great deal of information. As is often the case, trying to pack in a massive amount of history in 40 minutes is not exactly an easy task, but "Ride Around the World" pulls it off quite well.
With a look at horse cultures in Morocco, Spain, Mexico, America, Argentina, Chile, and Canada, this IMAX film not only provides a historical account of the journey of the cowboy, but is also a touching look at the people who define the term and keep it alive and well today.
VIDEO: The presentation is offered by Image Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. As per usual, Image handles the transfer for a large format film quite well. Sharpness and detail are terrific, as the picture boasts a clean, crisp look with an almost three-dimensional feel at times. A touch of edge enhancement is spotted in a couple of scenes, but otherwise, the presentation looked smooth and pristine. Colors remained warm and rich, with excellent saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: While the film does certainly have a strong visual impact, the film doesn't present quite as many opportunities for compelling surround use similar to many IMAX features. Ambience, occasional sound effects and music are heard from the rear speakers, but the majority of the audio is spread quite nicely across the front soundstage. Audio quality is excellent as the score sounded full and rich, while sound effects came across sounding precise and clear. Overall, while not the most active IMAX sound mix, the presentation does have a nice open, airy feel.
EXTRAS: A 23 minute feature from the TV series "America's Horse" follows the "making of" process for "Ride Around the World". Host Jeff Medders introduces the film and gives a brief overview before we get a behind-the-scenes look at the film. This feature is worth a look, providing interviews with cast and crew, as well as a look at the equipment and work that went into the three year long process of bringing the film to life. The only drawback is how the feature does tend to cover some of the information from the film, so it can feel a tad repetitive. However, fans of large format films will find that this does provide a good overview of the process.
Also included on the DVD is a "Film Trivia Quiz". You're presented with multiple choice questions about the film to test how much you've learned from watching "Ride Around the World". Trailers for "Wild Ocean", "Ride Around the World", "Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs" and "Dinosaurs Alive" are also included.
Final Thoughts: With a look at horse cultures in Morocco, Spain, Mexico, America, Argentina, Chile, and Canada, this IMAX film not only provides a historical account of the journey of the cowboy, but is also a touching look at the people who define the term and keep it alive and well today. The DVD provides very good audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Recommended for IMAX fans.