With its audience growing rapidly, NASCAR racing is certainly a worthwhile subject for a large-screen documentary. While this one loses some of its visual impact (literally, as it was shown in 3D theatrically, but not here) in the transition to DVD, it's still a basically interesting feature. Anyone who's ever placed a racing videogame knows that you have to make split-second decisions, or you're going to end up in a digital scrap heap. Imagine having to make these split-second choices while riding in a car that weighs a ton, going at top speed around a track, with a guy on your tail and one that won't let you pass.
The film's ability to get right into the cars and all around the track allows us to get the feeling of being in the car during the race, and both the thrills and chills that the drivers experience. Much of the film, however, is content to show us the history of the sport, which, according to the film, started in the 40's with bootlegers that souped-up their cars in order to escape from cops, then started racing each other.
The IMAX footage itself is pretty remarkable. With cameras installed in the cars and around the track, the result is a fine sense of the kind of speed present, and the kind of time that drivers have to make choices when they're flying around the track. Of course, 40 minutes is not a lot of time when you're trying to profile the history of its sport, some of its stars (Dale Earnhardt) and take us around the track, but "NASCAR: The IMAX Experience" does a pretty good job trying to fit it all in. I found watching the engineers build the cars to be the most interesting part of the feature. From there, we get a look as to the preparation up until the race, which is the final section. Keifer Sutherland makes a good narrator, although his gravely voice isn't an 100% match for the subject matter.
This is an enjoyable IMAX feature that should interest fans and non-fans of NASCAR alike. It's defimitely a surprise, as I thought director Simon Wincer's last IMAX feature, "Young Black Stallion" was one of the worst IMAX films I've ever seen.
VIDEO: "NASCAR: The IMAX Experience" is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame. The picture quality is generally excellent, aside from a few minor faults. Sharpness and detail are terrific - the picture looks consistently crisp and clear, with very good small object detail. No pixelation or edge enhancement were seen, but the image did show some minor shimmering at times. Colors were bright and vivid, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "NASCAR: The IMAX Experience" is presented by Warner Brothers in Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound mix is terrific, putting viewers into the drivers seat with every growl of the engine. Surrounds kick in for a splendid amount of effects and ambience. The film's score/soundtrack is also quite enveloping. Audio quality was very good, with Sutherland's narration and dialogue remaining crisp and clear. Some very nice bass on occasion, too.
EXTRAS: Brief driver profile and NASCAR highlight featurettes.
Final Thoughts: An interesting IMAX feature that takes a look at all the elements behind a successful race, "NASCAR: The IMAX Experience" is an engaging, enjoyable large-format documentary. Warner Brothers has provided a fine DVD edition, with good image and sound quality, along with a couple of supplements. Recommended.