(In IMAX theaters, April 2011) I don’t see enough IMAX-3D films on the really-really big screen to be jaded, but not even the glorious 3D picture could manage to overwhelm my growing reservations about the Legends of Flight. A thinly disguised promotional piece for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner as seen from the designer’s point of view, this documentary suffers from a number of annoyances that distract from its better moments. On the plus side, there’s footage of the 787 in flight and a Harrier take-off; technical details about the evolution of aviation; and some stunning shots of a Boeing plant. Alas, the rest of the film features photo-realistic CGI planes superposed over real-life landscapes, painfully cartoonish birds and bees, as well as some dizzying cinematography made worse by the 3D (Legends of Flight has a number of computer-generated transitions moments where the eye tries to focus on objects not meant to be focused on, and the effect can be a bit painful.) Anyone hoping for a journalistic look at the 787’s conception will be disappointed, as everything is filtered through the Boeing marketing department: the Airbus 380 is dismissed, the 787’s problems are minimized and the entire thing is pompously titled Legends of Flight. I still had a good time (that’s what not being jaded to IMAX-3D gets ya), but I’ve seen far, far better, starting with director Stephen Low’s own Fighter Pilot – Operation Red Flag.
(In IMAX theaters, March 2006) As a certified military hardware buff, I had a number of dropped-jaw moments during this documentary. Covering (and re-creating) the annual “Red Flag” training tournament, director Stephen Low’s Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag gives us military planes on glorious 70mm negatives and kick-ass surround sound. Just wait until you see a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber slide into view, or hear the heart-stopping rumble of an A-10 Warthog main gun. While the structure of the film can be a scatter-shot of cool scenes that only aviation geeks will love, the quality of the pictures more than makes up for it. It generally improves by the end of the film, even concluding with a rescue sequence that easily belongs in a Bruckheimer action movie. A lot of stuff blows up. It’s all good. Given the international nature of the “Red Flag” exercise, Canadians even get to hear a snippet of Québécois. Albeit limited by the nature of the venture (This film would have not existed if it wasn’t for the collaboration of Boeing and the Air Force), Fighter Pilot is a lot of fun for aviation enthusiasts. What for sure is that this isn’t the usual Omnimax nature film. (In Omnimax theatre)