Last week I watched Volcanoes: The Fires of Creation, a documentary released at IMAX just in time for the school holidays. Now, I fucking love documentaries. I would consider a great night with my partner to be dinner and a goddamn good doco on SBS. We both fucking love documentaries. It was a cheap date, with the opening advertised refreshments and snacks, so I leapt at the chance. We were slightly early on the Monday after work, so we decided ‘hell, let’s got the pub.’ So we downed a pint, and headed to IMAX.
Now, as this was my first film opening, my assumption was that it would be a particularly professional affair full of journalists and reviewers, sipping champagne and nibbling finger food with classical music playing in the background. But as we walk down the stairs, we were confronted by loud, excitable screaming. Could it be? Had children been invited to this viewing? And sure enough, it was not the fancy media event that I was imagining.
Rather than entering the cinema in a calm, orderly fashion, we were confronted with a line of about 50 people waiting outside the cinema. Apparently we were expected to arrive an hour early to ensure we got the best seats. Not dignified. Waiting as if we were waiting for the doors of a shopping centre to open on Boxing Day, we made the executive decision that there were not going to be refreshments nor snacks provided, so we bought our own and camped out in our line.
7:30 came around and they opened the doors. As we filed in, they handed us popcorn, and AHA, glasses of wine! This drink was about my 3rd, and being a light weight, I was quite tipsy at this point. We entered the cinema, and while I had been to IMAX before, I was confronted by what I discovered. For those that don’t know, the screen is HUGE, biggest in the world apparently, and the seating area is large. At least 60 in a row, without aisles in the middle. We got seats directly in the middle. There are pros and cons to being seated in the middle of IMAX. Pro: you don’t have tilt your head slightly to the left or right to see the whole screen. Con: once you sit down there is no turning back. Even if you need to pee.
They started with a bit of an introduction about the film, where it was set and how it was filmed. And as they did that, they started handing out glasses. This where I realised that the film was going to be in 3D. Oh no. But to begin with, it actually wasn’t all that bad. I had a massive box of popcorn, lots of wine, and in 3D, the volcanoes were goddamn awesome. The 3D made it look like the volcanoes themselves were going to spit balls of fire directly onto the audience, it was hectic!
As the alcohol wore off, and the popcorn became a soggy mess at the bottom of the box, the documentary started getting worse and worse.
3D may add a bit of a wow factor, particularly for those (e.g. drunk me) looking for something a bit different in a film, but in terms of visual quality, 3D films are horrible. What could have been a beautiful piece of cinematography mastery, became a blurry action film. While it may have looked awesome coming out of the screen, it meant the film missed out on showcasing the visual beauty of the natural wonders that are volcanoes.
To credit the film makers, it seemed that the target audience was kids, and what kid doesn’t love an educational action film in 3D? The film did touch on the basics of how volcanoes are formed, why some spit out lava, and others ooze, and how dangerous and unpredictable they are to study. But for the most part, the documentary wasted too much time blabbering about the life of the main ‘character,’ the explorer Carsten Peter. While his life was certainly interesting to a 21-year-old, I doubt I would have given two fucks if I were 10.
The film also skipped through what could have been a very interesting history of volcanoes. For example, for a 45-minute film, only 1 minute was dedicated to the history of the 79 AD Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius eruption in Italy. While this topic is certainly macabre, it certainly would have been an interesting topic for exploring both the archaeological finds of peoples’ lives during the eruption, and what the people thought were the reasons for the eruption.
So not only did I desperately need to pee, and my alcohol had worn off, I was stuck in a cinema full of people, watching what could only be called a very dull action film. IMAX describes Volcanoes 3D on their website as a film in which “audiences will be on their edge of their seats,” but the only thing that kept me on the edge of my seat was my anticipation to leave the cinema and never come back.
My suggestion to you. If you want to make your day interesting, go watch this film at IMAX. Take lots of booze, sit on the edge of the row (for easy access to go pee) and enjoy the weird and wonderful ride of Volcanoes 3D.