ENCOUNTER IN THE THIRD DIMENSIONNR
The hallucinatory Star Gate sequence in the late Stanley Kubrick's immortal 2001: A Space Odyssey, considered 'the ultimate trip' by mood-enhanced moviegoers of the day, looks positively quaint compared to the computer-generated, surreal roller-coaster ride that is the centerpiece of Encounter in the Third Dimension, the new giant-screen 3D film from nWave Pictures. Movie trips have come a long way since 1968, particularly with the spectacular developments in CGI of the past decade, and Encounter contains some vertiginous visions that can truly be labeled 'state-of-the-art.'
This genial history of 3D technology, directed by Ben Stassen, is a mixed bag of the spectacular and the cheesy, but it offers up more than enough entertainment value for adults and kids alike. The cheesy aspect comes with the live performers on hand. Comic actor Stuart Pankin plays an addled scientist, seen in his massive (and computer-generated) lab, who is preparing to unveil his new invention, a 3D process called 'Real-O-Vision,' with the help of longtime 'Mistress of the Dark' Elvira. As the Professor works out the kinks in his process, the movie mercifully segues from its tepid attempts at comic relief to an engaging capsule overview of 3D entertainment. There's an array of stunning 19th-century stereoscopic photographs from around the world, followed by a humorous glimpse of some of the tackier 3D movies of the 1950s, including Cat Women on the Moon, Those Redheads from Seattle, and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in Money From Home. Next up are excerpts from contemporary theme-park attractions, including James Cameron's Terminator 2: 3D and Iwerks Entertainment's Dino Island II-3D. But the pi'ce de rsistance is the Iwerks 3D ride film Journey Through the Center of the Earth, as seen through the eyes of the Professor's flying robot assistant, Max. You're taken on a vivid, dizzying journey that burrows through the earth into deep caverns and onto a river of lava, into the ocean and up to the stratosphere, with all kinds of bizarre stops along the way. For some, the trip may even be a little too real. The program ends with a ghoulish Elvira music-video; the song would never make the cut on MTV (or VH1, for that matter), but the effects are top-notch.
For those who remain unconvinced about the breakout potential of large-format 3D, Encounter in the Third Dimension is a pretty convincing primer.