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EVEREST ($40) is another of the truly entertaining IMAX films that takes viewers to one of the most remote and inaccessible places on the planet- namely Mount Everest. Climbing Mount Everest is a near impossible feat that only a few handfuls of people have been able to accomplish under the best conditions. With that in mind, the filmmakers responsible for EVEREST have made the task even more difficult by taking along the big, heavy IMAX camera to document their ascent to the top of the world’s highest peak. EVEREST is a spectacular looking movie that greatly benefits from the large format film used to photograph IMAX images. However, the thing that makes EVEREST unique amongst IMAX movies is the fact that one of the worst disasters to ever befall climbers occurred during the film’s production in 1996. The filmmakers themselves aided in the rescue efforts on Mount Everest, when a group of climbers got caught up in a sudden storm. EVEREST documents the harrowing human tragedy, which ultimately resulted in eight deaths and the unbelievable rescue of a single man who had been given up for dead. Actor Liam Neeson narrates this breathtaking film that also features songs by George Harrison.

EVEREST has been released on DVD as part of the Miramax Collector’s Series. Since IMAX is such a large and high-resolution film format, there is no way in the world that NTSC video can do justice to a film that should be projected on a screen several stories high. However, the image quality on this DVD greatly benefits from the original IMAX photography; producing a picture that is a clear and detailed, as the NTSC system will allow. EVEREST is presented full screen, which is about the best way to reproduce IMAX images on a 4:3 display. When 16:9 HDTV displays become standard, some other compromise for IMAX reproduction at home will have to be made. Color reproduction is very good, with well-saturated hues being rendered without the slightest trace of chroma noise or distortion. At times, some film grain is noticeable in the presentation, but it is never distracting. Blacks are accurately rendered and contrast is excellent, especially when one considers that stark, bright whites that make up so much of the image. The use of dual layer technology manages to keep digital compression artifacts in check almost all of the time.

The Dolby Digital 5.0 channel soundtrack delivers a well-balanced mix that keeps all the balls in the air without incident. All of the voices, including Liam Neeson’s narration, are cleanly and precisely reproduced, without so much as a single unintelligible syllable. The mix takes advantage of the discrete nature of Dolby Digital to create an enveloping sonic field that helps place the viewer right up "on the mountain" with the climbers. Sound effects also take advantage of all the discrete channels, including the split surrounds, to create an involving motion picture experience. The musical score by Daniel May and Steve Wood, as well as the songs of George Harrison are well mixed and very nicely reproduced. EVEREST lacks a separate subwoofer channel, so all of the bass is reproduced through the main speakers. Bass reproduction is fairly strong, however the punch of the lowest frequencies certainly would have enhanced the overall impact of the soundtrack.

The interactive menus are very basic, providing access to the standard scene selection features as well as the DVD’s supplemental materials. Topping the list of supplements is the Making Of Everest documentary, which gives a detailed look at the IMAX system and the logistics of carting the IMAX equipment to the top of Mount Everest. The documentary also gives additional detail into the tragedy subsequent rescue efforts on Mount Everest. Also included is an extended interview with Beck Weathers, the survivor of the Mount Everest tragedy that no one expected to live. The interview runs approximately 45 minutes and gives greater detail into the man’s personal ordeal. Another supplement is the video journals of the climbers that braved the mountain during the making of EVEREST. The DVD also features a 3-D interactive map of the mountain, which allows one to traverse Everest from the comfort of their easy chair. Additionally, there are also a number of deleted scenes that provide a bit of background color to the region of the world in which Everest resides, but has no impact on the mountain itself. Filling out the supplements is trailer for the IMAX film TITANICA.

As much as I enjoyed EVEREST, the DVD is somewhat pricey- especially when one considers the type of discs being released by other home video companies at almost half the price.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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