IMAX films have always played an interesting role in my day-to-day experience of seeing movies. The features, usually 40 minutes long or so, almost always serve as a "snack" before the full meal, which usually includes an additional 2 feature films. Yet, I've actually rarely liked any IMAX features I've seen in the theater. The price is usually $8.50 for the short features, and either the plot has been thin or the acting poor. I've actually found several excellent IMAX films not in the theater, but on DVD, with "Beavers", "Stormchasers" and "Dolphins" being three in particular that I've liked. "Everest" was the only picture that was worth seeing in the IMAX theater.
Count "Michael Jordan: To The Max" as a DVD find. Although it's not the most entertaining of the IMAX features I've enjoyed, it's still a well-done documentary focusing on the career of Jordan, easily one of the most (if not the most) popular figure in Basketball (if not all sports) history. Although this feature starts off as being a bit promotional as those who have followed Jordan's career talk about how great a talent he was (yes, we knew that.), it finally settles down and becomes a more engaging and inspirational look at Jordan's career, as he talks about his attempts to try baseball as well as things that happened during the last games of his career.
Laurence Fishburne is the narrator for the film, and does his work perfectly. The actor's serious voice gives some of the events additional drama and tension that the film might not have otherwise had. I would have liked to have seen more of a scene that happens later in the film where Jordan talks about the strategy that went into a certain play. When the film tells us things that most non-hardcore basketball fans didn't know like this, it becomes more engaging.
As with almost all IMAX films, the film gives the audience strong visuals, as the camerawork is often excellent. Although I was inspired by much of it, I think I would have liked to have had more insight into Jordan, or at least more of Jordan (or his teammates, who we really don't hear much from here) talking about his career.
VIDEO: Fox has provided a top-notch anamorphic transfer for "Michael Jordan: To The Max". Suprisingly, where most of the large-format IMAX features come to video in a full-frame presentation, Fox has presented "To The Max" in a 1.85:1 presentation that is anamorphic. Sharpness and detail are both excellent, especially during some of the game footage, which looks particularly crisp and well-defined.
Problems are very minimal throughout. I didn't notice any pixelation or print flaws; only a bit of slight shimmering once or twice during the length of the movie. Colors are natural and clear, with no problems at all. Although the picture didn't stun me as much as some of the IMAX presentations that I've seen on DVD, the film goes to the basketball court - not the locations across the world that most large-format films always go to. To put it simply, this is the best this material can likely look at home.
SOUND: Like almost all of the IMAX films I've experienced, "Michael Jordan: To The Max" presents a very active sound experience, although the one element that remains a constant is the music. The score is enveloping, playing from all speakers often throughout, with solid bass. Cheering of the crowds also carries nicely into the listening space, adding to the excitement of the viewing experience. All of the dialogue/narration/interviews also come through clearly and cleanly. It's a high-energy, fun audio experience that adds to the movie.
MENUS:: After an animated introduction, there is a nicely done main menu with slight animation and 5.1 audio sounds/music behind the menus.
Commentary: This is a commentary from Steve and Don Kempf and co-director James Stern. The three chat about the making of the IMAX feature, mainly making screen-specific discussions about the events that we're seeing unfold on-screen. In addition, they talk about how much they enjoyed working with Michael during filming, as well as how the team's organization was able to help them gain better access to Jordan for the movie. The three have a lot of fun and offer an energetic commentary that I definitely enjoyed, as it does provide a good deal of insight into the making of the film - even some of the fun little bits like a "cheat" or two they had to do.
Trailers: 3 30 second teasers and a full theatrical trailer.
Behind The Scenes: I've often enjoyed the documentaries that accompany IMAX films, especially some of the "making-of" presentations that Image Entertainment offers with their discs, some of which are longer than the actual film itself. Although this documentary isn't quite as in-depth as some of those, it still has the same personal feel as the other documentaries, as we're taken on-set and elsewhere for interviews with the filmmakers and other people involved in the making of "To The Max". Much of the documentary takes a look at how "Matrix"-like effects were used in a scene.
Reviews: 3 text reviews for the movie from different sources.
Bios: Bios of Jordan and the filmmakers.
Slam Dunk: This is a 2 minute featurette that takes a further look at how special effects were used.
Positive: The DVD offers excellent video & audio quality along with some fun and informative extras. The price is also very nice at $19.99 and less at most stores. The movie is inspirational and engaging for the most part.
Negative: This is a minor complaint, but some of the film tells viewers what many already probably know about Jordan.
The Film B
Video 94/A = (376/400 possible points)
Audio: 90/A- = (360/400 possible points)
Extras: 85/B = (255/300 possible points)
Menus: 90/A- = (180/200 possible points)
Value: 86/B = (258/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: B
DVD GRADE: B+