“Mountain Gorilla”, a 1992 IMAX picture, is one of the biggest examples that I’ve seen where a large-format picture delivers the outstanding imagery expected of the format, but only occasionally provides useful information about its subject. In this case, the documentary filmmakers have ventured in the jungles of Rwanda to capture the Gorillas of the title go about their day-to-day business.
An opening sequence that offers a brief history of the creatures and when they were first discovered is one of the more informative moments of the picture. The remainder of the film follows a small group of the creatures as they play, eat, sleep and try to survive. The rather sparse narration only occasionally provides some interesting information about the group dynamic or the creatures relation to their surroundings, but there are also stretches where the narration only basically narrates what’s obviously happening in the current scene. There are several long pauses throughout the picture where no narration is presented, and we’re left to watch the gorillas watching the camera.
While I certainly agree with the film’s message, that these intelligent and wonderful creatures should be protected and have land where they can live safely, the documentary does not provide enough insight into the life and society of these creatures. While there are a few tidbits offered, I felt as if I’d seen similar (and more educational) programs before.
VIDEO: As with all of the Warner Brothers IMAX releases, “Mountain Gorilla” is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame. Although some of the studio’s IMAX offerings recently have drifted South in terms of image quality, “Mountain Gorilla”‘s picture quality is largely a return to form. Sharpness and detail are often superb, but there are some scenes with a softer appearance and occasionally, definition seems to suffer due to some of the other problems with the presentation.
As for those problems, they include some mild shimmering and occasional edge enhancement. Pixelation or other problems, however, are not an issue. Pleasantly enough, the print of the 10-year-old picture also seemed to be in terrific shape, with no major specks, marks or other signs of wear.
Colors – especially greens, given the surroundings – are nicely presented, appearing natural and crisp, with no smearing or other faults. While not a stellar transfer, the picture quality is very enjoyable more often than not.
SOUND: “Mountain Gorilla” is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Warner Brothers. IMAX films, which often take place completely in the outdoors, are often known for their aggressive and highly realistic soundtracks, which try to put the viewer in the middle of the environment. As for “Mountain Gorilla”‘s sound design, it’s a pretty decent effort, but remains a little bit on the inconsistent side. Surrounds are put to almost consistent use throughout this presentation, although some stretches have ambience too subtle to be that noticable or effective. On the other hand, the surrounds convincingly offer (if only infrequently) the sound of gorillas walking around, making it seem as if the creatures are surrounding the listening space (this was also done, to somewhat better effect, on the sound mix of Stephen Low’s terrific IMAX film, “Beavers”). The tribal score is also a pretty successful element of the soundtrack, with the drums providing some surprisingly deep bass at times. The narration (by Rebecca Jenkins) is clearly heard, but not particularly energetic or terribly informative.
Final Thoughts: Although certainly not one of the worst IMAX features, I can’t help but feel as if the subject and environment in “Mountain Gorilla” should have made for a more involving and memorable film. Warner Brothers provides their usual release for IMAX fare, offering a pretty good presentation of the film and only minimal extras. Rent it.