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New IMAX film features virtual Parthenon replica

The film Greece: Secrets of the Past, a travelogue created specifically for the IMAX format features a computer generated model of the Parthenon, allowing to see it how it might once have looked (something that has been possible in a number of previous television documentaries). This reconstruction benefits from the high resolution / large scale of the IMAX format, which allows the viewer to see the building at life size – possibly the closest you will be able to get to actually being there.

Seattle Times [1]

Monday, February 20, 2006 – Page updated at 12:00 AM
Movie Review
Rebuilding of Parthenon worth price of admission
By John Hartl
Special to The Seattle Times

Digital-visual effects have transformed the movies during the past decade. One of the most dazzling examples is the reconstruction of the Parthenon in Greg MacGillivray’s dynamic new IMAX travelogue, “Greece: Secrets of the Past.”

MacGillivray’s floating cameras swoop around the fabulous Athens ruin, as tourists explore the exterior and what’s left of a 40-foot statue that was originally made of gold and ivory. Then, as the visitors gawk, the broken columns are filled in, the paint is restored, the cracks disappear and the glittering statue suddenly towers above them, seemingly ready to spring to life.

For the first time in more than 2,000 years, the Parthenon looks as it must have looked when the paint was still fresh. It’s a miraculous moment, possible only because of recent advances in digital technology, and it’s easily worth the price of admission by itself.

The rest of “Greece” more closely resembles MacGillivray’s other IMAX movies, which range from the pioneering “To Fly” (1976) to the enthralling “To the Limit” (1989) to the Oscar-nominated “Dolphins” (2000). He’s a master of the form, even if he sometimes tries to cram too much into 40 minutes.

That threatens to happen early in “Greece,” when the narration by Nia Vardalos briefly turns into a plug for her 2002 hit comedy, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” But Vardalos quickly recedes as the script shifts its attention to a couple of Greek archeologists, Christos Doumas and Georges Vougioukalakis, who attempt to solve the mysteries of Santorini, an island community that was wiped out by a volcano in 1646 B.C.

Digital effects are used to demonstrate the destructive force of the volcano, which unleashed giant waves of debris that must have killed the residents instantly.

Yet, unlike the citizens of Pompeii, whose remains were preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius, the people of Santorini left few traces of their existence.

The movie ends on a cautionary note, pointing out that “hubris” and “too many wars” eventually undermined and destroyed the early democracy that was Greece.

But mostly this is a celebration of the legacy of Greek culture, from sports to the arts (a scene from “Lysistrata” is performed) to the pivotal role that ancient Greece played in the spread of ideas.

“Greece” will play through May at the Pacific Science Center’s Boeing IMAX Theater. Joining it in mid-March will be the latest IMAX 3-D production, “Deep Sea 3D.”