Thursday, September 10, 2015

#1,851. Australia: Land Beyond Time (2002)

Directed By: David Flatman

Starring: Alex Scott

Trivia: This movie was originally released in the IMAX format

While discussing his 2002 film Australia: Land Beyond Time, director David Flatman said he believed the IMAX camera was “made for Australia”. I couldn’t agree with him more. When it comes to exploring its expansive terrain, IMAX is arguably the only format that could do the continent justice, and like many documentaries of this ilk, Australia: Land Beyond Time contains some amazing images. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was how informative the movie is.

With the help of a do-it-yourself dual-engine plane (built by the film's crew), Australia: Land Beyond Time takes us on a guided tour of a continent that covers some 3 million square miles, and is surrounded by three oceans (its narrator, Alex Scott, calls Australia “The world’s largest island”). Along with surveying Australia’s immense landscape (including stops in the Outback and a visit to its imposing coastline), the film also teaches us a thing or two about the area’s geological history; by way of impressive computer graphics, we learn that, millions of years ago, Australia was part of the super-continent Gondwana, and, even after this colossal land mass splintered, it remained connected to Antarctica for several millennia before finally drifting off on its own.

Yet as interesting as this is, Australia: Land Beyond Time is at its most fascinating when it focuses on the continent’s wildlife. Throughout the film, we’re shown a number of different species, from the platypus to the crocodile, and while we are occasionally treated to some exciting showdowns (in one sequence, a massive Perentie lizard battles a highly venomous King Brown Snake), it’s the tidbits of trivia I found most intriguing. For Instance, I had no idea that the kangaroo and the koala, perhaps the two species most often identified with Australia, are descended from the same creature (a marsupial possum), and that, at one point in its history, the kangaroo was the size of a mouse!

Without a doubt, Australia: Land Beyond Time is a gorgeous movie that introduces viewers to the majesty and wonder of a truly remarkable place. But unlike some IMAX documentaries, there’s a lot more to it than a collection of pretty pictures.

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