Forces of Nature

Volcanoes, earthquakes, and tornados, oh my! Forces of Nature covers the trio of aforementioned natural disasters in all its IMAX glory, bringing the awe-inspiring spectacle to the screen six stories high. And, unfortunately, like many recent IMAX films, is surprisingly dull. It looks great and sounds great. It has decent educational value, but even with all the explosions, it's not that interesting. Amusingly, this National Geographic production was co-sponsored by Amica Insurance. Now that director George Casey (Amazing Journeys, Alaska: Spirit of the Wild) has scared the bejeezus out of you with vivid shots of what could happen, go out and buy insurance!

The biggest drawback to the film is the way that Casey and screenwriter Mose Richards (Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West, Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa) decided to focus on three disasters instead of one. While it does provide a sense of breadth, it prevents them from exploring any one issue deeply. Instead, we get a quick look at a scientist and his/her pet disaster, some amazing footage, then we take a jaunt to another part of the world where we repeat the process. This isn't a slam on any of the three scientists; each one has enough information for their own IMAX film.

We first meet Dr. Marie Edmonds on the beautiful Caribbean island of Montserrat. She is studying the Soufriere Hills Volcano, trying to use the data she collects to predict eruptions. In 1995, 19 people died and she hopes to prevent things like this from happening in the future. The camera catches some amazing footage of the volcano erupting (with everybody safely evacuated thanks to Edmonds), and ash spewing miles into the sky. Next, it's off to Turkey, where Dr. Ross Stein is studying the North Anatolian fault. He discovered (and the film cleverly maps out) that the earthquakes were shifting pressure down the fault line. If his model holds correct, densely populated Istanbul may be on the receiving end of a huge earthquake. Finally, we head to Tornado Alley and Dr. Josh Wurman, who, like the scientists in Twister, chases tornados. His goal is to use two trucks to triangulate activity within a given tornado using Doppler technology.

The narration by Kevin Bacon (The Woodsman, In the Cut) tends to be a bit dry, with the images of the erupting volcano and the thrill of the chase (at one point, a tornado bears down upon the research team, who unwittingly locked their keys in the car). There is a great shot inside a huge mosque in Turkey, and sadly, some of the earthquake footage was simulated (boo!). The common thread in Forces of Nature is that all of the scientists are trying to discover ways of predicting natural disasters. With Mount St. Helens, hurricanes in Florida, and earthquakes in Indonesia, this is still a highly relevant issue, and any breakthroughs will definitely save lives.

Gerf Rates It: Not That Good.
40 minutes, Rated G.

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