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Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for the ride of your life!
It's doubtful that any home theater experience will match the glory of seeing a film in an IMAX theatre anytime soon, but Blu-ray has brought us one step closer. Watching these brief IMAX documentaries in hi-def is always a blast, and I'm pleased to report that Super Speedway is one of the best I've seen. While it may not adhere to the standard "beauty of nature + grand orchestral score" format of most IMAX films, Super Speedway does indeed offer some stunning images and a genuinely adrenaline-fueled viewing experience.
When the film begins, we are introduced to a couple of familiar faces: Mario and Michael Andretti, who are well-known to racing fans. Mario is famous for his many accomplishments in various forms of racing, and his son Michael has been making a name for himself over the years. In this film, Mario and Michael are in the process of attempting to craft the ultimate Indy racing car. Super Speedway gives us a compelling look at the trial-and-error process of fine-tuning a race car. The smallest little nuance can prove to be the difference between victory and defeat on the track.
We spend a significant portion of time with some engineers who experiment on various aspects of the car. They use smoke in an attempt to give us a first-hand look at wind resistance. We see engines pushed to their breaking point in laboratories, as the engineers attempt to determine just how much strain an engine can take before it explodes or fails in some other way. After each test, the adjusted car is given to Michael Andretti, who takes the car out on the race track for a test drive. After the test, the engineers will examine to the scientific results, and they'll also speak with Andretti about the general vibe that he got from the car. There's an interesting blend of science and mysticism in the film, as almost everyone believes that there are strange and indefinable aspects of racing that can only be achieved when the driver and car find some kind of chemistry.
Every once in a while, we'll break away to hear from a fellow who spends the vast majority of his time restoring old race cars. The man has just come across a particularly fascinating project; an old Indy car that was rotting away in a damp barn. The car is certainly in bad shape, as almost every part is either ruined or significantly damaged. Even so, the man is thrilled by the prospect of restoring such a glorious vehicle, and says that salvaging it will be one of the great challenges of his life. As Super Speedway progresses, we see the car slowly but surely coming together again, loving re-constructed and repaired piece by piece. A sweet twist reveals the car's origin during the film's charming conclusion.
The best sequences in the film are unquestionably the scenes that take place on the track. We're given the opportunity to experience some Indy races firsthand, and it's absolutely thrilling. It really does feel like being in the driver's seat, and the audio track here adds immensely to the experience. This is one of the coolest hi-def audio tracks I've heard, as the air whooshes by you and the roaring engines make your room rattle. A solid musical score from Gilles Ouellet adds a breezy cool to this immensely entertaining aural experience. Due to the loud nature of the IMAX cameras, most of the dialogue in the film is provided via narration. About half the narration comes from Mario Andretti, and the other half comes from the late Paul Newman (an actor whose love of racing was well-known). A very strong transfer adds to the fun of the viewing experience. Though a few of the racing scene suffer from minor scratches and flecks (perhaps unavoidable when one is shooting at 200 miles an hour), the images here is very deep and detailed, looking considerably better than the vast majority of feature films.
The primary extra is a making-of documentary called "The Making of Super Speedway," which runs 47 minutes. This feature has a nice balance of racing and technical info that will please both fans of the film and those interested in the filmmaking process. Shooting an IMAX film is always a challenging experience, and shooting a film like this one was a particularly difficult feat to pull off. It's well worth a watch, though I was disappointed that it was in standard-def. We also get a film trivia quiz, a page of info on director Stephen Low, and a page of "Fast Facts" on Indy driving. The disc is also BD Live enabled.
Super Speedway is a very cool viewing experience, and it hasn't been seen until it's been seen in hi-def.
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