The most powerful and beautiful scene in a new movie about the national parks almost didn’t happen.
Producer Shaun MacGillivray was planning to shoot winter footage in Yellowstone for “National Parks Adventure,” a 3-D IMAX movie that opened Friday. Yet when it was time for the shoot, the weather had been strange and it looked like spring in Yellowstone.
So MacGillivray and his team went looking for winter. They found it at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The film follows well-known climber Conrad Anker, his stepson Max Lowe and their family friend Rachel Pohl.
In the film, Pohl takes a break from ice-climbing at Pictured Rocks to explore. She finds a cave that can only be described as magical. Endless icicles hung from the ceiling, each covered in a layer of frost like tiny, perfect crystals.
IMAX 3-D was really the only way to adequately capture the glorious cave — the closest you could come to actually being there. I almost felt cold watching those scenes.
The National Parks Service will celebrate its 100-year anniversary in August. This film, which is narrated by Robert Redford, is just a part of that celebration. The parks service is encouraging more people to get out and experience the parks with programs such as Find Your Park and Every Kid in a Park.
This movie is another venue, but with the same goal.
“I hope people are inspired to get out of their city, to get off of their couch and to go experience nature. And that’s just a start,” MacGillivray said.
The movie certainly made me want to go outside and go exploring, but I don’t think I’m really the target audience here. These movie is made to appeal to everyone. I already love the national parks, I’m privileged to have parents who took me to many when I was young.
But how do we encourage those who don’t have that history with the parks to get to know them, and to love them? Movies are one way to start.
“Cinema is so accessible,” said Diane Carlson, vice-president of guest services and theaters for the science center. “It’s a safe place to dip your toe in.”
Then, perhaps, the next step is actually going to visit those parks. MacGillivray has three young kids and he emphasized that he hopes the movie encourages kids and families to get outside.
“It’s inspiring the next generation to care,” he said.
“I think the movie was exciting because it really highlighted some spectacular national parks and made you feel like you were standing among the trees,” said Kindra Ramos, director of communication and outreach for the Washington Trails Association. “This is a safe and accessible way for people to experience these wild spaces. I hope it inspires movie-goers to get outside and experience nature’s beauty firsthand.”
The movie is certainly accessible. It’s crisp and gorgeous from start to finish. The beginning scene, with Anker, Lowe and Pohl climbing a spire of rock left me slightly giddy. It’s easy to forget you’re sitting in a theater seat, not standing hundreds of feet above the ground.
At one point, the camera soars over the Grand Canyon and I felt like I was really in the helicopter. Later, a prairie dog walks right up to the camera, every adorably fuzzy hair perfectly clear.
The music selection was brilliant. Early in the film, an instrumental version of “Hallelujah” is in the background. Of course, at one point Bruce Springsteen’s “This Land is Your Land” is included. Anker, Lowe and Pohl sing it as they’re driving down the road.
My favorite, though, was Brandi Carlile’s “Wherever is Your Heart” rocking over vertigo-inducing footage of mountain bikers playing in Moab.
None of the footage featured any of Washington’s parks, which made me a little sad. I would have loved a shot of Rainier, at least. I also would have appreciated more overt discussion of environmental responsibility. But, really, I realize that’s not the goal of this movie. It’s not meant to be a lecture, it’s meant to be an inspiration.
I loved the movie, but it left me wanting more. And perhaps that is the point.
Jessi Loerch: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
“National Parks Adventures” is playing at the Pacific Science Center’s IMAX theater, 200 Second Ave. N., Seattle. Get details and the schedule at www.pacificsciencecenter.org/imax.