Movie Review - 'Special Effects'
Especially big
'Effects' made
for Omnimax

The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Omnimax Theater at the Cincinnati Museum Center sure picked the right giant-screen movie to introduce a price hike of 55 cents a ticket ($6.50, $4.50 children). Special Effects, opening Saturday, is wicked-cool.

The film is a happy marriage of format and subject matter. Special effects are, after all, meant to be seen big, and ''big'' scarcely describes the seven-story dome at the Museum Center.

The movie opens with a brand-new King Kong sequence - including a spectacular monkey's-eye-view fall from skyscraper to pavement - created specifically for this film.

That opening - which combines modern mastery with homage to early cinema pioneers - sets a tone for the film, which includes several quick samples of old films that inspired the men (and few women) creating high-tech illusions for today's blockbusters.

And, man oh man, what illusions they are. Narrator John Lithgow delivers brief but clear explanations of how color, form, light, depth and motion shape our perceptions, then the film shows how movie-makers manipulate those factors to achieve the incredible.

For example, remember those alien fireballs rolling down city streets in Independence Day? Urban models were mounted sideways on a wall. When they burned, the rising flames were filmed from above. Voila, horizontal fire.

Special Effects also takes us on a dune-buggy ride through the Arizona desert with the crew shooting new footage for the 1997 re-release of Star Wars, then shows a quick glimpse of the finished scene, complete with computer-animated creatures.

While the film focuses chiefly on Star Wars, Independence Day, Jumanji and Kazaam, it pays its respects to such ground-breaking films as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Abyss, The Mask and Toy Story.

Director Ben Burtt and company clearly know their business, and with Special Effects they graciously and entertainingly open the door for the rest of us to join them where, as the movie says, ''Anything can happen.''


Special Effects
4 stars
(unrated; suitable for children) Narrated by John Lithgow. 38 minutes. At Robert D. Lindner Family Omnimax Theater at Cincinnati Museum Center.