Greece: Secrets of the Past (2005)
Genre: Documentary Short
Narrated By: Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Directed By: Greg MacGillivray (Top Speed; Everest)
Overview: The exploration of an island that may have been Atlantis, the volcano that destroyed its people, the reclamation of its hidden treasures and the recreation of the Athenian Parthenon.
Acting: Documentaries have a way of either highlighting the fact that the scientists are total dorks or the documentarists shoots a ton of film, hoping to capture some candid 'in-their-element' moments. This one goes more on that side of things. There's no interviews, no action moments, just nice and simple. The director knew to focus on the history and the research, rather than the people involved. Nia on the other hand? Eesh, cool your jets!
Cinematography: Above all things, the point of IMAX theaters is to enhance the visual experience. I don't think you can get IMAX films on DVD, and even if you could, I wouldn't, what would be the point, really? As is typical, the sweeping aerial shots of a Greek island, the facade of a town on the coast, the overhead view of a city's ruins, it's really impressive, it's to die for, not to mention the statue of Athena in the Parthenon. Hello, it's IMAX.
Script: I don't know any Greeks. Nia Vardalos is Greek. Nia's delivery of the script is a cutsey, annoying, 'talk-to-me-like-a-five-year-old' voice. The lines themselves are perfectly written for her, because they were often childish, and the fact that she plugs her My Big Fat Greek Wedding inside the first minute of the film did not impress me much either. I've concluded therefore that Greeks bother me. Sadly, the old archaeologist's words couldn't salvage the scaring audio of this film. Educational filmmakers should consider that their audience will be more than 8 to 12-year-olds. I also think kids that age can feel like they were patronized by the writer for assuming they were all autistic.
Plot: I've never seen an IMAX show that wasn't educational, except for the too-rare sweeping 'point-of-view' films that I used to love. This is an informative peek at the early days of the Bronze Age, the archaeological study of this little island that got hit by a volcano and the Athenian Parthenon, with some stuff thrown in about the connection between the Ancient Greeks and the legacy they have left us with. For a 40 minute film, you'd think they could stick with one topic. As interesting as Athena was, I think they should have focused on that island some more. "Everything Greek!" is just not what I came here for.
Mood: The moments that had the passionate monologues of the old archaeologist as we saw aerial shots of ruins, seas or modern cityscape are certainly what you came to expect of this, and IMAX delivers. The volcano and the unearthing and reconstruction of the murals are genuinely interesting, but explain to me how you connect Bronze Age sailing Greeks to the invention of the MRI again?! I think you give Greeks just a SMIDGEN too much credit for modern accomplishments, thanks.
Overall Rating: 64% (Greece is Pretty, But Plug Your Ears)
Aftertaste: Methinks she smacks too much of propaganda, Madam. You know it's bad when you're tittering at the editing and the music and the flow rather than being in awe of the beauty and wonder of the content. One of the last times I went to the IMAX, I saw this documentary on Shackelton, the great Antarctic explorer. The glaciers and ice floes were just spectacular. This guy made a boat, sailed across dangerous waters, and then walked miles and miles across the ice to get help for his stranded crew. That was impressive.
This was kind of lame.