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NASCAR: The Imax Experience - Preview & US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

FOR 38 weeks every year, 43 of America’s best drivers compete in a series of gruelling races on tracks across America, in pursuit of NASCAR's (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) Winston Cup Series Championship.

Powered by custom-engineered cars and backed by their elite racing teams, they attempt to win races and rack up the points that will determine the prestigious Series Champion.

Now, a new film takes racing enthusiasts behind the scenes of the sport, promising to deliver a truly unforgettable big screen experience, using the IMAX format to bring enthusiasts closer to the thrills and spills of the track than ever before.

NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience examines the science behind the speed, exploring the means with which the cars are engineered to sustain extremely high speeds for brutally long stretches of time while simultaneously addressing very real safety concerns.

The film also travels back in time to touch on the history of stock car racing, following the sport's evolution from humble beginnings into the empire it is today.

It is directed by Simon Wincer and narrated by 24’s Kiefer Sutherland who is, himself, a self-confessed NASCAR fan.

According to Wincer: "When you're at the track, the sound almost trembles through your soul; it's mind numbing. There is nothing small about NASCAR, and until you actually experience a race, it's hard to comprehend the scale of this sport. I've been into sports all my life, and I've never seen anything as intense as this. It's just extraordinary."

With this in mind, the IMAX format appeared to be the logical medium for conveying this sense of excitement, as Lorne Orleans states: "IMAX takes you to places you could never go, whether that's into outer space or to the top of Mount Everest, and gives you an experience that you wouldn't have in your normal everyday life."

 

Adds Sutherland: "The opportunity to participate in an IMAX® film is an incredibly exciting endeavor. I don't think there is another sport or activity that lends itself to The IMAX Experience® like NASCAR does.

"You get such a visceral reaction from the experience of seeing an IMAX film, and as a performer, I very much wanted to be part of this project."

US reaction

For the most part, US critics tended to agree that the NASCAR Experience did exactly what it set out to, albeit in not such adrenaline-packed style as it would have fans believe.

Entertainment Weekly described it as an ‘entertaining, aficionado-oriented production’, while the New York Daily News felt that ‘this 40-minute film shows off the combined IMAX/3D experience at its best’.

The San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, wrote that it ‘doesn't quite overcome its shameless self-promotion, but the film will satisfy the Lynyrd Skynyrd set while providing a decent explanation to those who are baffled by the sport's popularity’.

While the Washington Post decided that it is ‘an interesting behind-the-scenes look at one of the world's most popular spectator sports’.

On a slightly more negative note, however, the Chicago Tribune felt that ‘true fans (i.e., the people who are most likely to buy tickets) probably know a lot of this stuff already, and they might be disappointed by the lack of drama and the brevity of 3-D racing action’.

While Village Voice said that it ‘posits its working-class supporters not as protagonists but consumers, cheering on their just-folks race-car heroes for proxy fantasies of high-speed escape and high-tech goodies’.

But the Philadelphia Inquirer stated that ‘if the words 'Gentlemen, start your engines' set your heart pounding, this is the Imax experience for you’.

And the Los Angeles Times concludes this overview by stating that ‘in an amazingly compact 47 minutes, veteran director Simon Wincer outlines the history of the sport, evokes its culture and packs it with jaw-dropping statistics while never slackening the pace’.

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