On Saturday I dragged McCrae to downtown Raleigh for one of the few places showing National Parks Adventure, an IMAX showcase of some of "America's Best Idea" as part of the National Parks Service centennial celebration. While a St. Patrick's Day parade surprised us and kept us from the early showing because we couldn't cross the street to the theater, we did eventually get to there to see the film.
The movie was much shorter than I expected. At times an Expedia or REI or Subaru commercial (they sponsored the making of the film), at times a call for conservation and education, and at times a visual celebration of the national parks, it had all the jaw-dropping imagery and necessary brevity for a young child's eyes. (This should have been no surprise since it was shown at a kids' museum). Unsurprising too is Robert Redford's steady voice as narrator - the same gravity he employed acting as Bill Bryson in "A Walk in the Woods" echoes through images of wild National Parks.
The film touches on milestones such as John Muir's and Teddy Roosevelt's decisive 3-day camping trip in 1903 where Muir convinced Roosevelt the necessity of added protections and preservation efforts for Yosemite Valley. The film skims over the devastating effects of logging in Sequoia and bird hunting in the Everglades, and focuses on sweeping vistas set to a stirring, if at times overplayed soundtrack. Scattered in with the scenery are adventure shots of famed climber Conrad Anker and his stepson Max Lowe and family friend Rachel Pohl. They serve as proxy guides to adventure activities such as trail running in Bryce Canyon, white water rafting on the Colorado River, mountain biking in Moab, climbing in Arches National Park and Devil's Tower, and ice climbing in lesser-known Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
These action shots were perhaps the most disappointing part of the movie experience for me. Don't get me wrong: the imagery was superb, but it was the audience reaction that was heart-breaking. Every time something exciting came on the screen a little boy a few seats down from me turned to his parents and asked them, "Why would they do such a thing?" to which the parents just shrugged and said, "I dunno." Hey, kid! Go out there and climb a huge rock! Hike a big mountain! Raft the roaring rapids! Bike a wildly steep slope! You were born to explore, and you have an innate sense of adventure; USE IT! Flex it, stretch it. Unlike many IMAX films that focus on totally inaccessible places like space or the Arctic or the deepest ocean, this national parks film is intended to get audiences to go out and explore. Yellowstone! Glacier! Acadia! Lesser-known (but still incredible) places like lake shores, monuments, and smaller parks! These may or may not be in your backyard, but you'll never know unless you go out there and "find your park" as the National Park Service is so eager to say throughout their centennial celebration. So go on, explore, and I'll see you out there.