The newest IMAX movie at the Pacific Science Center, "Amazon Adventure 3D", gives viewers the chance to explore the wilds of the jungle without ever leaving the comfort of their seat, while also teaching them about history and science.
The film tells the story of explorer Henry Bates and his journey into the Amazon in the 1850’s. In one visually stunning scene, the camera shows a caterpillar that has developed the ability, through uncanny markings on its back, to resemble a snake hanging from a tree. As the camera pans out to reveal that the snake is, in fact, a brilliantly disguised caterpillar, audible gasps can be heard in the audience. During this scene, my five-year-old son and I were equally delighted.
While younger children will certainly be kept entertained by some of the remarkable wildlife effects, older scientists are more likely to fully appreciate the central messages of the movie about evolution and species differentiation. Noah, my five year-old, loved the exceptional shots of tapirs moving about in the underbrush and of sloths swimming their way upstream in the Amazon.
For elementary-aged children with an interest in nature and science and some experience with the concept of evolution, this movie will score big points for exploring pathways of evolution and celebrating the audacity of scientific pioneers.
Moments like a climactic meeting between Bates and Darwin, however, will likely be lost for all but the most sophisticated youth viewers. Noah summarized the extent to which a five year-old is likely to capture the movie's central messages when he turned to me towards the end of the movie and whispered, "I think that this is a movie about butterflies, dad!".
While Noah, to his credit, was not far off the mark, the price of admission may be best spent on viewers who can understand the lesson the movie intends to impart through those butterflies: that natural selection begins with a random process of mutation followed by generations of gradual differentiation to form different species.
If you decide to take along a younger child, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Some images may be frightening—like Bates’s gaunt, yellow skin as he battles malaria and malnutrition, for example. The IMAX experience itself is very visually stimulating and loud and, by itself, can be overwhelming to young kids or children with difficulty with high volumes.
It’s also well worth attending the live stage show that the Pacific Science Center offers as a companion program prior to the show; through engaging storytelling, children can gain key concepts and vocabulary that will help them integrate the scientific lessons of the movie.
For those aspiring young Darwins in the audience, this movie can be a great next step towards understanding how evolution works and about the resilience needed to be a pioneer in any field.
IF YOU GO:
Where: Pacific Science Center IMAX Boeing Theatre, 200 Second Ave. N., Seattle
When: Daily, 10:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.
Cost: Varies from $6.75 to $10.75
Contact: www.pacificsciencecenter.org or 206-443-2001