I blame my Utah Jazz losing in the 1998 NBA Finals on IMAX. That's right. You heard it here first.
During the 1997–98 NBA season, IMAX decided to follow Michael Jordan along throughout the playoffs, chronicling the game's greatest player's last professional basketball season. Do you really think Jordan was going to tarnish his legacy by leaving an everlasting imprint of a loss on IMAX film? Not a chance. There's no way, knowing that IMAX cameras were following him around all playoffs, that he was going to go out as a loser. As a Jazz fan I'm thinking about boycotting IMAX from now on.
'Michael Jordan to the Max,' like I said, is a journey through the 1998 NBA Playoffs with Michael Jordan. While the majesty of his last playoff performance plays out, we learn some of Jordan's career history . We hear the story of him not being selected for his high school team. We see him rise through the ranks of basketball players, develop a deadly shooting game, and become one of the most feared defenders in the league. We hear firsthand accounts from Phil Jackson, Steve Kerr, Bob Costas, and others about how truly competitive Jordan was.
These are all stories we've heard before, but of all the documentaries that have been done about the man this one feels the most complete.
I never saw 'Michael Jordan to the Max' on the big screen. I would have liked to, because some of the shots of him dunking are truly impressive. IMAX must have been a grand showcase for Jordan's high-flying game.
Even though much of this movie seems pretty self-congratulatory it's hard not to just sit back and realize how amazing he actually was. Watching him take over a game was something to behold, even if you knew that meant he was going to dismantle your team right before your eyes.
Jordan chimes in from time to time to talk about the murder of his dad, his short foray into baseball, and what he was thinking about when he stole the ball from Karl Malone right before he hit The Shot. Stories are shared about him that I hadn't heard before. Like when he'd enter a stadium he would think that there's someone in that arena that hadn't ever seen him before and would never see him again, so he'd better put on a show for them. Touching stories, even if they sound a bit embellished.
Truth is, Jordan was the most dominant player to ever play the game. 'Michael Jordan to the Max' gives you a short glimpse of just how dominant he really was.
Last wek I reviewed the Image release of 'Ultimate Jordan' on Blu-ray. I lamented the fact that Jordan didn't play in a time of high-def recording equipment so much of the footage shown was soft, blurry, and full of noise. Thank goodness for IMAX cameras right?! It's like seeing Jordan's game renewed. I've never seen some of those shots, those moves, so clearly!
'Michael Jordan to the Max's 1080p picture leaps over the 'Ultimate Jordan.' Its clarity is superb. There isn't any better looking footage out there of Jordan's game. Colors are vibrant. Sharpness adds a punch to the visuals that could have never been witnessed during the regular telecasts of these games. Detail is optimum, as you can watch tiny beads of sweat drip down Jordan's face. It's truly a testament to the lasting effects of film.
There is some noise that pops up every now and then in the form of specks and a few hairs. The computer graphics used at the beginning are strikingly dated, but that's just because green screen technology is always changing and updating. There are quite a few clips from older commercials and such that don't have near the quality as the film does. This being an IMAX presentation there are times when certain boxes containing video clips would have looked much bigger on an IMAX screen, but on a TV screen they're tiny. For example, when they dissect The Shot that Michael made against the Cavs in the Playoffs, the celebration appears in a tiny, microscopic box at the bottom. On IMAX I'm sure that box was 200 inches wide at least, but at home you can hardly see it.
Still, in the end, this is a wonderful looking transfer. The IMAX filming process was able to capture some indelible, detailed moments from Jordan's last run towards the NBA Title that you can't see anywhere else.
'Michael Jordan to the Max' rumbles on Blu-ray, with a solid 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. First thing you'll notice is the LFE that builds and builds, rattling the walls as a slow motion Jordan prepares for lift-off in the opening shot. LFE actually stays pretty engaged throughout the presentation rumbling during the most intense parts of the games, and springing to life whenever another song from Fatboy Slim or Earth, Wind, and Fire blares from the soundtrack.
The narration by Laurence Fishburne is given ample room to breath in the center speaker, while much of the game's action is spread out through the front channels. Directionality works solidly depending on which side of the frame Jordan is working his basketball magic on. The rears are pretty silent throughout, although cheers and clapping from the crowds can be heard in them from time to time. Dialogue from the talking heads of Doug Collins, Phil Jackson, and Michael Jordan himself come through clearly and intelligibly.
It feels kind of weird that I'm actually writing this review on Michael Jordan's birthday (yesterday). Maybe it was meant to be. This is a great movie. Perhaps the best documentary made about Jordan. It's intense, in-depth, and required quite a lot of luck for the filmmakers not knowing the exact outcome of the playoffs. The video looks great. Jordan deserved to be captured on film (other than 'Space Jam'). The excellent audio is a nice addition and adds a wonderful feel to the listening environment. The special features are a little sparse, but the commentary is well worth listening to. This one comes recommended for anyone, but it's a must own for basketball fans.