The giant screen of an IMAX theater is at its best when it's featuring spectacular vistas — often filmed while in flight. I can still recall the sensation of soaring from the first IMAX film I saw when I was 11 years old. Air Racers 3D, a documentary film about the Reno National Championship Air Races now playing at the Pacific Science Center PACCAR IMAX Theater, bypasses the usual IMAX leisurely-helicopter-ride sensation and puts you in the cockpit of a racing plane at 500 miles per hour and 50 feet off the ground.
The Reno Air Races are billed as the world's fastest motorsport and if you're not interested in travelling to the Nevada desert in September Air Racers 3D is the best way to experience the thrill. The documentary follows Steve Hinton, Jr. as he prepares for the race and ultimately competes to be the youngest pilot to win the Unlimited Class Gold Race, the top prize at Reno.
Like the Reno Air Races, which feature not only racing but also demonstration flying and lots of history, the film Air Racers 3D spends a good amount of time teaching you about the history of air racing, which is almost as old as the airplane itself. Much of the historical information focuses on the development of military aircraft but this is appropriate because the stars of the show in the Unlimited Class are modified or restored World War II fighters.
The filmmakers open the movie with an extended World War II dogfight sequence. When I first heard of this film I thought it was likely to be a good all-ages experience but after several minutes of reasonably intense machine gun fire and aerial combat drama I began to reconsider.
The movie still deserves its G-rating but I would advise parents to be aware that smaller sensitive children may not respond well to this noisy opening. After that, however, the movie settles in to its air racing rhythm and you can sit back and enjoy the sleek power of these remarkable machines.
I do think the filmmakers missed an opportunity for some added racing drama in they way the final race unfolds but this is a small issue. If you're looking for a good opportunity to expose your kids to an exciting sport and a thrilling theatrical experience go see Air Racers 3D.
If you go ...
When/where: Air Racers 3D is 40 minutes long and screens six times a day at Pacific Science Center's PACCAR IMAX theater.
Tickets: $6–$9, not including admission to Pacific Science Center. Buy online.
About the author: John Kubalak is a writer, teacher, volunteer coordinator, raconteur, and scalawag. He does not publish science fiction under the pseudonym Jonathan Black but he does publish a monograph on fatherhood, The Eclectic Dad. He has a son, a daughter, a beautiful wife (and a little dog too!) who are adorable, maddening, zany, and brilliant all at the same time.