Thrill Ride - The Science of Fun

on July 11, 1997 by Pat Kramer
   Opening with a big bang, "Thrill Ride: The Science of Fun" takes viewers on an animated, hair-raising ride through a darkened, falling-down mineshaft using computer-generated imagery to bring to life the hairpin turns and tummy-pitching sensations of a real roller coaster. Despite this colorful and highly imaginative intro, the rest of this New Wave International production fails to provide the same momentum.
   The film opens by documenting the history of roller coasters from their origin in Paris in 1804 to the peak of the rides' fame at the turn of the century to today's daredevil amusement park diversions. By mounting cameras on both the front and back of a coaster, director Ben Stassen allows viewers to vicariously experience the same sensations as those aboard, queasy stomachs and all. But the real focuses of Stassen, a CGI expert, are the history of ride simulators, starting with their development by NASA and the military, and the ways computer-generated imagery is used to create special effects in film. To demonstrate, "Thrill Ride" uses footage from popular ride films "Secrets of the Lost Temple," The Devil's Mine Ride" and "Asteroid Adventure."
   Although the overall affect of these simulated rides is pretty close to the experience of the "real thing," the thrill of a CGI rides still can't compare to plunging down a roller coaster's steep wooden track, wind in your face, and hearing the clacking of the rails and the sighs of straining wood beneath you. Given its attentions to the technical aspects of today's "virtual reality" rides and ride films, "Thrill Ride" doesn't quite earn the E-ticket status it promises. Narrated by Harry Shearer. Directed by Ben Stassen. Produced by Charlotte Huggins. A Sony Classics release. Documentary. Rated G. Running time: 38 min. Format: IMAX
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