If there's anyone on the planet who could pop out of a movie screen simply by being himself, it's Michael Jordan. Nevertheless, when I walked into my local IMAX coliseum to see Michael Jordan to the Max, I was a bit taken aback not to be handed a 3-D headset. The image of Jordan spinning, flying, dunking, and generally defying physics is so obviously a perfect candidate for a 3-D gargantuan-screen spectacular that it seems prosaic, if not perverse, to present him as little more than the star of his own highly conventional 2-D infomercial. The IMAX producers did more with Siegfried & Roy.
That said, the oversize format does offer one novel way to experience Jordan's magic. With close-up footage from actual games blown up to 90 feet, and played in super-slow motion, you get the sense, in a way that you never quite do from television, that you're actually there on the court, amid the jostling elbows and the microsecond pivot moves. Jordan, more often than not, is at the center of a roiling crush of bodies, yet he's also completely alone. In voice-over commentary, he invokes, again and again, that sports-interview cliche mental toughness, but what it means to him, I think, is transcending the very notion of the physical: gravity, of course, but also the army of warrior jocks muscling in on him. He carves out a space in which nothing but the basket exists, and that's why he can soar to it.
Michael Jordan to the Max ends with an exciting replay of Jordan's final triumph, the last-minute shot that clinched game 6 of the 1998 play-offs against the Utah Jazz. Regardless of how many times you've seen it, it remains an ultimate example of grace under pressure. Perhaps there is no way to make Michael Jordan look any more amazing than he already is, but this movie is nothing but a (big) visual footnote to his career. B-