Michael Jordan's smooth, bald dome fills the movie screen as rivulets of sweat trickle down the sides of the basketball superstar's head and face. And thanks to the wonder of large-format film, the Blockbuster IMAX Theater at the Museum of Discovery and Science brings us the image five stories tall, each bead of perspiration a virtual puddle as it rolls off in slow motion.
Do we really need to get this up-close and personal with M.J.'s sweat glands? Probably not, but the graphic scene is an example of the startling immediacy of IMAX's giant images, and creators of Michael Jordan to the Max utilize the technology to capture the pure athleticism and grace of the retired Chicago Bulls legend.
In the opening scene, Jordan stands at center court in an empty arena, his head bowed as if in prayer as he bounces a ball, each dribble augmented by a thudding bass beat on the soundtrack. The drama builds for a few moments, and then he raises his head and glares at the camera before heading downcourt with the ball. When he picks up his dribble at the free-throw line and launches himself toward the basket, the laws of physics tell us it's impossible for him actually to make it to the rim. Filmed with the "bullet-time technology" developed for the sci-fi thriller The Matrix, the scene makes Jordan's trademark above-rim acrobatics all the more awe-inspiring.
No wonder everyone wants to be like Mike. And To the Max illustrates Jordan's off-court greatness as well, flashing back to his North Carolina childhood, during which he initially failed to make the varsity high-school basketball team but never gave up. Jordan's relationship with his father, his unselfish interaction with fans, and his personal involvement with kids at his basketball camps also get screen time.
In recognition of Jordan's inspirational greatness and the recent opening of the film, the museum hosts the Memorial Day Weekend Basketball Fan FestSunday and Monday, closing down Second Street for basketball clinics, contests, exhibits, and demonstrations for hoop enthusiasts of all ages.