Given that my two primary cinematic loves are documentaries and special effects, I get very excited in the rare times the two come together (like when Industry Light & Magic showed up in “The Cove” to be employed for a real-life mission impossible). It’s as if the Lumieres had not denied Georges Méliès the purchase of one of their cameras during their famous meeting, and instead of seeming to divide in two separate directions motion pictures evolved from a fusion of actuality and fantasy. Okay, that sounds exactly what happened anyway, but still there is a certain wall between true nonfiction films and effects spectacles. And the few times there is a relationship between the two it’s usually for the former documenting the making of the latter.
Leslie Iwerks’ new doc “Industrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible,” which premieres tonight on the Encore cable channel, can somewhat fit into that behind-the-scenes making-of brand, but it’s more a film history, chronicling the 35 years of the effects house George Lucas built. Tom Cruise narrates while tons of Hollywood stars and filmmakers, from Robin Williams to Steven Spielberg to J.J. Abrams, make appearances for interviews. John Lasseter also shows up, meaning a segment of this film could provide a sort of lead-in to the really great doc “The Pixar Story,” which was also directed by Iwerks.
It’s rather surprising that “Creating the Impossible” is not coming out in connection with any major film work. Back in 1999 ILM got the documentary treatment with “From Star Wars to Star Wars: The Story of Industrial Light & Magic,” which aired on Fox, because of the tie-in with the recently released “Phantom Menace.” A few years earlier, a short IMAX film called “Special Effects: Anything Can Happen” hit screens (and received an Oscar nomination) mainly to preview work being done on the “Star Wars” special editions. Maybe this new film will shed some light on the next stage of the “Star Wars” franchise, namely its 3-D conversion, but I doubt it.
Here’s a trailer for the doc. Check it out tonight if you have a chance — I would, but I don’t have Encore, so I’ll wait for the DVD — and let us know how it is.