After giving us blowup-size sharks, elephants and mountain climbers, the large-format field may have to wait for Disney’s “Fantasia 2000” to once again justify its visual grandeur. “Wildfire: Feel the Heat,” Discovery Pictures’ first large-format film since “Africa’s Elephant Kingdom,” resembles those career docus that high school guidance counselors play to bored young teens everywhere. Want to be a courageous firefighter? “Wildfire” tells us all about it, without posing the essential question any 15-year-old would know to ask, “So how much do they get paid?” Few will pay to sit through “Wildfire.”
Firefighters train hard, don’t get much sleep when in action and feel bummed if someone’s house burns down. Property values are a major concern here, and no doubt audience sympathy will vary for homeowners who choose to live in fire zones.
Like many action movies, “Wildfire” has a preoccupation with hardware. In fact, the film’s scariest moment comes when a big truck rolls over the camera. Other featured firefighting equipment includes a couple of spectacularly humongous airplanes and a helicopter that was developed for battle during the Vietnam War.
In a memorable sequence, the chopper sucks water from a pond through a huge tube and then flies over the mountains to squelch a forest fire. It’s arguable whether Stanley Kubrick’s opening credit sequence to “Dr. Strangelove” is any more phallic or funny than this footage.
But where’s the heat? Oddly enough, fire isn’t very photogenic. The closer the camera gets, the more it all looks the same, regardless of size and destruction potential. The film’s narrator, Andre Braugher, keeps telling us fire creates its own windstorms and that certain trees explode when torched. Too bad director Mike Slee and cinematographer Rodney Taylor missed that action in the forest.