More celebratory than informative, more reportage than narrative, Making Waves is not quite what you’d expect from a documentary. It plays more like something you would screen at a film industry trade convention, providing an opportunity for industry employees to get together and receive special recognition for their achievements. This may be of interest to film buffs, but general audiences might have to stifle yawns.
Making Waves opens with glowing descriptions of the magic of film sound and its power to give reality to film images. It goes on to illustrate how the trick is done, at some cost to the magic itself. Instead of wizards who make sounds, you have a steep hierarchy of competent professionals doing a tedious and laborious job. Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now; The Godfather) and Ben Burtt (Star Wars) sit at the very top. And below, an assortment of skilled tradespeople expand on the techniques pioneered by Murch and Burtt, which were themselves inspired by what the French New Wave had already started doing the previous decade.
But in managing to go in-depth, Making Waves gives special notice to the technical achievements of Ordinary People, Top Gun and other films that, while significant, may not warrant documentaries of their own. It’s in this special recognition that the film makes itself worthy of a casual viewing. While mostly of interest to cinephiles, average moviegoers may find that they’ve learned something they didn’t know before and maybe gain a new appreciation for some of their favorite films.