|INTERACTIVE (Rate the Review)|
|Cinema Signal: This documentary seen on a 2D DVD ranges from open-mouthed wonder to hohum familiarity. Should be seen but disappointing in several respects.|
There's been no shortage of films about the most famous telescope in the world, nor of newspaper coverage of the breakthroughs in its imagery. The evidence of what science has brought to our age in awesome details of the cosmos never gets old. This latest presentation offers the splendid 3D imagery of IMAX cameras recording a NASA mission and a compilation of Hubble images that includes some most of us haven't seen before.
How different would our world be if the ancients who wrote the bible, the Koran, etc. had knowledge of the nebulae, the mysteries of the black holes, dying stars, the planets and the gaseous formations that sprinkle themselves around the universe. It's stunning and almost beyond comprehension.
Director-producer-writer Toni Myers saw NASA's final mission to service the ailing telescope and improve its functionality as an opportunity to justify another space movie. Her employment of IMAX 3D technology gives the recording of the work on Hubble some added benefit. It may seem a fair matchup to use a cutting-edge terrestrial camera to record the work behind improving the visual acuity of our famous eye in the sky in its cosmic exploration.
Indeed, the difficulties and drama of tethered astronauts replacing and upgrading the aging telescopic beauty with surgical precision is impressive, but with so much footage designed for the IMAX Theatre expeience it does come off a bit much like an extended product commercial. Where can I get my hands on one of these IMAX beauties? But it's not the camera that provides the interest in documentaries like this--it's what the camera has turned up that excites our fascination.
There's a deja vue quality in the by-now familiar shots of an astronaut team's training and, once in space, (May, 2009) the effects of weightlessness with body parts being thrust out toward the camera for that 3D thrill. Though weightless antics are always fun to watch, by now they're more enviable than awesome.
I thought the most interesting moment was the astonaut attempting to eat a burrito in microgravity--an insight into the challenge on a personal scale and more imformative than the pranks that are so often a feature of live documentary space footage. Which does begin to seem like a cliche'.
By now, you might be getting the impression from me that there's a certain letdown to this presentation. Sure, the capabilities of the IMAX are indeed interesting, but the real payload of this film is what's been coming from Hubble and, though that portion of the film is truly spectacular, there just isn't as much of that on display here as I, for one, looked forward to.
Furthermore, while I'm usually carping at films that go too long, this one, at 40 minutes (probably because of the IMAX reel capacity) is too brief. Yes, I get the part about the difficulties of repair work in space, astronaut training, the zero-gravity, etc. But I would ask for another 30 minutes on those magical images courtesy NASA and Hubble-enabled astronomy.
Leonardo DiCaprio conscientiously delivers the narration that was written (courtesy Toni Myers and Frank Summers) with more selling of the sense of veneration and wonderment than was strictly necessary. The informational aspects which help the experience, though, are appreciated. Of course, DiCaprio's credit under the title will be the commercial draw it was intended to be. But, no quarrel with that.
The images of the cosmos that surrounds our little corner of space leaves you with more than just after-images of grand natural phenomena. Being the cold reality that it is, it's more a matter of extending our awareness of how unique we and our planet are, and the extent of the turmoil we were born from.
So much to think about yet leaving us wanting more. Would 90 minutes of Hubble journeys into the galaxies and beyond, with narration by scientists, be more than a documentary audience could take? It might not make for a spectacular boxoffice smash, nor attract much in the way of funding, but it's what the scientifically curious should be calling for--for the next NASA film release. We can dream, can't we?
~~ Jules Brenner