Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D

on September 23, 2005 by Annlee Ellingson
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With the admonition that "Time has dimmed the historic impact of going to the moon," this 3-D IMAX movie, narrated, written and produced by Tom Hanks, approaches the seven lunar landings that took place between 1969 and 1972 from the perspective of the 12 men who've made the three-day, nearly quarter-million-mile ultimate road trip to walk on the moon. But the focus here--aside from a montage that would play like a blooper reel if the circumstances weren't so precarious--is not on the goofy what-do-they-eat-and-how-do-they-pee gravity-free antics of space travel. Rather, what's portrayed is the pressure of conducting delicate experiments in unwieldy Stay-Puft spacesuits against a ticking clock; the mortal danger of an airless frontier without the atmospheric haze that signals scale and distance; and the at-times spiritual awe with which the astronauts greet the alien landscape.

It's commonly said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but here the case might be the reverse. The filmmakers have seamlessly integrated newly revealed photos and previously unreleased NASA footage with computer-generated and live-action re-creations of the surface of the moon. But, in a cinematic era in which seemingly any feat or place can be generated for the screen, it's what these men said--in mundane exchanges and insightful retrospection--that stirs one most. Eschewing talking heads, the film conveys their words via crackling radio communications and quotations by familiar voices such as Morgan Freeman, John Travolta and Paul Newman.

Yet not all here is imbued with a sense of profound import. Director Mark Cowen covers the history of humankind's relationship to the moon via a brisk Looney Tunes-esque montage and addresses the lingering conspiracy that the lunar landings are an elaborate hoax with a tongue-in-cheek spoof of archival footage. However, notably missing is the historical context of the race to the moon amidst the Cold War. Narrated by Tom Hanks. Directed by Mark Cowen. Written by Tom Hanks, Mark Cowen and Christopher G. Cowen. Produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Mark Cowen. An IMAX release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 40 min.

Tags: Tom Hanks. Directed by Mark Cowen. Written by Tom Hanks, Mark Cowen and Christopher G. Cowen. Produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Mark Cowen. An IMAX release. Documentary, live-action, radio, communications
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