With apologies to James Cameron and other science fiction filmmakers, their journeys to Deep Space never really leave Earth. The Imax Space team in association with NASA have, in a series of astonishing large-format films, literally traveled to other worlds. Their latest effort, “Hubble 3D,” made with Warner Bros. and directed by Toni Myers, not only deposits you in outer space, but for the first time ever makes the old “Star Trek” gimmick of “warp speed” a reality.
The 3D Imax film, which premiered during the weekend at SXSW, will join its predecessors at 40 Imax theaters Friday; a much wider release is slated for August in more than 100 locations. For once, the old cliche is true: This film has to be seen to be believed. If a photo is worth a thousand words, do the math and tell me what an actual photo of 100 billion galaxies is worth.
The film, of course, centers on the Hubble Telescope, the first-ever space-based observatory in orbit 350 miles above Earth. Just like many pieces of technology one might purchase at Best Buy, the Hubble needs repairs and upgrades. However, NASA wasn’t certain it could schedule a final mission to upgrade the telescope as the Hubble approached its 20th year in space. Following the Columbia tragedy in 2003, NASA primarily was concerned with safety.
But a final Space Shuttle mission to the Hubble did come off in May, when NASA came up with a contingency plan that featured a second standby shuttle as a rescue vehicle. So Imax hitched a ride with Mission STS-125; the astronauts, as they did in “Space Station 3D,” acted as camera operators.
They prove extremely capable. In fact, American Society of Cinematographers should make these six men and one woman honorary members.
One watches in agonizing detail as the astronauts undertake the treacherous jobs of dealing with stuck or stripped bolts and intricate installations, all performed by space walkers with only their suits between them and instant death. In 3D, believe me, you are there.
But here are the money shots: The telescope’s new Wide Field Camera and infrared eye can look at– and shoot — stars, gas and dust 2.5 million light years out. Taking those photos and using advanced computer visualization, the film whisks viewers on scientifically realistic flights through time and space.
One rushes at, yes, warp speed (actually much faster) past the star Sirius, 50 trillion miles from Earth, to peer into the nursery of developing galaxies in the star cluster known as Orion’s Belt. A journey through our galaxy, the Milky Way, to neighboring Andromeda, reveals 2,000 galaxies and a massive black hole.
The film, narrated ably by Leonardo DiCaprio, who seems to share the audience’s amazement at what is appearing onscreen, is over too quickly in a mere 43 minutes. So line up and see it again.
Opens: Friday, March 19 (Warner Bros.)
Production: Imax and Warner Bros. Pictures in cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Narrator: Leonardo DiCaprio
Director-producer-editor: Toni Myers
Screenwriters: Toni Myers, Frank Summers, Graeme Ferguson
Executive producer: Graeme Ferguson
Director of photography: James Neihouse
Science advisor/scientific visualization supervisor: Frank Summers
Music: Micky Erbe, Maribeth Solomon
Rated G, 43 minutes