MAGNIFICENT DESOLATION: WALKING ON THE MOON IN 3-D
*** (out of 5)
September 23, 2005
Tom Hanks as NARRATOR
Directed by: Mark Cowen
BY KEVIN CARR
IMAX films are in a special category all their own. I’m not talking about theatrical releases that have been re-mastered to fit the IMAX format, like “Batman Begins” and “Star Wars.” I’m talking about movies that are shot for IMAX, often in 3-D.
The problem with the IMAX format, however, is it’s sometimes hard to watch for more than an hour. That’s why it lends itself to overblown documentaries running about 40 minutes or so.
The latest documentary style IMAX film is “Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon in 3-D.” Narrated by Tom Hanks, this film chronicles the seven missions to the moon, which resulted in 12 men walking on the surface. A good portion of the film is video clips from the astronauts themselves. Of course, these aren’t terribly spectacular in the IMAX format.
The special effects and experience comes in with the recreation of the moon walks in a studio. With the help of fantastic sets and some slick CGI, the film does its best to put you in the place of the astronauts as they walked on the alien world.
However, unlike “Ghosts of the Abyss,” which literally put the viewers on the ocean floor to stare up at the Titanic wreckage, “Magnificent Desolation” is restricted by the fact that it wasn’t actually shot on the moon. Going in, I knew the best footage would be one giant special effect, and that sort of lessened its impact.
Now, if they sent an IMAX camera up to the moon whenever they get around to going back, I’d be first in line to see that footage. When these effects can be practically achieved with a home computer nowadays, I crave the real thing.
As a basic PBS documentary with some really great effects and imagery, “Magnificent Desolation” does work. It gives a nice history of the moon missions, and the 3-D effects are great. However, I’ve seen better constructed material for the IMAX experience.