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MAGNIFICENT DESOLATION: WALKING ON THE MOON 3D

SYNOPSIS:
Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have dreamt about going to the Moon. This IMAX documentary recounts the history of the Apollo space missions between 1968 and 1972, and looks towards future voyages.

Review by Jake Wilson:
According to the schedule announced by George W. Bush in 2004, man should be back on the moon by 2020, which should give the ten-year-olds who are the main targets for this NASA recruiting film just enough time to get on board. I hate to stamp on childhood dreams - but kids, don't hold your breath. Backed by mournful music, Tom Hanks' folksy narration could be intended to bury the space program as much as praise it: from the early clip of John F. Kennedy waxing inspirational onward, we're reminded that the original Apollo missions belonged to a distant era of American optimism (and Cold War rivalries, not touched on here) that's unlikely to be revisited in the near future.

It's not only ten-year-olds who might find it hard to believe it all really happened - that the space race was won nearly forty years ago on the strength of fantastically cumbersome technology and computers less powerful than a 1970s digital watch. (The astronauts had "ordinary names" like Pete and Jim, Hanks tells us reverently - as if everyone would expect a space traveller to be called something like 'Anakin Skywalker'.) In pop-up windows on the IMAX screen, the clips of footage from the original missions look as dim and archaic as silent films from the earliest years of cinema. The simulated or computer-enhanced panoramas of the moon's surface are mournful in a different way - however "magnificent," this grey desert has never looked more alien and indifferent to the human fantasies it inspires.

With its patchwork of re-enactments, digital images and archival footage Magnificent Desolation is not the most technically splendid of IMAX films (particularly in comparison to the earlier Space Station 3D, for which actual high-definition cameras were taken into space). Nearly a decade after IMAX cinemas were first introduced to Australia, the format seems little more than an expensive, no longer fresh novelty - something that cynics might say of the moon voyages themselves. The experience of getting lost in the giant screen remains hypnotic, though the 3D system has its pitfalls: if the heavy glasses are wrongly positioned, amber shadows appear behind the images, like a poorly tuned TV set's electronic ghosts.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

MAGNIFICENT DESOLATION: WALKING ON THE MOON 3D (G)
(US)

VOICES: Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Alan Bean, Brandy Blackledge, Eugene Cernan, Pete Conrad, John Corbett, Bryan Cranston, Matt Damon, Charles Duke, Morgan Freeman, Scott Glenn

NARRATION: Tom Hanks

PRODUCER: Mark Cowen, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Mark Herzog

DIRECTOR: Mark Cowen

SCRIPT: Christopher G. Cowen, Mark Cowen, Tom Hanks

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sean MacLeod Phillips

EDITOR: William Schinsky

MUSIC: James Newton Howard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Charles Lee

RUNNING TIME: 40 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: IMAX

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 20, 2005







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