SPACE STATION 3D
Over the past couple of years, sixteen nations have joined forces for a project unprecedented in world history - the building of the International Space Station (ISS), a zero-gravity scientific laboratory orbiting 220 miles above Earth. We follow the experiences of several teams of astronauts as they travel into space to help construct the station.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
For once the hype is justified as the pre-film announcement tells us that Imax is "the finest motion picture experience that exists". Watching the 3-D images captured in Space Station, it's hard to refute the claim. "Wow" is the word to describe this stunningly filmed documentary on the assembling of a structure that, if we believe Tom Cruise’s narration, will provide the answers to medical and scientific mysteries on Earth and prepare humankind for journeys further into space. There are no doubt some key military
initiatives not mentioned, but that's not important right now. What is important is the sheer wonder this film inspires. All of us have seen footage of astronauts eating, shaving and drinking in zero gravity but seeing it in 3-D on a screen six stories high is like watching it for the first time. I loved being rendered wide-eyed and excited by Space Station for the very same reasons that the space program (or the public, human side of it anyway) exists in the first place. That is, to feel tiny in the universe, be amazed at what human beings can achieve and optimistic about where we may be heading. I know how corny that sounds but if there's no hope or higher goal where does that leave us? Although some of the narration is a little too gung-ho about the men and women putting the big mechano set together and a
tad too sentimental about the marvellous co-operation of the 16 nations involved, Space Station succeeds very well in its primary aim of making us gasp. Special kudos to the astronauts and cosmonauts who handled the bulky 65mm Imax cameras themselves and the sound design team who make this one for the ears as much as the eyes. A nod also to the Russians, whose cosmonauts are still winning the space-suit style wars hands down and who obviously haven't wasted money on any fancy renovations to their central facility in Kazakhstan.
Review by Jake Wilson:
Is this the most expensive home movie ever made? Partially filmed in zero gravity by astronauts equipped with specially designed cameras, Space Station 3D is (like practically every IMAX film) both spectacular and hokey. With NASA as the principal sponsor, the narration has the gee-whiz tone you'd expect: eternal boy wonder Tom Cruise sounds thrilled to announce that everybody involved has 'the right stuff.' But the emphasis on international co-operation shifts the tone a couple of degrees away from US triumphalism: as one astronaut points out, the world viewed from space is a single planet unmarked by national borders. This is literally filmmaking on the largest possible scale, and the physical lift afforded by the 3D IMAX format offers us at least an inkling of what it might be like to float around in space - though frankly, it's hard to tell the difference between these documentary images and the usual Hollywood digital effects. In fact the strenuous hyperrealism makes us more aware than ever of the illusory nature of cinema: the simulated 3D universe resembles a vast diorama, with the astronauts more like living waxworks or holograms than flesh-and-blood people. Meanwhile, the stylistic choices made by writer-director Toni Myers often seem guided by memories of classic science-fiction movies: a fog-shrouded farewell at a Russian spaceport evokes Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, while the musical selections are pure Stanley Kubrick. 'White Christmas' in outer space is kitschy, absurd and moving all at once - but then any cultural artifact might appear fragile and silly against the background of the cosmos. The total effect (maybe not quite intentional) is poignant as much as celebratory - a testament both to the grand romance of space travel, and to the ordinary, daggy humanity of those who live the dream.
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ASTRONAUT FOR LUNCH
SPACE STATION 3D (G)
NARRATION: Tom Cruise
PRODUCER: Toni Myers
DIRECTOR: Toni Myers
SCRIPT: Toni Myers
CINEMATOGRAPHER: James Neihouse
EDITOR: Toni Myers
MUSIC: Micky Erbe, Maribeth Solomon
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 47 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: IMAX
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 6, 2002 (Sydney); June 13, 2002 (Melbourne)