September 6, 2007

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Space Station 3D (G)
Tom Cruise narrates the life so far of the International Space Station in the beautiful, captivating Space Station 3D, the latest movie to come to our local IMAX.

And when was the last time anything Tom Cruise did was considered captivating?

We hear about the space station from time to time, usually when something with it or something traveling to it goes wrong. But the coolness of humanity’s first outside-the-atmosphere home is always lost in these news bites. Here, we see the station from its creation. The first piece of the structure was put in place by the Russians. Since then, new chunks have arrived, like a house getting bigger as the family gets more money and kids. In the case of the space station, the “kids” include crews from Brazil, Italy and Russia as well as America. After a primer on how the astronauts train for their missions to the station, we watch as two teams travel there, one relieving the other. The story, told rather simplistically and clearly with the young audience that a G rating would attract in mind, is nonetheless fascinating even if you’re old enough to remember some of those space milestones. The movie makes full use of the sense of wonder that space can inspire and, while the movie isn’t at all scary, I felt a few moments of actual anxiety. There’s something about the bigness of space and the fragility of us (humans, Earth) that makes this kind of exploration seem genuinely awe-inspiring.

Part of that awe comes from the presentation of all this nerdy goodness. For a viewer, the difference between an IMAX film made to be 3-D and a regular movie reformatted to become at least partially a 3-D IMAX movie is striking. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, some of the 3-D scenes seemed not like three-dimensional images but flat images cut out and placed at varying distances in front of each other, as in a pop-up book. In Space Station 3D, you feel for the most part that you are hanging in the middle of a real three-dimensional space with items sloping toward you or smoothly moving away from you. (Another potential factor in the viewing experience: for Space Station 3D, I sat smack in the middle of the theater in probably the best seats. The perspective on every shot was perfect. For Order of the Phoenix, I sat in the lower level of seats with my head craned back to take in the picture. During the 3-D scenes, I started to feel a little cross-eyed and headachy.)

Space Station 3D is exactly why you want to go to an IMAX and exactly the kind of movie you’d want to take a kid to. You can yammer on and on about how cool planets and space travel are but what could better sneak a little scientific curiosity into a young mind than 46 minutes spent with the Earth glowing below him and his 3D-glasses assisted vision giving him a feeling of near weightlessness? B+

Rated G. Written and directed by Toni Myers, Space Station 3D is 46 minutes long and currently playing at on the IMAX screen at the Cinemagic in Hooksett.