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Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D

  Magnificent Desolation
"My white balance is completely screwed."

© 2005, IMAX
All Rights Reserved

While racking up box office hits and charming the planet during the course of his career, Tom Hanks has also made time for his true love: The NASA space program. After "Apollo 13," and the HBO mini-series, "From Earth to the Moon," "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D" (IMDb listing) is another investigative piece by Hanks that probes the gumption it took to travel to the moon in the 1960s, and poses the question: Can we do it again?

Not content with the powers of pay cable or the scope of the average suburban multiplex, Hanks takes his argument to the IMAX large-format screen, and enjoys the encompassing visual advantage of 3D. "Desolation" is a perfect fit for the IMAX medium, since the filmmakers want to give the audience the sensation of bouncily walking on the lunar surface, and soaking in the area's simplistic, but eye-opening sights. Hanks narrates this documentary (along with producing and co-writing), lovingly recounting the hardships and risk the original astronauts faced when they blasted harshly into space. Through archival footage, the audience witnesses the trial and error of the space program, from the unusual designs of the early spacesuits to the intricate (and sometimes silly) ways the program attempted to prepare the astronauts for travel on the moon.

"Desolation" balances the familiar scenes of moon walking with new re-creations of the events, adding a fictional situation of danger to highlight just how easily things could've gone wrong during these tense years of exploration. These moments are when the 3D gloriously envelops the viewer in a sense of awe at both the surroundings and the sheer triumph of will to get to this remote destination.

To find a deeper understanding of the astronaut mindset, Hanks has recruited some showbiz buddies to recite quotes about the moon journeys from the crew members that made it possible. Paul Newman, Matthew McConaughey, John Travolta, Scott Glenn, and Matt Damon are only a handful of the voices here, and they each register warmly with the intended feeling of pride in the accomplishments of the astronauts and the curiosity of the new landscape presented before them.

"Desolation," with its bookend sequences of children dreaming of space travel, is nakedly ambitious in its intent to reanimate the atrophying thirst for space exploration (or any type of explorer frame of mind). Yet, this is not some ugly play for American patriotism; "Magnificent Desolation" is adoring and respectful to the history of the space program, and earnestly hopeful that what was accomplished before can be expanded in the future. The film also reminds the viewer of the almost inconceivable heroism that took place in the program. In a world of abusive paparazzi, reality show nimrods, and wretched Hiltons, a good reminder of a person's determination and intelligence to achieve something miraculous is exactly what the doctored ordered.

Filmfodder Grade: A-

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