The first IMAX space film shot and released in 3D, Space Station is filled with gorgeous images that follow the launch and integration of the first 4 components of the International Space Station – the Russian storage vessel, the American scientific lab, and Japanese designed truss onto which other components will be married – and while it’s easy to be wowed by the visuals, the more interesting chapters deal with the prepping of each newly connected segment for the next missions and station expansions.
It’s basically a giant commercial construction site, with international participants making specialty parts not unlike Europe’s Airbus, and once a central work space is good to go, the electrical crew come up for the wiring and equipment installation, followed by scientists with early experiments, and other specialists setting up further wiring and connecting hardware for the next planned addition.
The difference is the scope, which is quietly demonstrated by a giant wide shot where the station slowly unlocks from the shuttle while the massive Earth spins below, filling the screen’s entire background.
Writer / director / producer Toni Myers can design an IMAX film narrative on a napkin, since she’s either been involved as producer, director, editor, or writer in the space films. The story format is largely chronological, yet told in a much tighter style than prior shuttle-themed documentaries because as most fans know, we’ve seen the nuances of astronaut prep times and shuttle launches before, and the 3D element should plunge viewers into Earth’s orbit.
The U.S. shuttle and Russian Soyuz launches in uncompressed, ear-shattering, bass-booming 5.1 are still spectacular, but the doc’s core focuses on the station as it’s expanded by humans into a sleek new home for humans. Balancing straightforward facts are lighthearted crew moments in training and in space. The best moments involve the ease with which giant technical gear is pushed and nudged into place with ease, and several fluid tracking shots following a crewman through several tight compartments.
Tom Cruise’s narration is pretty straightforward and light on tech details, and while the Discovery Channel’s Inside the Space Station (2000) offers deeper facts and background details on the astronauts, both docs compliment each other in terms of providing a broad glimpse into an epic construction and science lab headquartered in Earth’s orbit.
This title is part of several IMAX 3D films recently released by WHV on Blu-ray / Blu-ray 3D combo editions, including Deep Sea 3D (2010), Hubble 3D (2010), and Under the Sea 3D (2007).
Note: While the standalone DVD comes loaded with extras, the BR / BR-3D combo edition is bizarrely bare bones, forcing fans to re-buy the film for the commentary and featurettes.
For additional information on the BR-3D version, as well as some multimedia extras, please read this additional review at The Stereo 3D Channel.
The main run of IMAX space documentaries includes Blue Planet (1990), Destiny in Space (1994), Dream is Alive, The (1985), Hail Columbia! (1982), Hubble 3D (2010), Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon (2005), Mission to Mir (1997), and Space Station 3D (2002).
Also available: an interview with the film’s co-composer, Maribeth Solomon, and director Toni Myers on working in 3D.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan