THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
I love space documentaries. It boggles my mind to think that we can send people into space and get them back safely. Plus, the exploration of the galaxy always provides an overwhelming sense of wonder. For this reason, IMAX: Hubble, now on DVD and Blu-Ray, was nothing short of hypnotic for me.
The film, which runs a typical IMAX length of 44 minutes, is pretty straightforward: the expensive Hubble telescope is sending back blurry images, so a group of astronauts heads out to fix it. IMAX cameras are notable for the extreme clarity of the images that they capture, so there are non-stop moments of beauty on display here. We not only get to see the Earth from space, but we also get up close as the shuttle crew suits up for a space walk in order to do their work.
The process of fixing Hubble is difficult. It requires removing screws, pulling out old lenses, and installing new ones. Even without the voiceover narration from Leonardo DiCaprio, we'd be able to see how hard this is. The astronauts are in zero gravity, wearing clunky helmets and bulky gloves, their tools tethered to their suits so they don't float away. Amazingly, there is almost literally no room for error. Billions of dollars are at stake. Of course, I already knew that the astronauts were successful, but that somehow didn't lessen the suspense. Simply imagining the arduous process (it can take hours to loosen one single tight screw) creates tension.
The last section of IMAX: Hubble shows us the images the repaired telescope sent back. DiCaprio informs us that these images are so clear that "we can look right through them" and, in fact, visual effects are used to propel us through an expanse of space we never saw before. It literally is jaw-dropping.
IMAX: Hubble was, obviously, created for the 3D IMAX format, but it still looks magnificent when watched on an HDTV. Also, several of the moments in which we travel through the stars look 3D even if they're not. This is a wonderful film for anyone who still has a passion for watching the skies and wondering what's out there.
( out of four)
IMAX: Hubble is available for purchase on single-disc DVD, or for rent On Demand in HD through digital cable, satellite TV, and select game consoles. It is also available to buy through digital download from digital movie retailers and select game consoles. Picture and sound quality on the DVD are superb.
The disc's bonus feature is "Inside IMAX's Hubble 3D," an informative look at the making of the film, as well as the challenges of using IMAX cameras to record the mission.
IMAX: Hubble is rated G. The running time is 44 minutes.