Magnificent Desolation is another Hanks love letter to the country's lunar program, and his earnestness makes for compelling content about American moon voyages and the details within. But the real awe comes from the film's incredible 3D, giant screen versions of moonwalks, as guided by director Mark Cowen.
Smartly, Cowen and his team recreate the real thing and then some. They posit what could have happened, a surprisingly chilly reality about the inherent dangers -- and possible disasters -- that awaited the men who walked on the moon. When Hanks, in an entertaining voiceover, reveals that hours and hours of moonwalks resulted in zero error, he imparts a real sense of pride and relief. And when the film imagines the slightest of problems, the fear is real too.
Hanks' storytelling skills also come in handy in an attempt to overcome the film's most challenging problem: the grainy, crappy black-and-white footage of the actual moonwalks. The filmmakers' subpar solution is to display these historic moments within a series of faux television screens layered over a serene 3D moon background. Essentially, we end up watching TV in a really big theater. Sure it's different, but it takes virtually no advantage of the 3D technology and less involved viewers may lose interest.
If the assorted voiceovers throughout the film sound familiar, they should. Reading actual quotes from the astronauts is an impressive assembly of major film talent including Gary Sinise, Matt Damon, and Paul Newman. To credit their dedication and delivery, I only recognized a few distinct voices, and assumed there were perhaps five actors participating. In reality, the voiceover list, including the real astronauts, is 30 deep. Have fun seeing whose voices you can recognize.
A funny, unexpected addition to the film is a series of quick interviews with youngsters, proving that today's kids know little to nothing about man's exploits on the moon. To them, traveling to the moon is as fantastical as it was to "lunatics" hundreds of years ago. Sound bites from a couple of particularly ambitious kids springboard into a dreamy IMAX creation of a moon existence not yet realized -- but one that might be.
Even with the lags that occur within Magnificent Desolation, condensing the moon program into roughly 60 minutes is a pretty impressive feat. Giving you the feeling of actually being part of it is even more impressive.
Run time: 40 mins
In Theaters: Friday 23rd September 2005
Box Office USA: $32.5M
Distributed by: Imax Corporation
Production compaines: IMAX, Playtone, Herzog-Cowen Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 28 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: Mark Cowen
Starring: Tom Hanks as Narrator, Bill Paxton as Ed Mitchell, Morgan Freeman as Neil Armstrong, Scott Glenn as Charles Duke, Paul Newman as Dave Scott, Matt Damon as Al Shepard, John Travolta as Jim Irwin, Matthew McConaughey as Al Bean