By: Addison Wylie
The IMAX format has been used in many ways in the past. It can be used to better establish environments such as the outside exterior shots featured in The Dark Knight. It can be used with a 3D format to help throw the audience into a scene and make the eager viewers think that they’re “in the movie”. Before 3D and more mainstream features utilizing the IMAX technology, the IMAX presentation was used for documentaries; most of these documentaries presenting parts of the world that the normal, everyday joe wouldn’t get to see. IMAX: Hubble is the latest entry into this fascinating genre offering insight into the history of the extraordinary Space telescope, the images it has taken, as well as the adventure of a team of astronauts as they enter the never-ending abyss in order to repair the telescope.
In 1990, the Hubble was launched into Space. It was named as one of the largest telescopes ever launched into Space and it was being used to take pictures and record research on lost galaxies as well as potential planets and even life on the outskirts. However, the telescope had its flaws including a deformed mirror at one point. This meant that astronauts had to venture onwards, risking their lives, in order to repair these glitches. In 2009, when it was announced that the last repair was going to be performed on the famous Hubble, a team of well-experienced astronauts were picked and sent to Space, however this time, they would be asked to film their lives in the ship as well as have cinematographers document their tasks in order for people to see just how time consuming and detailed a repair process on the behemoth can be.
Clocking in at 45 minutes, the film covers a lot which serves as a pro and as a con. The film seems to want to cover a lot of history about the Hubble while showing us tours of the images the Hubble has shot. The adventure story is compelling but, in this situation, only adds an element of chaos. Presenting a variety of information would be fine in a film of this caliber, however, the film needs more time to play with in order to execute this storytelling method. I found what information was being given to me was incredibly interesting, however, because of the time duration, director Toni Myers has to keep the film moving and isn’t allowed to provide a lot of details on every single thing. While sitting in the theatre watching Hubble, I kept thinking how much more of a stronger movie it could’ve been if given a longer duration. That said, I didn’t think the pacing suffered at all and Myers knows the documentary genre well. Using a variety of archive footage raining from the 70’s to present time, Myers is able to generate a story as well as educating the audience. The Hubble transitions from being an object to being a fully developed character. In relation to the pacing, the film is edited very well. I particularly liked the scenes where stationary shots would lock on to a featured astronaut while in training as we heard them provide a voiceover about what exactly is going through their mind. With these scenes, the documentary is able to provide an intimate mood as well as better connecting the audience to the heroes.
Another pro/con with IMAX: Hubble is the fact that it is being presented in an IMAX format. When the film is presenting tours of forgotten stars and exterior shots of the Space environment, I was astonished. A moment where the film excels is when Narrator Leonardo DiCaprio takes us on a tour of the Orion Nebula, which is a very large star formation that is found in the constellation of Orion. By being subjected to a larger than normal screen, audience members can see every little bit of detail in clouds of gas as well as stars that contain galaxies. Throughout DiCaprio’s expedition, we feel as if we’re flying right through the formation which takes us back to how an IMAX presentation can make us feel as if we’re beside DiCaprio flying through the gas and dust. The problem with the large presentation is that when there are scenes where there is more than one astronaut present and they’re either in the ship or in a claustrophobic-inducing crevasses in the Hubble, I found it hard to decipher what was happening in front of me. It takes a few moments to fully understand what the astronauts are doing but these instances happen more than a couple times in the 45 minute duration, especially during the bulk of the film. To my knowledge, this film was also shown as a 3D presentation. I saw the 2D version at a dome OMNIMAX theatre and just thinking of a 3D version, I can’t even comprehend how much more busier these scenes would look like in 3D. I also mention that Leonardo DiCaprio is our narrator during the film. Again, another pro/con. I didn’t find his narration terrible but it wasn’t anything special as well. Sometimes its appealing and affective but sometimes he’s very bland and sometimes over articulates words or phrases. Again, nothing too major but definitely took me out of the experience at times.
It may seem as if Hubble floats in the middle of being a great, memorable documentary or being a waste of time. The film may have pros balanced out with cons according to this review but, believe me, the pros overtake the cons. The more I think about Myers’ documentary, the more I grow fond of it. With its stunning establishing shots, an intimate feel and graceful pace, Hubble is a very impressive, educating experience. IMAX: Hubble is a very strong documentary that will make your mouth drop on more than a couple occasions, and perhaps with a longer runtime or with some of the history edited out, the film would’ve been even more stronger.