Documentary takes a thrill ride on the Hubble telescope.
How cool is the image quality for the new Imax spectacular, "Hubble 3D"? So vivid that you'd swear you could reach out and rub your fingers over the space telescope's rivets. So immersive that the star fields of Andromeda seem to enfold you. So hypnotic that in the deep-space sequences, the air you breathe feels a little thinner and colder.
The dazzling documentary, narrated by terrestrial star Leonardo DiCaprio, concerns three service missions to extend the lifespan of the 20-year-old satellite. A zero-gravity repair job doesn't sound like a thrilling cinematic spectacle, but this 43-minute film is utterly gripping. When the shuttles blast off, giant thunderheads of vapor erupt from the water-cooled launch pads, and the bass notes pummel your rib cage. The astronauts do some lame look-Ma-I'm-floating monkeyshines for the camera, but their space walks are sheer high-wire suspense. The circuit boards they're handling look pretty mundane until you learn that their razor-sharp edges could slice open the gloves, leading to depressurization and death.
The film also gives us a chance to study some of the awe-inspiring images the Hubble has captured. There are ultra-sharp pictures of Saturn, with a luminous aurora encircling its south pole, and stunning views of the Pillars of Creation, a dark, eerie gas cloud in the Eagle nebula where new stars are incubated. Hubble's infrared and ultraviolet vision reveals never-before-seen galaxies and celestial formations that might be evolving solar systems. In a sequence exploring the Orion nebula, the camera zooms smoothly through a valley of gas and dust 90 trillion miles wide, revealing what DiCaprio calls "a flock of baby stars, each nested in its own cocoon, and inside each cocoon is an infant solar system." After this cosmic flight, you'll look to the skies with fresh wonder and new understanding. Lights down. Goggles on. Blast off!
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186