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Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience Movie Review

Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience (2016) movie poster Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience

Theatrical Release: October 7, 2016 / Running Time: 45 Minutes / Rating: G

Writer/Director: Terrence Malick / Narrator: Brad Pitt

Tagline: The Story of Our Universe


A fascination with nature is one of the most prominent features of Terrence Malick's work. The Tree of Life (2011), his most successful film of modern times, was as interested in exploring the universe as it was in telling the story of a Texas family.
Malick's subsequent works have moved him even further away from dialogue-driven narrative to striking visuals with voiceover. As such, it's not much of a stretch or a surprise to see Malick make a full-fledged IMAX documentary in Voyage of Time.

Voyage opens with an onscreen address to a child and a promise to tell the story of the universe. Even for the long-respected Malick, this is an ambitious project and one that has its origins back in the late 1970s when Paramount Pictures gave him a million dollars to make a film called Q. This incarnation began taking shape back while Tree of Life was still in its long post-production phase. After a 2013 lawsuit charged a suddenly and uncharacteristically productive Malick with working on other projects ahead of this one he was supposed to complete first, Voyage finally comes to fruition in two different forms: a 90-minute PG-13 35mm edit narrated by Cate Blanchett subtitled Life's Journey and the 45-minute, G-rated IMAX version narrated by Tree of Life's Brad Pitt subtitled The IMAX Experience. I saw the latter in a legitimate IMAX theater.

Although I entered expecting to see the feature-length version, Voyage met my expectations for a Terrence Malick IMAX nature documentary in most other ways. The filmmaker uses the grand large format canvas to chart the universe from start to finish. The visuals are stunning and powerful, be they actual footage of undersea creatures, computer-animated dinosaurs on the order of the more head-scratching moments of Tree of Life, or live-action set-ups Malick was presumably on hand to personally direct. The two standout sequences of the lattermost class include a scene of prehistoric men (hominids) cornering an ostrich and loving life and a girl contentedly exploring a field by a factory and railroad tracks.

Lava cools and hardens to form rock on the early Earth in "Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience."

Malick's loves of life and nature have never been more apparent than here. He celebrates the universe's miracles with the type of poetry he is known for. Pitt voices questions like "When did dust become life?" and observations about how cooperation has been as important as competition dating back to the days the only life the planet hosted was bacteria.
It's unclear how much the director was personally involved with filming lingering shots of fish with expressive eyes and how much of a role animation and visual effects play in all this. What is clear is that the movie has an agreeable curiosity to understanding and succinctly conveying our place in the universe and in history.

The biggest problem I have with the film is that it's over much too soon. The standard 45-minute IMAX runtime suits documentaries that function purely as eye and ear candy. The unrivaled sensory stimulation of the IMAX format makes an impact immediately and 45 minutes is enough to spend gawking at things like Mount Everest, outer space, and the wilds of Africa. Three-quarters of an hour isn't quite enough to tell the story of life, the universe, and everything. Malick fits what he can into that runtime, including a sneak peek of the end of times. But you're not ready to leave when the credits begin to roll. And though the 90-minute, Blanchett-narrated edit should not leave you feeling that way, it will undoubtedly lack the impact of IMAX's giant screen and potent sound. So probably neither edit is ideal and certainly neither is the eventual Blu-ray holding both, as even the best of home theaters can't compete with IMAX technology.

Related Reviews:
Directed by Terrence Malick: The Tree of Life Knight of Cups The Thin Red Line Badlands
Now in Theaters: The Birth of a Nation The Girl on the Train Sully Queen of Katwe The Light Between Oceans
IMAX Documentaries: Sacred Planet Space Junk 3D To the Arctic | IMAX Movies: Interstellar The Walk Everest

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Reviewed October 7, 2016.

Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 IMAX Entertainment, IMAX Documentary Films Capital, Knights of Columbus, Broad Green Pictures, and Sophisticated Films.
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