Marks out of 10 - Out of this world

16th April 2010 at 01:00
Hubble 3D - Showing at the Science Museum, London, and Glasgow Science Centre

Hubble 3D is an intense experience. If at any point you feel unwell we recommend you close your eyes for a few moments. Alternatively, you can make your way to the exit at the back of the cinema ... ".

I looked at my nine-year-old son, he looked back and gulped. The health warning issued by the nice man at the start of the European premiere of Hubble 3D at the IMAX cinema in the Science Museum made us feel as if we were embarking on our own exciting, even dangerous, mission.

Sitting there in our 3D specs with lenses so big that they looked like space helmet visors, the child in me wanted a mission control-style countdown to the start of the film.

Instead, there was a filmed welcome from director Toni Myers, who couldn't make it to the premiere, and astronaut Michael J. Massimino, nicknamed "Mass".

It is worth noting, should you wish to wring every last drop of educational benefit out of this film, that Mass is no Top Gun flyboy turned space cowboy but has a PhD in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When reminded of this later, even my son conceded that school may be worthwhile if it gets you into space.

So here is the plot: it is the last mission to the Hubble space telescope to carry out some maintenance and upgrades before the space shuttle programme comes to an end. So, like packing your camcorder for your holidays, IMAX Corp, Warner Bros and NASA loaded a 700lb 3D camera into the boot of the Shuttle Atlantis ready to record the event for posterity.

Hubble 3D is a documentary of two halves. One half is about the mission itself. This is filmed in 3D, but the effects are quite subtle so that resolution and depth of field is greatly enhanced on the IMAX screen without too much sent spinning towards your eyeballs.

The shuttle blast-off will move you - literally. If the sound is properly cranked up, the combination of vast IMAX screen and sub-woofers conveys a sense of the raw chemical and physical forces at work in rockets this size.

Much of this section revolves around the maintenance job on the Hubble, launched 20 years ago on April 24. It might have become tedious if not for the 3D treatment that imbues every shot with such solidity and detail that it is a marvel to watch. Those of us who grew up with Star Trek and Dr Who will be relieved to see that space travel relies on engineering that doesn't bend or wobble. Right now, it's as close as you will get to being there.

The other half of the film is even cleverer because it involves the digital recreation of the universe by using real data gathered by Hubble on deep space structures such as nebulae and measurements of the distances involved.

The computer-generated results deliver an eye-popping 3D fly-through of our galaxy and beyond. You are stunned visually and then mentally as you remember that, barring digital jiggery-pokery to enhance colours and lighting, this stuff is - or was - really out there.

My major wow moment came at the end of the film when a staggering image of galactic networks emerged. The words "intelligent" and "design" may momentarily have popped into my head, although not necessarily together.

If I have one criticism, it is Leonardo DiCaprio's narration. His tone and delivery are fine, but the script he is working to is pretty cliched. Then again, Hubble 3D is attempting to popularise something that is - dare I say it - quite nerdy, so this is being picky.

It is a genuinely enlightening way to spend 50 minutes of your life.

The Verdict: 710.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a TES/ TESS subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
 
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today