By Liz Lopez
The story of the universe, while not a new one by any means, has intrigued many humans for centuries. There is a variation of films available, both shorts and features, Sci –Fi and documentaries on the topic that can highly entertain or mildly make a viewer want to snooze. Merging science and cinema, filmmaker Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life), has created a unique documentary, Voyage of Time that is visually stunning, and is engaging despite it has no human dialogue. Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience is a 45 – minute IMAX cinematic experience narrated by Brad Pitt, who does not tell the viewer what is on the screen, but provides a feeling of traveling together viewing the varied transformations of the universe as we know it from the Big Bang to present. I cannot imagine viewing this film in any other format than IMAX with the excellent photography conducted by the global cinematography team led by Director of Photography, Paul Atkins (The Tree of Life).
Can you imagine going on a photo shoot of a volcano and having the soles of your boots melt? There is no doubt the team is dedicated to their craft.
I had the opportunity to experience this film at the State of Texas Bob Bullock Museum’s recently renovated IMAX theater with the newly installed dual 4K laser projectors and enhanced 12-channel immersive audio systems. It is an incomparable experience of sight and sound, as well as thought provoking. The Bob Bullock Museum will offer exclusive IMAX showings of Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience as of October 7th when the museum opens to the public.
Voyage of Time is a production that was initiated over a decade ago by the filmmaker who consulted with several scientists (physicists, biologists among them) and natural historians. The film’s lead scientific adviser is Dr. Andrew Knoll, the Fisher Professor of Natural History at Harvard University, a NASA consultant and author (Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth; and Biology: How Life Works, and another consultant is theoretical physicist, Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute. Another valuable resource is paleontologist Jack Horner, Regents Professor of Paleontology at Montana State University and Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies. I won’t say more than dinosaur fans will be excited to know they form part of the story. The scientists provided knowledge, as well as visuals that contributed towards use in the visual effects. Dan Glass (The Matrix sequels and Batman Begins) serves as the visual effects supervisor.
I had the opportunity to meet and interview Producers Sarah Green (The New World, Knight of Cups and the Best Picture Academy Award®-nominated The Tree of Life) and Nicolas Gondo (The New World, To the Wonder, co-producer of The Tree of Life). The following are some highlights of our conversation.
Q- After seeing this work go on for so many years, what does it feel like to finally see it arrive, especially in the IMAX theater at the Bob Bullock Musuem?
NG – This new lazer technology is amazing. We have been working on it and after 14 years this is a new chapter. It raises the bar of IMAX. The inaugural phase really is incredible. Now, we go on to find the footing in the world for the film.
SG – I’m so happy that it is here at the Bob Bullock Museum cinema. I hope that no one tries to see it any other way except on a giant screen.
Q – What age group of children do you think this will appeal to?
SG- I will leave that to the parents and kids to decide. It is an incredibly beautiful experience. There are some frightening moments in it, and it is really up to whether the child can tolerate it. The film asks you to look at it through a child’s eyes. I really believe it puts all of us on an equal footing and it asks us to go in with innocent curiosity about the world around us.
NG- It is rated G for all audiences, and all minds can engage with the film. Children are asking questions and it inspires to learn more. It is helping to plant seeds.
Q – What would be the simplest phrase to engage a broader audience to see the film, specifically one that is Spanish dominant, or is bilingual?
NG- This is your story/this is our story, about our universe and our shared biography and where you can walk into the cinema and to be able to experience that.
SG- Simply – What does it mean to be us here now?
Going back to our shared story, this is a good time to be reminded people belong, instead of what is currently heard (on the news/social media) about separating people into different places, etc.
SG – Yes…pushing us apart.
N – It is impossible to see borders when someone experiences the history of our universe, of life to where it has evolved. It is easy today to be distracted by topical headlines, and people or things creating division, but Voyage of Time looks at the timeless, not just the momentary.
What would you want people to walk away with after they experience the film?
S – I would love for them to have a sense of wonder, curiosity and perhaps appreciation for this life.
N – I completely agree. While the film does not insert opinion and issues, it is a reminder of this incredible cradle of Earth. We are now at a time where it is the first time to witness a mass extinction, in terms of what is happening to the environment. It is the first time to be able to do something about what you are seeing in the environment. There is a sense of duty to protect what has given us life and this is a real important aspect of that.
Voyage of Time will be available in two formats: the 90-minute Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, narrated by Cate Blanchett, and the 45- minute Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience, narrated by Brad Pitt.
Source: IMAX Entertainment, IMAX Documentary Films Capital, Knights of Columbus, Bob Bullock Musuem