Friday, August 29, 2014

To Space & Back Movie Review

Not all movie experiences are created equal. There's immersive (3D, RealD, etc.) and then there's Planetarium-immersive. The latter is what you'll find at the Air & Space Museum's Einstein Planetarium, and take it from me... it's miles light years away from feeling or looking "equal." That said (and before you call over, to find showtimes for Guardians of the Galaxy) there are trade-offs. Films are short (25 minutes) and content is... let's just say, harder to come by. Lucky for us, To Space & Back makes its debut later today (click here for showtimes.) Are you curious about how we benefit from space exploration? Then have I got a film for you.

To be fair, To Space & Back is aimed at younger audiences (+ families... you know, the kind of folks who visit museums.) That said, I'm 45 and I liked it quite a bit. Narrator Derrick Pitts (Chief Astronomer of the Franklin Institute) sets a high bar, proclaiming, "This is as real as it gets, without leaving Earth." For the most part, the film lives up to its billing. The audience takes "the next step" during a cool visual that accompanies the placement of telescopes into outer space. From there, we start to gain a clearer understanding of how satellites help us.

Facebook. GPS. Weather forecasts. Without satellites, we'd practically be "in the dark." To Space & Back shows (again, in an elementary way) how digital data impacts so many facets of everyday life. Granted, not all of the examples are as important as others. Pitts reminds us that, "whether sharks are headed for your local beach (or not) is useful information." Gee, thanks. Ditto for his pseudo-ominous warning of "a world without power tools." I'd rather applaud the advent of laser angioplasty, made possible by components used for space travel.

In addition to learning a bunch of stuff, it's possible to be entertained as well. Midway through, there's a GPS driving demo that's almost identical to a level of Need for Speed, complete with radio broadcasts and a techno soundtrack (but thankfully no sign of Aaron Paul, or anyone else associated with the really bad film adaptation.)

To Space & Back is visually impressive, with bits and pieces of useful information. Those bits & pieces are more useful for grade schoolers; but all of us need a refresher course, every now and again. The Einstein Planetarium's 8K Full Dome Digital System showcases everything in 60 FPS (frames per second) producing unrivaled transitions that look really, really cool (which is a nice way of saying 16x better than HD.) Best of all, each showing comes with a free "serving" of the third most-visited museum in the world. Now that's cool.

Grade: B-