×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon

Tom Hanks enjoyed significant commercial and critical success through his involvement with Ron Howard's "Apollo 13" and his own "From the Earth to the Moon" HBO miniseries. But his third time isn't a charm: "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon" is an earnest but insubstantial Imax 3-D spectacle that seems unduly padded.

With:
Narrator: Tom Hanks.
Voices: John Corbett, Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Scott Glenn, Tim Matheson, Matthew McConaughey, Paul Newman, Bill Paxton, Barry Pepper, Kevin Pollak, Peter Scolari, Gary Sinise, John Travolta, Donnie Wahlberg.

Arguably the most avid space buff and NASA booster among contemporary pop culture icons, Tom Hanks enjoyed significant commercial and critical success through his involvement with Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13” and his own “From the Earth to the Moon” HBO miniseries. But his third time isn’t a charm: “Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon” is an earnest but insubstantial Imax 3-D spectacle that, even at 40 minutes, seems unduly padded. Obviously aimed at schoolchildren likely to be bused in for matinee screenings, docu offers grown-ups very little that is fresh or insightful, and too much that is facile or hokey.

Pic comes off a hodgepodge of breathless hero worship, cutesy history lessons and melodramatic re-enactments, with a side order of vocational guidance for impressionable youngsters. During an early montage of kids being grilled about NASA history, it’s meant to be hilarious that most of them know little about the history of U.S. space exploration. (At least one confuses Neil Armstrong with Lance Armstrong.)

At the end, however, narrator Hanks sounds a dead-serious note of inspirational encouragement when he asks: Who will be the next explorer to walk on the moon? “Maybe that person is watching right now,” he says. “Maybe the future walker is you.”

“Magnificent Desolation” pays heartfelt tribute to 12 Apollo astronauts who visited the moon between 1969 and 1972. But the actual missions are represented mostly in fuzzy TV news clips shown in tiles that sporadically “float” across the massive Imax screen.

Director Mark Cowen places greater emphasis on aggressively dramatic re-creations, which are used to illustrate Apollo mission highlights — and, not incidentally, fill the entire frame with striking 3-D imagery. (Tech values are undeniably impressive.)

And while pic does include a few key recordings of actual astronaut dialogue, well-known actors (including, most effectively, Morgan Freeman and Bill Paxton) are employed to read salient quotes by the real-life moon men throughout pic. The unfortunate result is, the slick artifice tends to overshadow the real astronauts.

Ironically, verisimilitude of the Imax-size re-enactments indirectly lends a kind of credence to long-circulated conspiracy theories (mockingly acknowledged elsewhere in pic) that the Apollo voyages didn’t really occur, but actually were faked on a Hollywood soundstage.

And speaking of fake: Hanks takes a shameless approach to revving aud interest by dramatizing a “What if?” scenario involving unforeseen catastrophe during a moon mission.

Title refers to Apollo astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin’s description of lunar landscape.

Popular on Variety

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon

Imax

Production: An Imax Corp. release of an Imax/Playtone production. Produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Mark Cowen. Executive producers, Hugh Murray, Mark Herzog. Directed by Mark Cowen. Written by Tom Hanks, Mark Cowen, Christopher G. Cowen.

Crew: Camera (color, Imax, 3-D), Sean MacLeod Phillips; editor, William Schinski; music, James Newton Howard; production designer, Charles Lee; sound, Jerry Ross; associate producer, Christopher G. Cowen. Reviewed at Edwards Marq*e 23, Houston, Oct. 4, 2005. Running time: 40 MIN.

With: Narrator: Tom Hanks.
Voices: John Corbett, Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Scott Glenn, Tim Matheson, Matthew McConaughey, Paul Newman, Bill Paxton, Barry Pepper, Kevin Pollak, Peter Scolari, Gary Sinise, John Travolta, Donnie Wahlberg.

More Film

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

  • 45 Seconds of Laughter

    Film Review: '45 Seconds of Laughter'

    “Everyone is worth more than their worst act,” said Roman Catholic sister and anti-death penalty advocate Helen Prejean, and it’s with these words that “45 Seconds of Laughter” closes. It’s an apt sentiment on which to leave Tim Robbins’ sincerely felt documentary study of the therapeutic acting workshops run by his own theater company in [...]

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Selected for AFI's Life Achievement Award

    The American Film Institute Board of Trustees has selected Julie Andrews as the recipient of the 48th AFI Life Achievement Award. The award will be presented to Andrews on April 25 in Los Angeles. The ceremony will be telecast on TNT. “Julie Andrews is practically perfect in every way,” said Kathleen Kennedy, chair of the [...]

  • 4127_D001_00007_RC Phyllis Logan stars as Mrs.

    'Downton Abbey' to Dominate Box Office Weekend With $30 Million

    The feature film version of “Downton Abbey” is heading for an impressive $30 million opening weekend at 3,079 sites for an easy victory at the North American box office, early estimates showed Friday. The launch of Brad Pitt’s space drama “Ad Astra” will land in second with about $20 million, while Sylvester Stallone’s action-thriller “Rambo: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content