×
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.

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

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content