Hubble 3D

The newly resurgent 3D format gets an out-of-this-world showcase in "Hubble 3D."

Narrator: Leonardo DiCaprio.

The newly resurgent 3D format gets an out-of-this-world showcase in “Hubble 3D.” Structured around a tricky NASA service-and-repair mission, the latest Imax venture from producer-director Toni Myers (“Space Station 3D”) lingers to transfixing effect on images captured by the famous telescope, inspiring the viewer’s awe in the possibilities of giant-screen cinema as well as the mysteries of space. Opening Friday in Imax venues worldwide, this educational eye-popper should prove an excellent draw for science lovers of all ages.

Shortly after the Hubble Space Telescope was launched in April 1990, scientists discovered a tiny yet damaging flaw in its primary mirror, which was rectified by a crew of astronauts in 1993. Since then, the telescope — roughly the size of a school bus, and the most sophisticated of its kind ever put into orbit — has undergone regular service missions, enabling ever sharper, clearer and wider-ranging glimpses of the universe.

Pic documents the most recent of these excursions, the STS-125 Mission — which, though initially canceled in the wake of the 2003 Columbia shuttle crash, went ahead successfully in May 2009. A 700-lb. Imax 3D camera was installed in the shuttle’s cargo bay, while Myers and d.p. James Neihouse trained the astronauts to use it, also positioning HD cameras throughout the spacecraft.

Apart from shots of the astronauts going about their routines inside the shuttle and marveling at the properties of zero gravity — which turns out to be ideally suited to 3D, as floating objects provide a natural depth of field — most of the footage is devoted to the spacewalks undertaken by those repairing the telescope. Narrator Leonardo DiCaprio (who also did the voiceover honors for global-warming docu “The 11th Hour”) works hard to impart a sense of the mission’s danger, enumerating the various risks to the astronauts’ safety as well as the many points at which the repair procedure hits a snag.

Fascinating as much of this footage is, the docu’s strongest images are to be found elsewhere. As though keenly aware that the sight of a shuttle launch never loses its thrill, Myers and Neihouse film the blast-off twice — first from a distance, so you can appreciate the big-picture spectacle of a column of flame against a blue sky, and then from up close, so you can feel the roar of the rockets, an effect that should make any theater quake if its sound system is working properly.

Most mesmerizing of all are the photographs taken by Hubble itself, expertly enhanced through computer-visualization techniques applied by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Consequently, “Hubble 3D” comes as close as any film to reproducing the curious, cosmic sensation of floating through outer space; with the bonus of the telescope’s infrared camera and ultrasharp focus, pic affords tremendous views of everything from the young stars emerging from the Orion Nebula to a black hole in the more distant Virgo Cluster.

It’s an experience so pure and vivid, you may actually wish for less of DiCaprio’s voiceover — which, though useful in explaining what you’re looking at, becomes a bit of a distraction. In space, no one can hear you narrate.

Hubble 3D

Production: A Warner Bros. release presented with Imax Corp. in cooperation with National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Produced by Toni Myers. Executive producer, Graeme Ferguson. Directed, edited by Toni Myers. Written by Myers, Frank Summers, Graeme Ferguson.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, Imax 3D, HD-to-Imax 3D), James Neihouse; music, Micky Erbe, Maribeth Solomon; sound, Greg Smith; supervising sound editor, Peter Thillaye; re-recording mixers, Cory Mandel, Paul Shubat, Ed Douglas; visual effects supervisor, Bret Culp; associate producer, Judy Carroll. Reviewed at California Science Center Imax Theater, Los Angeles, March 11, 2010. (In SXSW Film Festival -- Special Events.) MPAA Rating: G. Running time: 43 MIN.

With: Narrator: Leonardo DiCaprio.

More Film

  • Azania Muendane

    Locations Africa Expo Sends Message in Durban: ‘Africa is Ready’

    DURBAN–The first edition of the Locations Africa Expo and Conference was held this week during the Durban FilmMart, with an eye toward identifying and growing the opportunities to lure incoming productions to the continent. “Locations Africa is trying to service a need on the continent to discuss the physical production…on the ground, highlighting film commissions, [...]

  • The Lion King

    China Box Office: 'Looking Up' is Surprise Weekend Winner Ahead of 'Lion King'

    Actor and comedian Deng Chao underlined his enduring popularity with mainstream Chinese audiences, delivering a surprise number one hit in “Looking Up.” It scored $38.6 million in its opening weekend, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway, and displaced “The Lion King” from its previous perch. “Looking Up” is a family comedy about a father’s [...]

  • Unathi Malonga

    Report Urges South African Media to ‘Step Up’ Against Gender Violence

    DURBAN–In a country with some of the highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence in the world, South African media must step up and play a greater role in the fight against gender inequality and gender-based violence. That was the conclusion of a report, “Gender, Diversity and Gender-based Violence in South African TV,” that was [...]


    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Cameron Crowe, David Crosby, A.J. Eaton.

    Cameron Crowe on Why He Loved Leaving David Crosby Doc on a CSNY Question Mark

    David Crosby may or may not have stuck a joint in Cameron Crowe’s mouth the first time he ever met the future filmmaker, when Crosby was peaking with Crosby Stills Nash & Young and his interviewer was a precocious 15-year-old Rolling Stone correspondent. As Crowe said to Jimmy Kimmel the other night, “I remember it [...]

  • Mokalik

    Nigeria’s Kunle Afolayan: African Audiences Shouldn’t Be ‘Second-Class’

    DURBAN–A young boy from a middle-class home gets an unconventional schooling in the ways of the world when he’s forced to apprentice at a mechanic’s workshop in a rough-and-tumble section of Lagos. “Mokalik” is the latest feature from Kunle Afolayan, a leading figure in the wave of filmmakers revitalizing the Nigerian film industry. The film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content