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Film review: IMAX grand opening Visit 'Magnificent Desolation'

Documentary brings home glories of U.S. trips to the moon

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong surveys lunar landscape in a re-creation for "Magnificent Desolation."
Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong surveys lunar landscape in a re-creation for "Magnificent Desolation."

MAGNIFICENT DESOLATION: WALKING ON THE MOON 3D — *** 1/2 — Large-screen documentary about manned space missions; narrated by Tom Hanks; not rated, probable G (nothing offensive); see Page W2 for theaters.

"Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D" is part "edu-tainment," part recruitment tool. Produced with the cooperation of NASA, this large-format documentary is clearly supposed to help renew interest in space exploration.

Mission accomplished.

The film will appeal to those of us who remember the original Apollo lunar missions, and even to those who weren't alive at the time. The breathtaking footage of the astronauts — some of which has been digitally manipulated and augmented for this vivid 3D presentation — is as close as the vast majority of us will ever come to walking on the moon.

And thankfully, the film's obvious messages are not too heavy-handed, and the whole package is as entertaining as it is educational. (The documentary mini-feature opened today at Jordan Commons' new Cricket IMAX Theatre, and also at the Clark Planetarium's 3D IMAX Theatre.)

The film's title comes from a quote given by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was describing the surface of the moon at the time. His was one of six missions that took place between 1968 and '72, during which 12 astronauts spent a grand total of five hours exploring the moon's surface and performing various scientific experiments.

The moon missions were "mankind's greatest road trip" to date, says narrator Tom Hanks (who also produced), and some of the Apollo astronauts recall their experiences (and such actors as Morgan Freeman, Paul Newman and Bill Paxton read quotes from others).

Refreshingly, "Magnificent Desolation" has a few lighthearted moments, including "bloopers" — footage of the Apollo astronauts as they stumbled, tripped and fell over the moon's rocky surfaces.

And in addition to the real-life material from the various missions, the film features some re-creations so realistic that they may provide fodder for conspiracy buffs who don't believe the astronauts ever really went to the moon.

"Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D" is not rated but would probably receive a G. It contains nothing offensive. Running time: 40 minutes.

IMAX grand opening

"Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D," marks the grand opening of the new Cricket IMAX Theatre at Jordan Commons, 9400 S. State, Sandy. Today's activities include a live radio broadcast and free movie posters.