Sunday, October 9, 2016

Review: Voyage of Time

Image courtesy of IMAX.
Terrence Malick's "Voyage of Time" is a companion piece, of sorts, to his 2011 masterpiece "The Tree of Life," although this latest picture only runs about 40 minutes long, is being distributed by IMAX and contains no actual story, that is, other than an abbreviated take on the formation of the universe and mankind.

The film contains the type of whispery dialogue - this time, courtesy of "Tree of Life" star Brad Pitt - that one has come to expect from Malick's films and there's also the floating camera effect that settles its gaze on everything from blowing grass and a child wandering in a field to dinosaurs and other creatures lurking about in Earth's early days.

As the film opens, Malick addresses a letter to a child in which he states that all of the film's viewers are part of the story of the universe, Earth, mankind and all its creatures since it is a story that is constantly moving forward and evolving.

To put it mildly, the film is visually gorgeous. Shots of everything from the cosmos to odd looking fish and seals plunging through the ocean are awe inspiring. Perhaps due to its brief length and the lack of a story around which to frame it - such as the one in "The Tree of Life" in which the origins of the universe is intertwined with the tale of two brothers and their parents growing up in Texas - "Voyage of Time" doesn't quite have the effect of that previous picture. Also, it's so epic in scope - whereas "Tree" was intimate - that the greatest impression it leaves is how visually dazzling it is.

In essence, it's an IMAX movie - and a particularly stunning one, at least in terms of its visuals, which are a combination of photography and realistic visual effects. Much like Malick's recent films - "To the Wonder" and "Knight of Cups" - this documentary is not among his greatest works - which include "Tree," "Days of Heaven," "Badlands" and "The Thin Red Line" - but merely a minor project, although one he has reportedly worked on for years.

So, while "Voyage" may not be the majestic cosmic vision that we've come to expect from Malick's work, it's still pretty incredible to see an IMAX film with such a personalized vision, especially one so idiosyncratic and unique as that of this director. And while Malick's style doesn't typically lend itself to children's viewing, this would be a wonderful experience to introduce a child to both art cinema and a work that ponders philosophical ideas as well as science. It's a unique viewing experience to say the least.

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