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Go / No Go :
"Space Station" (IMAX) DVD

Review by Rick Houston

Studio:   Warner Home Video
Release:   July 2005
Length:   47 minutes on one disc
MSRP:   $19.98
Extras:   Feature commentary by director Toni Myers and astronaut Marsha Ivins; two audiovisual tours of the ISS guided by astronauts of Expedition 7 and STS-108; "Adventures In Space" featurette; stills gallery.

Booster Rating: Four Stages

Studio Synopsis: Space Station is the first cinematic journey to the International Space Station (ISS), where audiences can experience for themselves life in zero gravity aboard the new station. The audience blasts off into space with the astronauts and cosmonauts from Florida's Kennedy Space Center and Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome to rendezvous with their new home in orbit.

Review: This may be the very best recommendation that I could give Space Station: one of my 4 1/2-year-old twin sons, Jesse, begs to have one of its more rememberable scenes replayed over and over again. And again.

See, Jesse doesn't normally like loud noises. The kid used to run screaming from the room when a THX ad preceded a movie. Screeching birds in the zoo sent him into all manner of hysterics. But as a Proton rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russia, Jesse wants our surround-sound system cranked up to its fullest window-jarring glory. He grins, claps and jumps up and down as the sound washes over the room.

And he shouts to be heard over the commotion, "I wanna hear it again, Dad." Even as I try to type out this review, he is shoving the remote in my hand to play the scene yet again. Meanwhile, Adam, normally the daredevil and the one who has professed a desire to some day become an astronaut, is hiding under his bed.

Yeah... I love being a dad.

But I digress. Its ability to entertain a kid for a minute or two notwithstanding, Space Station is not without its faults. Missing from the DVD is the stunning 3D format seen in IMAX theaters, and the main title suffers for it. Beginning with the opening credits that fly in from the top, bottom, left and right of the screen, the original 3D format was meant to capture the viewer's attention right from the start.

There are several scenes of astronauts and cosmonauts throwing and moving items toward the camera to take advantage of the 3D effect, but it's lost in 2D. Rather than feeling part of the action themselves, viewers are left once more watching someone else having a ball in space.

Producing thousands of those goofy cardboard red/blue glasses might have been cost prohibitive, but if the producers of the Spy Kids 3D DVD did so, then by golly so could IMAX... or Warner Home Video... or somebody.

And it may just be me, but another problem is the inclusion of Tom Cruise as narrator. Granted, this film was made before Cruise became a complete caricature of himself. It's hard, though, to separate a documentary on such a serious subject from the silliness that has become Cruise's career. Cruise says in one of the disc's special features that he'd like to fly in space one day, and to quote the great philosopher Andy Griffith, "Boy... you're already there."

While far from an in-depth, technical explanation of what is happening on-board the ISS, this movie provides a much more promising look at the outpost than Discovery Channel's Inside the Space Station (previously reviewed). At the least, IMAX cameras actually travel to Russia to go inside Star City and the aforementioned Proton launch, as well as the liftoff of the first expedition crew.

Space Station includes many of the same elements as the Discovery program - the obligatory footage of the gigantic underwater training facility at Johnson Space Center is included, among other scenes - but as a whole, it comes across as a more cohesive unit. Its shots are original and imaginative. There's an all-too brief sequence shot out the Shuttle's back window during launch that's not to be missed.

But if you'll excuse me, I've got to re-cue the DVD player again.

Extras: This is one instance where a DVD's extras are truly an extra. Two guided tours of the space station - clocking in at a combined 34 minutes and provided by Dr. Ed Lu of Expedition 7 and STS-108 - provide as much, if not more, information about the ISS as the main feature.

The shuttle tour is even more thrilling. Endeavour is shown during liftoff, but what makes this launch different from others on film is an inset that shows the astronauts on the flight deck through ascent until the separation of the solid rocket boosters.

Adventures In Space is something of a "making of" documentary, although it combines a few astronaut "golly, gee-whiz" type stories of being in space along with tales of how they actually worked with the bulky IMAX camera.

The feature commentary by director Toni Myers - who has served as writer, editor and producer on several other IMAX projects - and astronaut Marsha Ivins provides entertaining insight.

Who knew that Myers once received a call on her cell phone from Expedition Two flight engineer Jim Voss? It's cool enough that an astronaut called her, but Voss called from the ISS to consult on a shot he wanted to do for the film. Now that's cool...

Go/No Go: Space Station on DVD loses points for not maintaining the 3D format of its theatrical release, but regains many of them with a quality feature and extras.

Order now: Amazon

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About the reviewer:
Rick Houston is an avid collector of DVDs (he has more than 600). Houston is also a space history enthusiast, so he is sure to not miss a documentary or docudrama.

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