Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience
Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience is a visually-stunning documentary, with plenty of trademark Terrence Malick philosophy and meditation. Fans will adore it, while newcomers will most-likely remain puzzled by its sheer beauty and attempted explanation of the entire universe in a condensed 45 minutes.
Terrence Malick‘s latest documentary film Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience is basically a highlight reel of deleted scenes from one of his previous films, The Tree of Life. Where The Tree of Life boldly blended the story of one family’s uprooting and relationship turmoil against the vastness of the cosmos, Voyage of Time simply indulges in the cosmos and tries to connect them to our way of living and the connection that we share with each and everything in the infinite universe.
It’s a meditative experience that works on a visual level, with narrator Brad Pitt‘s voice soothing each and every beautiful transition. But is there much else to be found in Voyage of Time or is simply just another gorgeously-shot IMAX doc?
My answer is a bit of a split down the middle, with Malick’s exceptional visual talent proving to be the perfect fit for a larger-than-life IMAX presentation, but as a film Voyage of Time feels like it’s missing something.
That something, in my opinion, is a story.
Sure, the film follows Pitt’s narration and Malick’s visuals as we witness the birth of the universe and eventually the forming of planet Earth. From then, life grows and grows until humans finally consume the planet. Heck, Malick even offers a brief glimpse at the doom and gloom future of the universe, which leaves the film lingering in a sort of weird spot.
But none of it connects as an actual story and instead feels like a collection of images, with a minor attempt at trying to piece it all together.
The film opens with a message that very forwardly explains Malick’s intentions, which are to reveal the connection of each thing in the universe and to focus on love that drives all things together.
Malick is known for using voice-overs in his traditional films and he’s also accused of drifting in and out of his stories and their linear structures to make room for his artistic and often-times meditating eye.
I’d describe his films more as experiences that can’t just be watched, but instead lived and shaped with. There’s not a simplistic end goal for a film like The Tree of Life — each and every person will take away their own interpretation of the film and their own feelings.
Some might enjoy Malick’s almost numbing link to the beauty of nature and the free-flowing way he constructs his stories, while others will heckle him for lacking focus or not giving audience-members one concise view of the film.
I reside in the camp that appreciates his films, especially when he balances the themes and visuals and manages to tell unique stories from all sorts of angles. I didn’t care for To the Wonder, but I found The Tree of Life to be fascinating and the perfect representation of his filmmaking style, which truly is a lost art form in the world of modern cinema.
Voyage of Time tries hard to re-capture that magic from The Tree of Life and it occasionally works, but its condensed running time and beyond large focus makes it extremely hard to latch onto anything.
The film looks absolutely beautiful and really does paint a unique picture of the vast universe in a way unlike any other film. Malick’s attention to detail and ability to capture such small moments bursting with life is admirable and appreciated.
But he does so with an offhand that doesn’t really balance out the film’s short presentation. There’s a lot of scenes that focus on the forming of the universe and not a whole lot on its demise. Likewise, there’s enough flashbacks to an innocent little girl wondering in a field, yet not enough focus on the human way of life, aside from a group of men living amongst the rocks.
Terrence Malick‘s visuals almost always go hand-in-hand with love, nature and the beauty of it all. His films are spiritual explorations, not of religion or God, but of life and all of its grand splendor. Unfortunately, Voyage of Time is one of those experiences that doesn’t quite work as well as it should, despite the visuals proving to be more than worthy of a trip to the local large-format IMAX screen.
Watch Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience to escape your everyday life and transport yourself into the never-ending reaches of space and time. It’s a pretty film that is going to absolutely blow your mind away on a visual level — I personally can’t wait to re-watch it at home on my 4K setup.
But Voyage of Time does not feel like a complete documentary with a strong enough focus. It feels like a documentary that dabbles into storytelling on the most loose of terms. It’s an experience without a doubt, but not a fully-formed film that I can recommend completely.
*Side note, but there is an extended version of this film (1 hour and 30 minutes) that is narrated by Cate Blanchett titled Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey. Expect a comparison review of that once it opens.*