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Space Station / Mission to Mir(1997-2002)
Mission to Mir
For more about Space Station / Mission to Mir and the Space Station / Mission to Mir Blu-ray release, see Space Station / Mission to Mir Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on April 21, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Space Station / Mission to Mir Blu-ray Review
Join Tom Cruise on a journey into space.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, April 21, 2010
Every young boy dreams of the elusive journey into space, and imagines the many adventures waiting to be had within the twinkle of the night sky. To our juvenile minds the concept of space was created by the Starship Enterprise or the Death Star, so you can imagine our disappointment when we're eventually introduced to the world of NASA and odd-looking satellites that seem closer to a spiderweb of scrap metal than the star cruisers of science fiction films. I suppose it's simply part of becoming an adult to experience the awakening realization that space exploration's barely grown beyond its infancy in the past fifty years, and remains a cost prohibitive venture for most nations. With this in mind, I find it refreshing to witness the strides we've been able to take in documentary IMAX productions such as Space Station and Mission to Mir, which provide an unprecedented glimpse into an international space program we seldom hear about.
Released in 2002 as an IMAX 3D presentation, Space Station chronicles the initial phase of construction on the International Space Station (ISS), which began in 1998. During the course of the 47-minute feature, we're introduced to the various multinational crews in charge of transporting equipment and supplies to the space station, and shown the vast network of international cooperation required to advance human studies in space. The film is narrated by Tom Cruise, and contains extensive footage of life on the ISS (filmed by the astronauts themselves).
Mission to Mir:
Included as a secondary feature on this Blu-ray release, this 1997 IMAX production offers a 40-minute history of the Russian Space Station Mir (built between 1986 and 1996). Unlike the other film on the disc, this documentary offers a more humanistic approach to the storytelling, by providing extensive history on the uncomfortable dynamic of space travel during the Cold War, and the significance of Russian/American cooperation in the years that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Within this framework we're introduced to crewmembers working on Mir, with special attention paid to United States astronaut Shannon Lucid. Narrated by Toni Meyers (who later directed Space Shuttle 3D, the other feature on the disc), Mission to Mir consists of archival footage and segments captured by crewmembers aboard the Russian Space Station.
IMAX film technology delivered a revolutionary new way to enhance the entertainment value of educational programming. Blown up to the size of multi-story screens that surround viewers with awe-inspiring photography, it replaced the boring nature of scientific productions introduced in the classrooms of our youth. Over the years, I've witnessed countless IMAX features that range from captivating to dreadfully boring. I'm a firm believer in the idea that educational programming should take viewers on an expedition of discovery that delivers something we can't see in our every-day lives. In that regard, it's fitting that an organization developed the idea to take Earth-dwelling humans on a journey to a remote location beyond the confines of our planet's atmosphere, and offer a glimpse of the dream so many have dedicated their lives to.
Between the two feature-length films included on the disc, I've chosen Space Station as my favorite. It offers a greater focus on recent technological advancements, contains some nifty computer graphics (by 2002 standards), and doesn't suffer from the outdated feel of its predecessor. Mission to Mir is still plenty entertaining in its own right, but after viewing the space photography throughout Space Station and witnessing the assembly of massive electronic structures delivered by various space shuttles, I found Mission to Mir slightly mundane in its approach to similar subject matter. Part of the problem lies in the fact that the Russian Space Station was already fully constructed by the time the 1997 film was completed, so I'd imagine they didn't have access to high quality sequences showing the gradual assembly of the earlier model. The film's production staff make up for it in other ways (by offering history on international collaborations in space), but most of the footage consists of aging clips from a prior technological era.
The fascinating aspect of both films that held my attention from start to finish is the simplistic photography of everyday life on the space station. From moving large containers that weigh more than a ton (yet remain weightless in space) to squeezing out water droplets in a cat and mouse drinking game, the whole idea of zero-gravity fascinates me. Along the same line, it's interesting to witness the number of inventions the crew must incorporate into their daily lives due to the loss of gravity. For example, simple tasks such as cutting your hair or shaving facial hair require the use of a vacuum-like attachment. These are the types of things we rarely think about when considering zero-gravity living, yet they seem so obvious when you realize the necessary adjustments required in space.
Space Station / Mission to Mir Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the VC-1 codec (at an average bitrate of 25Mbps), Space Station is absolutely stunning in high definition. As with most IMAX presentations, the level of detail and depth within the image is highly proficient, placing viewers directly in the heart of the action. During the course of my viewing session I took notice of such details as the intricate strands of electrical wiring coursing through the interior of the station, small lettering on the labels of high tech equipment, and the myriad of buttons and dials that litter nearly every wall of the space vessel. Aside from the heightened detail, the coloring of the film remains natural throughout the duration, black levels are solid, and contrast never demonstrates an ounce of weakness. In fact, the only real drawback I could find in the image quality of this 2002 production was the presence of some minor dust blobs that spot the picture from time to time.
Mission to Mir is also presented in 1080p with a similar bitrate, but the age of the source elements is beginning to show. Fine object detail takes a noticeable hit, print damage is more visible, and I spotted a strange effect on occasion that looks as if two identical images were superimposed upon one another with a hint of offset. Mild aliasing also rears its head in several shots, and the overall color palette of the 1997 production seems a bit lifeless in comparison to Space Station.
Despite the inherent weaknesses in the visual presentation on Mission to Mir, the inclusion of Space Station as the primary feature offers sufficient eye candy to make this a worthwhile high definition upgrade. If given the choice to judge the two films separately, I'd give Space Station a 4.5/5 and Mission to Mir a 3/5.
Space Station / Mission to Mir Blu-ray, Audio Quality
During the Blu-ray format's infancy, Warner was one of the studios that underwent a gradual transition to the inclusion of lossless audio on their releases. Unfortunately, this disc was produced during that stretch, so the only choice we're given is a lossy 5.1 option. Usually this would stand as a significant bone of contention for anyone who believes audio is half of the overall movie-going experience, so I was notably surprised by the proficiency of the offering on this disc. The key factor in this assessment is found in the trademark IMAX surround separation, which delivers distinct environmental effects to individual speakers. One of the greatest moments during the double feature is a scene where the camera is strapped to the interior of the cockpit during a take-off sequence, allowing viewers a taste of the sounds surrounding the astronauts. I'm sure the crewmembers don't hear much with their helmets on, but sitting in the middle of my home theater during that sequence provided a minor shot of adrenaline at the thought of experiencing such a dangerous endeavor. Beyond the use of surrounds, there's a naturalistic balance struck between the narration, in-program dialog, musical score, and environmental effects. We're never given the impression that one element is afforded too much weight, leaving our attention firmly planted in the heart of the action. I always find it interesting to study a lossy audio track that sounds quite good to my ears, because it begs the question "How much better could this have been with lossless compression?" When given the opportunity for comparison, the results are typically quite dramatic, with the lossless mix providing increased richness and clarity. However, the lack of comparison luxury on this release left me with an overall assessment that this is a fine presentation on its own, but could have benefitted in subtle ways from a lossless mix.
Space Station / Mission to Mir Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are no supplements included on the disc.
Space Station / Mission to Mir Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Space Station/Mission to Mir offers an unprecedented glimpse at the accomplishments of the international space program as we approached and entered the 21st century. Out of every IMAX production I've viewed over the years, Space Station ranks near the top, with a wonderful balance of education and entertainment. I truly hope the ongoing assembly of the ISS is chronicled in a future IMAX film (now that almost a decade has passed), but at least I have a better idea of the direction our space program is moving. Highly Recommended.
Space Station / Mission to Mir Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Warner Brings Two IMAX Features to Blu-ray - June 25, 2008
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the two IMAX features 'Cosmic Voyage / Destiny in Space' and 'Space Station / Mission to Mir' for Blu-ray on October 14th. Both releases will come on BD-25s featuring 1.66:1 1080p video and a Dolby Digital soundtrack. ...
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