The Universe gets its own biopic with Voyage of Time

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      A documentary by Terrence Malick. Rated G

      Terrence Malick finds a heady new hybrid of science, art, and high-tech FX in Voyage of Time, a film that tries to conjure the wonder of the universe—and mostly succeeds.

      In fact, many of the scenes of cosmic creation, Earth’s primordial soup, and creature-laden prehistoric seas are awe-inducing. The magic of the film is that it so seamlessly weaves together real shots of blurping geysers and barren canyons with digitally generated star- and landscapes.

      As brilliantly entertaining UBC astrophysicist Jaymie Matthews commented before the opening screening at Science World, experts have now put together pretty much all the pieces of our 14-billion-year-old origin story. But it’s amazing how few of us really understand it or celebrate it. “Look. Listen,” Brad Pitt says in the film’s mercifully sparse narration, as a child in a suburban park looks up toward the heavens. And that’s what Malick is coaxing us to do too.

      It’s the same territory he explored in that strangely transcendent 20-minute sequence in The Tree of Life, when the trials of a forming galaxy set up those of humans on Earth.

      Whether you enjoy this poetic “voyage” deeper into that philosophical realm will have a lot to do with whether you rolled your eyes during that previous film. Here, though, he’s also trying to evoke a childlike amazement at where we come from; in fact, the entire film is addressed to a child. Pitt asks why, out of nothing, came something? And Malick proceeds to answer, with largely unmoderated sequences of suns exploding, galaxies swirling, and microbial life forming. At other moments, you stare down the cold eye of a gigantic squid or the glowing mouth of a volcano. All of this visual spectacle—and yet we’re reminded we can only see a tiny fraction of what surrounds us.

      It’s clear in Voyage of Time, as it’s been in his recent films, that Malick ties that perfection to a great Creator; everything here is pierced by divine light, with resounding choirs providing the soundtrack. But you don’t have to be a believer to marvel at the miracle that unfolds before your eyes. If you can free yourself to ride the millennia with Malick, it’s a strange voyage, but one ultimately worth taking.