Voyage of Time (2016)

The philosophising of Malick meets the ephemeral beauty of nature in this imperfect shortened IMAX version that shows how the Universe first started, and subsequently life on Earth.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,337

Dir. Terrence Malick
2016 | USA | Documentary | 46 mins | 2.35:1 | English
Not rated – likely to be PG

Plot: This journey of discovery is an immersive one-of-a-kind celebration of existence and the grand history of the cosmos, transporting audiences into a vast odyssey that spans the eons from the Big Bang to the dinosaur age to our present human world, and beyond.
Awards: Official Selection (Toronto)
Distributor: IMAX

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Life on Earth; The Universe
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Billions of years are compressed into 46 minutes in this shortened version for IMAX, narrated by Brad Pitt.  Perhaps due to its length, a lot of the slow-burning philosophising somewhat gets lost in translation. 

The thing about Terrence Malick is that his style requires durée to accumulate thematic heft, so while I appreciate how concise this is, I think I might have preferred to see the Cate Blanchett-narrated longer cut if given the choice. 

I’m sure any version would have looked stunning on the big screen though.  Here, we have Malick attempting a ‘Side B’ to his The Tree of Life (2011), as if there had still been many hours of formidable visual material too wasteful to discard. 

“Why was there something rather than nothing?”

Voyage of Time charts how the Universe first started through a series of awe-inspiring space imagery (some real; others created by visual effects), and subsequently, life on Earth, from tiny microorganisms to dinosaurs to the early humans. 

Pitt doesn’t have much to narrate, such is Malick’s sparse, sometimes monosyllabic text—depending on how you look at it, it is either reductive or all-encompassing. 

Being already very familiar with Malick’s style, I didn’t find Voyage of Time to be particularly noteworthy, nor is it very insightful as a cinematic contribution to ideas related to the science of evolution. It’s also too slow and obtuse for younger audiences, assuming it is intended to also be educational on some level. 

Still, there’s a sense of grandiosity in the spectacle of images, both the unseen and the seen, or the constructed and the real, that very much tells us that life is as much a mystery as it is a miraculous gift.

Grade: B



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