Warner Bros. // 1985 // 35 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // June 15th, 2001
IMAX in space.
IMAX fans will be happy to get their hands on The Dream Is Alive, an excellent real life space adventure caught on the largest film format. With beautiful footage from orbit, seeing astronauts at work and play, with Walter Cronkite narrating the program, there is plenty to like on this DVD. I've seen several of these discs, but this one is the best I've seen.
The show begins with a breathtaking look at the Shuttle landing, both from the pilot's view and from the end of the runway. Great stuff. After some scenes of preparing for the next launch, we see the lift-off as well, sticking with the shuttle well past the separation of the solid rocket boosters. From here we are inside the shuttle looking out at the earth with some breathtaking shots, along with the scenes of the astronauts going about their mission. This time the mission includes the retrieval and in-orbit repair of a communications satellite, and the historic first space-walk of a woman. For all those loving scenes of people working in weightless conditions, there is plenty to see and enjoy. I particularly liked the scenes of the astronauts sleeping in bags hanging from the walls and ceiling.
Some of the best footage of the Earth from space I've ever seen (and this isn't the only DVD of such scenes I've reviewed) is also included, with eloquent narration from Walter Cronkite letting us know just what we are seeing.
That's only the beginning; we are also treated to the rigorous training given to prospective astronauts, along with the mission preparations.
If anything, I'm somewhat jaded when it comes to programs like this, as I've watched several documentaries and plenty of DVD presentations of the Earth from space. Few of those have come close to the beauty, grandeur, and pure professionalism shown on this disc, and none have surpassed it. Not only is the program interesting and well done throughout, but is of such beauty that any sense of "been there, done that" gave way to the sense of awe that should accompany seeing things so few get the chance to witness.
Though I have few complaints with the technical presentation, the transfer does have several flaws, though no show-stoppers. There are occasional problems with stability in the contrast, and black levels vary from very good to only adequate. The full frame transfer still sports great colors and more-than-adequate level of sharpness. I'd say that it is very watchable, and most of the small flaws won't even be noticed unless you are looking for them. This is a 15 year old program and has held up very nicely.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is very nice, though not quite everything I could have hoped for. Bass response varies, from a wonderful sonic boom to less than Apollo 13 like shaking from the lift off. Walter Cronkite's narration is perfectly clear and understood from the center channel, and the directional qualities of the track are excellent, with plenty of use from the rear channels and pans from front to rear and side to side. The musical score comes through loud and clear from all channels.
Unfortunately the only bonus feature is a one minute trailer for other IMAX movies. For a 35-minute feature, we could have used quite a bit more. My only other complaint is that there are no chapter stops within the feature; there is one 35-minute chapter, which doesn't allow you to quickly see the launches or other scenes easily.
I heartily recommend The Dream is Alive to space junkies like myself and even casual viewers might want to give it a rental. Though the program is short, Walter Cronkite raises the respectability several notches, and since it is available online for under $15 is worth the price.
Everyone involved is acquitted.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 35 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Not Rated