USA TODAY US Edition
IMAX film shows awesome Earth via Space Station
‘A Beautiful Planet’ provides astronaut’s view of beauty and frailty.
In 2009, director Toni Myers was talking future IMAX projects with narrator Leonardo DiCaprio while putting the final touches on their film Hubble 3D. DiCaprio told her he had loved the groundbreaking look at Earth in the 1990 IMAX film Blue Planet. That got the wheels turning. “I told (DiCaprio) that I wanted to do another film looking at Earth. So much had transpired in the 20 years since Blue Planet,” Myers says. “It was time for another look at our home from space.”
This awe-inspiring second look at Earth, A Beautiful Planet, will come to IMAX screens nationwide April 29, narrated by Jennifer Lawrence. The trailer premieres Wednesday at USATODAY.com.
Myers, who directed, wrote and edited Beautiful Planet, and photography director James Neihouse worked in conjunction with NASA to train the crew of the International Space Station to capture the stunning footage of Earth. Part of the new look of Beauti
ful Planet comes with the advent of digital cameras. IMAX film in the past had been too slow to capture Planet visions of lightning storms, coral reefs by moonlight or the blazing lights of ever-growing cities filling up continents.
“That’s what digital capture gives you,” Myers says. “The lights at night give a sense of how populated the world is. It’s quite magical. You see things like aurora borealis and moonrises. I am thrilled with the broadening of the palette we got with digital.”
The ISS astronauts also capture the visible challenges Earth faces, from deforestation in Madagascar and the Amazon to fracking fires in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The film might serve as an inspiration to young people to think of ways to solve the Earth problems we are facing — from new energy sources to sustainability ideas,” Myers says.
From an astronaut’s perspective, seeing Earth on massive IMAX screens is the closest thing to being in space. NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren shot footage during his five-month ISS stint, which ended in December. Seeing cities and entire countries from that vantage is “indescribably beautiful,” Lindgren says. He captured his highlight when cruising over a highly active aurora borealis.
“With all of that experience, flying over the aurora borealis was only one time I got goosebumps up there. Not on the horizon — you fly over the top of it,” Lindgren says.
“That’s where the training kicks in. To be able to capture that for audiences is really a triumph.”
Lindgren is eager see the IMAX film that could bring him back to the ISS windows, where Earth occupies astronauts’ full range of view.
“I can’t wait to see the movie, not only to see how all the things all of us worked on came together,” Lindgren says. “But I want to see if it transports me to that time on the space station. I’m looking forward to seeing that.”