A review by Nalini Haynes
Hidden Universe is an astronomical IMAX documentary made locally by Swinburne University with input from NASA and other scientific institutions.
Aimed mostly at school children without talking down to them, Hidden Universe builds a basic awareness of our solar system, scientific pursuits like studying galaxies far, far away and the telescopes used in these studies. Images include three dimensional colour models of well-known astronomical images such as the Crab Nebula and the Snow Angel Nebula as well as the telescopes used for viewing them, the VLT and the Alma telescope under construction.
Apparently 47% of Americans don’t realise the sun is a star. This documentary aims to raise awareness of this fact and other astronomical advances since Galileo’s era.
The language used is simple but not condescending, helping the layperson engaging with this material for the first time.
It’s difficult to comment on the visuals of Hidden Universe: my other set of eyes was interstate. My 3D glasses also had greasy finger prints on them, probably from when the usher fumbled and nearly dropped them. By the time I realised, I couldn’t be bothered fetching replacements. If I’d realised how much the prints were going to annoy me I wouldn’t have been so lazy.
The production value wasn’t as high as documentaries like Titans of the Ice Age but Hidden Universe was its creators’ debut outing. This pre-screening was also the first time the creators had seen their own product on the IMAX screen. There was one scene where the Earth had a double image – I’m sure it wasn’t just me – and other times where the photography could have had a better tonal range. However, for the average non-reviewer person, Hidden Universe is an impressive documentary.
After chatting to the guy in the next seat who came as his wife’s guest – she performed in the orchestral sound-track – I tried to focus on the soundtrack in order to (hopefully) make nice noises about the music. There were a few times I noticed enjoying the soundtrack supporting the images but I’m one of those people who doesn’t usually notice a good soundtrack. I’ll notice an absent or poor one instead so my poor musical commentary is usually a good sign.
At 45 minutes this documentary is a brief introduction encouraging further exploration. The audience for this media pre-screening included a significant number of children who asked the most questions in the post-screening wrap-up. These kids, as young as 6 years old, genuinely engaged with the topic. They kept asking questions until the creators and officiators closed question time. If given the opportunity, the kids would have kept them going for a while longer. This is a GOOD sign.
Hidden Universe achieves its goal of educating laypeople and interesting children in science, specifically astronomy. This is a good educational documentary recommended for those bringing up their children in the way that they should go: SCI FI GEEKS, MAKE SURE YOUR PADAWANS SEE THIS MOVIE.
4 out of 5 stars.