DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of The Planets-Epoch 2000, Moon, Avatar, Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon , In the Shadow of the Moon, Roving Mars , Following the Water, Exploring Space , Voyage to the Mystery Moon, The Privileged Planet, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, 3D Sun, Black Holes


Title:  The Planets—Epoch 2000

Release Date:  2000

Nationality and Language: UK, English

Running time: 45 minutes

MPAA Rating:  G

Distributor and Production Company:   AIX/BMG Don Barrett

Director; Writer: Don Barrett

Producer:  Robert H Goodman

Cast:   Patrick Stewart, narrator

Technical: DVD

Relevance to doaskdotell site:

Review:  I have always looked for films that would show landscapes or dioramas of the various solar system planets, actual footage when possible, or computer simulations.


This film has stunning photos of Mars and interesting flickering shots of what Venus might look like. Venus may have undergone a sudden greenhouse conversion about 500 million years ago, and may exfoliate its surface in magma every few million years. There are simulated landscapes of Io, Ganymede and Titan, but there might have been more. There could have been an attempt to show what it would “look like” to descend into the atmosphere of Jupiter and be crushed as you approached a liquid hydrogen ocean.


There have been other videos that accomplish this, such as in the planetarium of the Air and Space Museum in Washington, a Discover Channel video, or (best) a special show at the space museum in Toulouse, France. Perhaps a producer could purchase all of this film and assemble a feature for theatrical release.


The music is based on Gustav Holst’s hackneyed  program music, ThePlanets, converted to synthesizer by Isao Tomita, with a movement for Pluto by Spitz-Tari.


 Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon (2005, Imax/Sony Classics/Playtone, dir. Mark Cowen, narrated and co-produced by Tom Hanks, 40 min, G). Want to visit the Moon without paying $30 million or so for a private vacation some day? You can invest $10 at an Imax theater and experience the Moon in Imax 3-D, walking with the astronauts, and see a very gray and black-and-white world. Of course, the full screen shots are simulated with advanced editing and programming, but small screen snippets of the real moon walks from 1969 to 1972 are shown, and then tend to look like amateur video. July 20, 1969 marked a turning point in history, of course, that technology could do anything. (It occurred just three weeks after Stonewall.) But there were no more manned missions to the Moon after 1972, and since then technology has turned personal (the Internet). I saw this at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington in an ampitheater filled with middle school kids on a field trip. The Museum also offers as part of the package (in the Einstein Planetarium) Infinity Express, a 20-Minute Tour of the Universe, and the best part of this is the closeup photos of Mars (the Marineres Canyons and the Olympus Mons), as well as Io and Europa. (Where was Titan?)  


Moon (2009, Sony Pictures Classics, Liberty Films/Xingu, dir. Duncan Jones, 97 min, R) deals with lunar workers cloned to believe they have lived lives on earth. Blogger.


Avatar (2009, 20th Century Fox, dir. James Cameron, 165 min, PG-13).  A 3-D journey to M-star planet Pandora. Blogger.


In the Shadow of the Moon (2007, ThinkFilm / Film 4 / Passion, dir. David Sington, prod. Rom Howard, 100 min, PG) is a history of the manned lunar landing program told by the only living astronauts to walk on the Moon. The centerpiece of the film is a depiction of the 1969 landing of Apollo 11, with much live unedited video from the original mission, including the flyovers as well as the walk. (Aldrin was by himself in one revolution around the Moon.) The Moon seems to be in black and white. The live video is shown 4:3, which looks small compared to the Imax films; the interviews with the astronauts today (in their 70s) are shown in regular aspect. There is passing mention of Apollo 13.


Roving Mars (2006, Walt Disney/Imax, dir. George Butler, 40 min, G) gives us the same opportunity, although without 3-D, to explore the ferrous-red desert of Mars with its pink, surprisingly hazy though sunny skies. We see the planet in the last ten minutes, and I don’t know how much of it is animated recreation. But the most sensational images are in the middle, as the rocket breaks into its stages and sheds its various components one at a time as another piece fires, and then the same happens in reverse as it lands on Mars, with finally a collection of bubbles (like packing peanuts) that cover the rover, which drives out. Much of the film shows the engineering crew working on the rover. The star is, of course, Steve Squyres.  There are two opposite-side landings, one in a lava field, and one in a field of sedimentary beads proving the past existence of water. An Imax movie about Titan (the large moon of Saturn with a thick atmosphere and hydrocarbon rain and snow) about the Cassini-Huygens probe would now be in order.


Following the Water (2006, NASA/JPL, 45 min), cable film about water on Mars. Blogger link here.


Exploring Space: The Quest for Life (2005, PBS) provides an optimistic view of finding life in space. Indeed there is compelling evidence (from left-handed amino acids) that the building blocks came from space. There are fascinating simulations of the surface of Europa, with the cracks venting water that freezes out, and a possible ocean below with creatures. Much of the film talks about terraforming Mars. There are graphic discussions of bed rest experiments for the simulation of low gravity. Descendants who live on Mars would evolve into a separate species.


Nova: Voyage to the Mystery Moon (2006, PBS) is a spectacular one-hour documentary of the Cassini-Huygens mission that landed the Huygens probe on Titan, the large moon of Saturn, in January 2005. Titan, Earth, Venus, and Mars (and possibly Triton, a moon of Neptune) are the only solid planets and moons in the solar system with atmospheres. The mission made two sling shots past Venus to gain speed, and another pass of Jupiter, and made a successful transit of an open space in Saturn’s rings. The last fifteen minutes of the film show the Titan surface photos, and simulations of what was seen from Cassini itself. They are spectacular. Most interesting are the cryovolcanoes, where the lava consists of a molasses-like solution of ammonia and water that is still fluid down to -100 celsius. One has a truly bizarre surface of valleys and deserts, and rivers and methane lakes, and volcanoes with this unusual water. Underneath the surface it could be warm enough for life to have evolved. This film ought to be shown in Imax for the last fifteen minutes: maybe PBS could get together with Sony Pictures and make a commercial Imax film. Visitors to this site may know of my screenplay “69 Minutes to Titan” that supposes an angelic “civilization” on Titan interacting with Earth civilizations in a way to provide very provocative situations. Whatever my own motives, however, at least an Imax of this documentary should be made now.


The Privileged Planet (2004, Illustra Media, dir. Ladd Allen, Wayne P. Allen, 60 min, narr. John Rhys-Davies) presents the case for intelligent design without mentioning the concept. The documentary starts out with the discussion of the “Copernican Principle” or “Principle of Mediocrity” and proceeds to enumerate the incredibly long list of incredibly unlikely factors that have to be just right for intelligent, complex life to develop. There is a habitable zone not only in the Solar System, but also within the Galaxy and even relative to spiral arms of the galaxy. Many other factors are mentioned, such as having a large Moon. Furthermore, the Earth is in an ideal physical location for observing the rest of the universe. The mathematics of “improbability” balances the hundred of billions of galaxies (the so-called Anthropic Principle). Includes the time-lapse short “Journey to the Edge of the Universe.” 


Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008, Rocky Mountain / Premise Media, 90 min, dir. Nathan Franowski, PG, 90 min, narr. Ben Stein) is a whimsical examination of the ostracism by mainstream academia of those who present intelligent design as an acceptable idea. Blogger.


3D Sun (2008, Mongae, 20 min) is a 3D Imax film examining solar storms.

Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity is a planetarium film that examines black holes at galactic centers. Blogger for both of these.

Related reviews:   Apollo 13


Return to movies reviews

Return to doaskdotell movies, books, plays strike page

Return to home page


Email me at