During the Big Bang sequence in Voyage of Time, the burst of a supernova looks like the dilation of a human eye. This isn’t a coincidence. Writer-director Terrence Malick has spent his entire career bridging the gap between physical and human nature, showing us how we are one with the universe. In 2011’s The Tree of Life, he blends a slice of family life with a look at the birth of the Earth. Voyage of Time is a continuation of the latter — a mesmerizing exploration of the magical place we all call home.
The film opens with a message addressed to children, telling them they are part of the grand story that’s about to sweep them off their feet. And then it launches into the beginning of life itself. We see computer-generated imagery of the universe followed by footage on Earth that’s just as majestic and otherworldly. Using real locations, Malick recreates the time when our planet was a hot rock, bringing the camera dangerously close to the steaming surface of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. It’s a stunning spectacle — one that’s as mysterious and awe-inspiring as any alien world you’ll see at the movies.
Voyage of Time is pure visual poetry. But it’s also beautifully written and narrated. Brad Pitt brings a sense of gravitas to Malick’s words, which observe the universe with childlike wonder. “When did dust become life? Where did this gift come from?” he asks. It’s tender and heartfelt — a voice that expresses profound gratitude for our planet and beyond. It’s a voice we need to hear right now.
In the midst of what seems like never-ending hate and violence, it’s easy to grow bitter and cynical about this world. For 45 breathtaking minutes, this film reminds you of the beauty flickering in the darkness, the flowers ready to bloom beneath the rotting soil of society. During difficult times, it’s important to remember the gifts among us. Voyage of Time depicts our world as an incredible, inexhaustible gift.
Malick is a hit-or-miss filmmaker. His films are either gorgeous and thoughtful or obnoxiously pretentious. With Voyage of Time, he achieves a kind of purity and elegant simplicity missing from some of his other films. Rather than blathering on about the mysteries of the universe like a pompous college philosophy professor, he presents the wonders on screen like a wide-eyed child struck with awe.
Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience is now playing at the IMAX Theater in the Indiana State Museum. This is an alternate version of Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, a 90-minute cut of the film narrated by Cate Blanchett. It’s brief yet unforgettable. So, turn off the infuriating political commentary on your TV for a while, grab the kids and let the magic of life wash over you. This is the kind of film that will remind you why we go to the movies.