We live in an age of rampant hyperbole, where words like awesome have been completely disconnected from their original meanings. Awesome means to inspire awe, and awe isn’t just feeling impressed – it’s being overwhelmed with the power and majesty of something. That burger you had wasn’t awesome. The IMAX 3D view inside of a nebula where entire star systems is being hatched: that’s awesome.

Hubble 3D is awesome in the most true sense of the word. Filled with humbling, amazing images and cosmic insights, it’s a movie that will move you and fill you with wonder. At a time when it seems our national interest in space exploration is at an all-time low the film reminds us not only of the bravery and the skill of our astronauts but also of the literally astonishing discoveries about the very nature of reality that we have been able to make thanks to the space program.

The short film – clocking in at just under an hour – documents shuttle astronauts as they replace parts on the ailing Hubble Space Telescope, the most powerful telescope ever deployed. How powerful? Its vision is reaching so far into the universe that it is showing us images from epochs just adjacent to the beginning of time itself. It’s science fiction made fact, allowing us stunning insight into the galaxy in which we live, and the millions of other galaxies which make up our universe. It gives us answers about the beginnings of suns and about the formations of solar systems, it lets us peer into the edges of existence to the very fingerprints of creation upon masses of inchoate energy.

Most of the movie is made up of incredible IMAX footage of the astronauts at work; the majestic expanse of the Earth fills the giant screen behind them as they undertake tedious, dangerous and exhausting tasks to ensure that Hubble keeps seeing the unbelievable. Hubble 3D isn’t really interested in the strife and turmoil of a shuttle mission, and it shouldn’t be – the fact that these men and women do what they, and that what they do is incredible is something our society has lost sight of in the last few decades. While astronauts were once national heroes you’d probably today be hard-pressed to name a handful of our current space walkers. 

If you want to know about the nuts and bolts of a space mission, there are other resources. If you want to feel the seismic rumble of a shuttle launch, or to experience the perspective-changing view of our world from space in as real a scope as possible, you must see Hubble 3D. I’m not necessarily a fan of 3D or IMAX when it comes to narrative films; far too few movies use the scope and immersion in any way beyond gimmickry. I have, however, always been a strong booster of its use in nature documentaries, and I’ve never seen it used better than here, where it allows you to feel as though you are there in a star nursery, buffeted by massive solar winds and experiencing the most amazing sights on an epic level.

The IMAX allow Hubble 3D to shift from the immense beauty of our Earth from space to the brain-boiling massiveness of the entire known universe, a change in point of view that will dizzy and excite you. Using real images from the Hubble Space Telescope, the film brings us to the farthest reaches of reality and then pulls back to show us the web of galaxies that form the superstructure of the known universe. Walking out of the theater everything felt so suddenly small; on the one hand my life and my problems and my inevitable death became suddenly tiny, understandable things, but on the other that kind of bummed me out because I’m so used to feeling like the center of the universe, and to be faced with its impassive hugeness is a wake up call (I’m no Zaphod Beeblebrox. Faced with almost the exact same image in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books he took it to mean that he was important enough to be specifically mentioned in all that vastness).

The easy recommendation is to tell you to head to the nearest museum showing Hubble 3D and get stoned in advance, but I think you’d be wasting an opportunity. This film will make you feel like you are tripping balls without the addition of so much as a drop of acid. The film is monumental in its scope, inspiring in its dedication to science, and exciting in its celebration of our astronauts. Hubble 3D is a movie that is going to launch many a space-based career, and that serves as a wonderful answer to the question ‘Why do we need a space program?’

10 out of 10