The late astronomer, Carl Sagan, developed the Cosmic Calendar as a way to explain the history of the universe to laymen. According to Sagan, if the entire history of the universe (from The Big Bang to present day) were represented in one calendar year, highlights would break down as follows:
January 1, The Big Bang occurs
September 14, Earth is formed
December 24, First dinosaurs appear
December 31, 11:54 p.m., Modern humans appear
December 31, 11:59:45 p.m., Writing is invented
December 31, 11:59:59 p.m., America is discovered
With his Cosmic Calendar, Sagan posited that, in the grand scheme of things, intelligent, human life is just a mere blip in the history of the universe. If 1492 to 2017 is represent by fractions of a second on the Cosmic Calendar, imagine all that came before.
It is that notion of perspective – of curiosity and consideration – that Terrence Malick explores in Voyage of Time, his beautiful, G-rated ode to the birth of our universe. It explains why near the end of the 40-minute film, a sequence of the dinosaurs being wiped out is quickly followed by gorgeous night shots of the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai. Because, in the context of it all all, the death of one species and Man’s tallest work are not at all far apart.
The cheapest way to explain Voyage of Time is to say it is like the universe creation sequence in The Tree of Life, only longer and more in depth. Voyage of Time borrows no shots from that Tree of Life sequence; it rests entirely and gloriously on its own. The Tree of Life passage was a mere sampling of Malick’s insight, and, it appears that the version of Voyage of Time I saw is one step up from that.
Thus far, Malick has four versions of Voyage of Time in rotation: a 40-minute version narrated by Brad Pitt, a 90-minute version narrated by Cate Blanchett, and both of those versions presented without narration. The cut I saw, labeled Voyage of Time: IMAX Director’s Cut, was 40 minutes long and contained no narration. I appreciated seeing it this way, letting the stunning images of creation wash over me, asking me to connect with them as I saw fit. In the Q&A with Malick (read it in full here!) after the screening, he said his preferred version is the wordless, 90-minute one. We should all be so lucky to see it on a massive IMAX screen.
There isn’t much left in Voyage of Time after the Dubai shots, which ultimately forces us to think, Where do we go from here? There is a long, unsourced passage of text that opens the film; a poetic introduction for what we’re about to see. I can’t recall all of the words, but it ends with a question, one I believe Malick is asking us directly: Do you wonder, too? And to that I say: “Why yes, sir. I certainly do.” A
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