Mission to Mir (1997)

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Released 9-Jul-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category IMAX Featurette-Behind The Scenes-(5:36)
Trailer-IMAX Trailer (1:02)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 38:23
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ivan Galin
James Neihouse
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Micky Erbe
Maribeth Solomon


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.44:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Polish
Hungarian
Portuguese
Greek
Czech
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    So on to the final release in this little trilogy of IMAX space-themed films. Mission To Mir is an interesting film for a number of reasons. Utmost amongst those of course is the fact that the space station Mir is no longer - having not too long ago descended from the heavens and burnt up in the atmosphere, with only the largest portions making it to a final resting place in the Pacific Ocean. Thus this ends up being a fitting memorial to that long-lived space station that served the Soviet Union and then Russia with honour for far more years than it was ever designed to. In addition, the advent of the end of the Cold War and the normalisation of relations between the United States and Russia saw the opening up of many of the secrets of both nations. Amongst those was the reappearance of places such as Star City and Boikunor on the map of Russia - places long held to be non-existent in the secrecy of the Soviet space programme. The film takes us into these formerly non-existent places to show us cosmonauts and astronauts learning together the skills necessary for astronauts to work on Mir and for cosmonauts to join the space shuttle Atlantis for its historic Mission To Mir. Along the way we also get the still comparatively rare chance to see footage of the launch of a Soyuz rocket. We also get to see not quite so unusual footage of a Soyuz capsule returning to Earth for a hard landing in Russia.

    All of which is really just a side show for the main purpose of the film - to document the extended visit of US astronaut Shannon Lucid to Mir, along with other visitors to the station, as part of the ongoing cooperative programmes that will one day result in permanent presence in space and long-duration spaceflights. So we have another of those glorious IMAX astronaut home movies, made all the more different for being partially filmed aboard the rather confined spaces of Mir. Once you see the cramped conditions aboard the station, you get some idea of how extended visits to the station could send most people literally up the wall. It also highlights the rather unplanned way in which the station was constructed, most especially with the pan shot that captures a couple of modules of the station - right down to their inverse orientation to each other!

    Sure we get a lot of ra-ra stuff here, including the appearance of President Bill Clinton at the welcome home for Shannon Lucid, but this is really forgivable. Ultimately the important stuff here is the document it provides of one of the most enduring pieces of space hardware yet launched from Earth. Again, it always begs the unspoken question as to when are we going to go to the stars?

    This is another wonderful ride into space with IMAX and since it is the most recent, it is of significantly better inherent quality too. The big plus here is the contribution of the astronauts and cosmonauts in the dialogue - whilst there is narration, a lot of the contribution is personal dialogue from the people that know this business best.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The original theatrical presentation was in an aspect ratio of 1.44:1 and obviously designed for a rather massive screen. The DVD presentation presents a slightly cropped picture in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Obviously IMAX is getting better at these things as the presentation here seems much better balanced after the cropping than the earlier DVDs. The transfer is again in PAL format.

    With the astronauts and IMAX getting better with the concept of filming in space, this is by far and away the best of the "space trilogy". The picture itself has nice, strong definition and even though this is very occasionally compromised, the overall result is the best detail I think we have seen to date. Shadow detail is of course dependent upon the location and given the nature of Mir I seriously doubt we could expect anything better than here. Clarity is excellent with the odd grainy bits (such as at 3:22) barely creating any real issues with the transfer.

    The colours here are very good indeed with loads of vibrancy and in general plenty of tonal depth. The only slight letdowns are in some sequences shot aboard Mir, which are probably a reflection of the nature of the station than anything else. There are no problems with oversaturation or colour bleed in the transfer.

    There were just a few odd hints of MPEG artefacts in the transfer, notably some loss of resolution in pan shots (an example is at 23:34) and some minor pixelization (such as at 1:39). The odd instances of minor aliasing crop up, notably in the solar arrays at 25:38. None of these issues are really distracting and to some extent might again be a reflection of an electronic NTSC conversion. The transfer is quite clean with few noticeable instances of film artefacts.

    There are twelve subtitle options on the DVD, and I checked out the English ones. In this instance, they seem quite complete and very little other than some background dialogue is missing.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are four soundtracks on the DVD, all being Dolby Digital 5.1 efforts. The language choices are English, Spanish, French and German. I sampled only the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up well in the transfer and is clear and easy to understand. There does not appear to be any significant audio sync issues with the transfer.

    The original music comes from the usual combination of Micky Erbe and Maribeth Solomon. Another consistent and typical contribution to the film.

    This is another good if not especially spectacular soundtrack. Things must be getting better when we keep getting Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks that don't rate any significant notes during the review process! This one really is nothing to write home about and does its job very serviceably indeed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A little step backwards compared to Destiny In Space, but at least they are trying.

Menu

    Nothing exciting and this time seems to be devoid of audio enhancement.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes (5:36)

    Not so much a behind the scenes featurette as a five minute EPK-style promotional video. In itself it is fine technically but leaves something to be desired from an artistic point of view. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Trailer - IMAX Trailer (1:02)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The same basic advertisement for the general IMAX DVD range.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as we are aware, this is identical to the Region 1 release.

Summary

    Mission To Mir is not my favourite amongst the spacey IMAX films even though I have seen it frequently enough. Still, if you want a good place to start sampling these IMAX DVDs, this is perhaps the one to choose at it is the most recent and therefore of the best inherent quality. It funnily enough also least loses its impact in the transition to the small screen, probably due to the confining spaces of the Mir station. As a set though, there is much to commend these IMAX DVDs, not the least because we actually get PAL transfers, seemingly an increasingly rare thing these days.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, July 07, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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