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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » To the Galaxy and Beyond
To the Galaxy and Beyond
Image // Unrated // September 21, 2004
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Blair | posted November 20, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

To follow the history of science fiction movies is really to follow the evolution of the motion picture industry, because without science fiction, modern day movies wouldn't be what they are today.

Since the dawn of cinema entertainment, sci-fi has always been there hiding in the shadows, as well as billowing at the forefront, constantly influencing, guiding, and pushing the industry to advance its methods and expand on the great art of visual storytelling. It's been there to entertain theories of the future, to send people cowering behind their hands, and serve as a warning beacon of an unwelcome future if precautions are not taken. It has been used as a propaganda tool to enforce political and social views, and it can be looked back upon as a guide to understanding the past state of American interests and ideals. Sci-fi movies are as much a part of American history as they are of movie-making history.

To The Galaxy And Beyond with Mark Hamill, is a 97-mintue documentary exploring the rich and often forgotten history of science fiction movies. Host Mark Hamill takes us back to the very beginning to see groundbreaking films such as A Trip To The Moon (1902), regarded as the very first science fiction film, and Frankenstein (1910), which was produced by Thomas Edison. From here we're taken on a brief but informative tour pointing out some of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made, such as Metropolis (1927), the most important sci-fi film in the silent era, King Kong (1933), Dr. Cyclops (1940), as well as the plethora of "B" sci-fi/horror movies of the 1940's. In 1950, Destination Moon tried to take a factual approach to science fiction, and in the process redefined the science fiction genre. In 1951, The Day The Earth Stood Still took a new direction to science fiction by offering optimism, yet adding a warning that Earth's present war-torn obsession would eventually destroy the human race.

But despite the surplus of inventive movies to debut throughout the 50's and 60's, the most revolutionary movie that forever changed the way science fiction would be brought to the big screen was Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. And it would be another 11 years before a new king would emerge as the next big thing in science fiction. In 1977, George Lucas's Star Wars took the world by storm by combining old fashion heroism with campy Flash Gordon-style ideals to create an entertainment juggernaut that invigorated the imagination of children and adults around the world. Even today Lucas's epic space opera is considered by many to be the most revolutionary step in the art of motion picture storytelling.

To The Galaxy And Beyond goes on to show even more examples of significant sci-fi films that graced the silver screen up till 1997. Movies such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Alien, Jurassic Park, Aliens, The Abyss, and Independence Day.

To The Galaxy And Beyond is a fun and informative glimpse into the history of science fiction movies. And with none other than Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) himself narrating the documentary, the entire feature radiates a sense of legitimacy that could have been lost with a less apt host. But despite the fantastic-looking early footage of old sci-fi movies, the documentary was sorely deprived of something important; more in-depth actor and director interviews. Granted, interesting interviews were included, but more should have been added to offer a more intricate and personal perspective of the classics featured. For instance, it would have been nice to hear some explanation on how the early pioneers pulled off their (at the time) state of the art special effects. And for the newer movies, it's a shame that the modern day directors didn't give much insight as to the importance and influence of the earlier movies responsible for the sci-fi movement.

But anyone who loves science fiction yet has little knowledge of the old school movies that started it all, will most likely enjoy this DVD. It's fast paced, and covers nearly a century's worth of science fiction films. Even those who are savvy to the movies of old might take pleasure in the wonderful-looking clips of films they thought they'd never see on DVD.

The DVD

Video:
Galaxy and Beyond is presented in 1.33:1 full screen. As this was never a feature length film and included almost two hours of random footage from various sources, my expectations were not high for the overall look of this DVD. However, I was surprised to see Galaxy and Beyond had a very clean picture throughout the entire feature, even during scenes of the absolute earliest sci-fi movies in existence. Edge enhancement was not bothersome, and examples of pixelation were never overwhelming. The picture still lacked the crispness of newer feature film DVD's, but considering the multitude of material assembled for this DVD, the outcome exceeded my expectations.

Audio:
Galaxy and Beyond only comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio track, but the result was pleasing. Dialogue is easy to hear, and the special effects of the early sci-fi classics have never sounded better. The feature has a nice stereo sound, with good separation between the front three speakers. As this is a documentary, sound is not so critical, but much like the video transfer, the DVD's audio quality slightly exceeded my expectations.

Extras:
Included are more than two-dozen theatrical trailers for some of the most significant sci-fi movies of all time. This is a wonderful addition, and any sci-fi aficionado will get a kick out of seeing these trailers. However it seems that more could have been added, especially from the older films.

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) - Trailer A
The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) - Trailer B
The Fly (1958)
Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (1961)
Fantastic Voyage (1966) - Teaser
Fantastic Voyage (1966) - Release Trailer
Planet Of The Apes (1968) - Teaser Trailer #1
Planet Of The Apes (1968) - Teaser Trailer #2
Planet Of The Apes (1968) - Release Trailer #1
Planet Of The Apes (1968) - Release Trailer #2
Zardoz (1974)
Star Wars (1977)
Star Wars (1978)
Alien (1978) Teaser Trailer #1
Alien (1979) Teaser Trailer #2
Alien (1979) Release Trailer
Aliens (1986) Teaser Trailer
Aliens (1986) Release Trailer #1
Aliens (1986) Teaser Trailer
Aliens (1986) Release Trailer #2
Aliens (1986) International Trailer
The Fly (1986)
Predator (1987)
The Abyss (1989)
Independence Day (1996) Trailer A
Independence Day (1996) Trailer B
Independence Day (1996) Trailer C

Final Thoughts:
To The Galaxy And Beyond is an interesting yet brief look at the history of science fiction movies. It's fast paced - never spending too much time on any particular movie - and covers the most influential sci-fi films of the 20th century. Sci-fi fanatics will want to pick this up, while more causal fans may be content with renting, since a single viewing may be enough to satisfy your curiosity. Recommended.

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