In Saturn’s Rings Review – or – Beauty and Wonder Amidst the Cosmos

In Saturn’s Rings

Directed by: Stephen van Vuuren
Written by: Stephen van Vuuren
Narrated by: LeVar Burton
Release date: May 4, 2018

Synopsis: In Saturn’s Rings is a groundbreaking giant-screen movie adventure that takes audiences on a space exploration journey of the mind, heart, and spirit, from the Big Bang to the awe-inspiring rings of Saturn.

Narrated by LeVar Burton, In Saturn’s Rings is created entirely of more than 7.5 million stunning images of Earth, the Milky Way, and the Moon taken by Hubble, Cassini, and other NASA space telescopes looking deep into the past. In some scenes, a single photograph is used per frame, but many frames are a giant collage of thousands of photographs seamlessly joined. This independent documentary film is animated to full-motion without CGI, 3D modeling, or simulations.

There is something majestic, something awe-inspiring, something regally celestial about a film documentary about space. Something about the subject of space fascinates me to no end. It is a fascination that In Saturn’s Rings writer/director Stephen van Vuuren and I have in common. The love and respect we both have for the celestial heavens that surround and house our tiny planet in the vastness of space is nothing short of miraculous. And van Vuuren makes his love and respect for the heavens above very apparent in this documentary as the film takes us on a journey from the very beginnings of our universe to what we know of our tiny spec of space in the modern day and how much and how little we know about it all. In van Vuuren’s own words, he and his team gathered mounds and mounds of research, data, and photographs, many of them from the recent Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn, and presented a beautiful and in-depth look into space using nothing but real photographs from the mission and absolutely no CGI to tell the story that leads into the modern era of space exploration – all of which is beautifully narrated by LeVar Burton.

Utilizing the nearly half a million photographs that were taken by the Cassini-Huygens Mission, In Saturn’s Rings takes the viewer on a beautiful and mesmerizing trip across the cosmos, to the very oldest bit of light we have ever photographed, to what we now have in place of the human exploration of space. And you can tell that van Vuuren is as displeased as many, myself included, at the lack of true space exploration that we have, using unmanned space missions (with none planned or fully funded in 2018) to explore what we as humans should have the desire and right to explore. To touch on this a bit, I actually concur with van Vuuren on this issue as I feel that we have been playing space exploration a bit too safely as of late and that we are losing that adventurous and explorative nature of ourselves. But back to the film…

LeVar Burton beautifully narrates the film and brings a lot of legitimacy to the film, not just because of his image as a role-model for a lot of people regarding space thanks to his time with the Star Trek franchise, but because he is a respected figure when it comes to educational films because of his longtime relationship with the Reading Rainbow franchise as many people of a certain age can associate him with learning and educational programing. That is why I was thrilled to learn that LeVar Burton would be narrating In Saturn’s Rings – the association of Burton with the film and that tone and cadence of his voice are perfectly blended with the visuals of the film to create a stunning and expressive production. Which leads me to the aspect of the film which makes In Saturn’s Rings completely possible.

The visuals of In Saturn’s Rings are the true star of the documentary. With nearly half a million images, courtesy of the Cassini-Huygens Mission, van Vuuren is able to bring the cosmos, the Earth, and, of course, Saturn, to life as these high-resolution images perfectly capture the beauty and majesty of the subject at hand. None of the images shown in the documentary are computer generates images – they are all real photos that the Cassini-Huygens Mission has provided scientist over its near twenty-year mission lifespan. The images are animated using a classic technique pioneered by former Walt Disney collaborator Ub Iwerks known as multiplane animation, which brings the images seen on screen to the viewer in ways that no photo ever could.

There is simply no way to describe how awesomely marvelous these images look in 4K resolution on the screen – and how much more incredible they must be on larger, higher-resolution screens that In Saturn’s Rings is scheduled to be released at. But for what I saw on a 4K screen, I was left in awe and in tears at the profound beauty of these images. One scene in particular in the documentary had me openly weep as a moving collage of images from the Cassini-Huygens Mission were shown in quick succession. I was brought to tears as I marveled at the wonders that the cosmos in our immediate celestial neighborhood provided for us and were brought to life on screen.

Stephen van Vuuren brings to the viewer a spectacle of cosmic proportions that explore and analyze what the Cassini-Huygens Mission was able to accomplish during its mission and perfectly encapsulates what he feels with his written words, wonderfully narrated by LeVar Burton, to a degree that I cannot remember experiencing before. In Saturn’s Rings is a wonderful documentary film that deserves to be seen in as large a screen with as high a resolution as possible. Be sure to check out the official website of In Saturn’s Rings to see where it is playing near you and go check it out – it is certainly deserving of a watch, especially if you are as interested in all things space as I am.


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