The immersive powers of the giant screen and its hyper-realistic images are put to perfect use in the breathtakingly beautiful outer-space documentary Space Station 3D. Tom Cruise's voice is a pleasant accompaniment, although general audiences might appreciate a more detailed description of the unique material before them. Still, the light narrative touch is perfect for kids and is enough to spur interest in learning much more about outer-space research efforts. As it is, this first-ever IMAX 3D space film is a dandy and visually intoxicating introduction.

The film focuses first on the phase-one effort, involving 16 nations, to get the International Space Station (ISS) built. IMAX cameras, manned by the astronauts and cosmonauts themselves (mostly Americans and Russians), capture sequences showing the exacting work required inside and outside the ISS to add each new node and module to this vast laboratory 220 miles in orbit above earth. Phase two (in-orbit) involves the launching of the Soviet-built ZARYA lab component by a Proton rocket and its 2.5 million pounds of thrust. Filmgoers will also see a NASA space shuttle deliver the American module UNITY that, with the help of astronaut Nancy Currie, must join the ZARYA component in order for the ISS to be born.

Ironically, we get little of the kinetic thrill of motion that space travel and its vast distances are so much about. Space Station 3D was filmed at 17,5000 miles per hour as the ISS orbits Earth, but life inside the station and the capsule seems remarkably still. This lack of turbulence is never explained.

Instead, the IMAX cameras give us a fantastic sense of zero-gravity life, which allows the outer-space workers to float so effortlessly in the capsule and lab as they go about their chores, both large and small. Space Station 3D also delivers dramatic footage of the Discovery Shuttle liftoff, its docking with the ISS and delivery of the crew, which immediately attends to basic maintenance chores. We also see the astronauts training with virtual-reality games and spending precious moments on Earth prior to takeoff, and some of the ISS experiments involved in this vast research effort.

The film, emphasizing the international nature of this historic initiative, affords a remarkable visual experience whose unique imagery conveys the significance of travel to and life in space and the enormity of the unearthly engineering effort that is the ISS. Space Station 3D is big-time sizzle that makes one hungry for more documentary meat on the subject.

--Doris Tourmakine