The Dream Is Alive (1985) Poster

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The next closest thing to flying in space
Canvoodoo28 February 2006
To date, NASA has made five IMAX films that have been shot from the Space Shuttle or the Space Station. "The Dream is Alive" was the first, and is probably still the best. It must be seen on the IMAX screen to fully appreciate it, but still looks and sounds good on DVD if seen on a big television with a good sound system. The launch sequences would be excellent opportunities for audiophiles to display their subwoofers to admiring guests.

Considering that all of the film shot in space was shot by the shuttle crews rather than by professional cameramen, the results are outstanding. This is probably the closest you can get to the sensation of being in space, short of actually going there yourself. There are also excellent ground sequences of the shuttles being assembled, launched, and recovered, along with the training required for astronaut candidates – all well chosen to look dramatic in the IMAX format.

The three shuttle missions featured in this film all took place during 1984, and the film was released in the summer of 1985. At the time it was released, NASA was launching shuttle missions at a rate never seen before or since. The film displayed the optimism of the time, where the safety of the flights was not in question, and the goal of everyone flying in space someday seemed to be within reach. NASA had a teacher-in-space program and a journalist-in-space program (as well as an unofficial politician-in-space program, where a congressman and a senator conned their way into space flights), and an ambitious program of fifteen launches was scheduled for 1986. Everything looked rosy, and the film reflects this.

Then, on the first (and only) shuttle launch of 1986, Challenger exploded, killing the crew of seven (including two of this film's cast). The previous optimism vanished, never to fully return, in the light of revelations about unresolved safety issues, unrealistic expectations, etc. The film is thus an artifact of this vanished era, and it's rather sad to see this atmosphere of optimism in the light of what was to follow. Nonetheless, the sequences in the movie are still very effective, and the subsequent IMAX space films have only managed to equal (but not exceed) what is seen here. If you're a space enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to see this at least once in an IMAX theater.
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"I think I hear someone kicking the outside of the orbitor!"
TxMike15 February 2003
Depending on your perspective, "The Dream Is Alive" can be looked at as either a commercial for America's space program in 1985, or just a nice documentary at a time when space exploration was still a new fascination for most people. It came a year before the Challenger launch disaster, and 18 years before the recent Columbia re-entry disaster. One cannot watch this IMAX film without thinking of the spaceships which have been destroyed, and the astronauts who have died. Still, it is a very nice 36 minutes which in capsule shows how and why we choose to explore outside our Earth's atmosphere.

The film opens with pastoral early morning scenes in central Florida, birds, alligators, ambient sounds in the rear surround speakers, then "BOOM" as the de-orbiting shuttle breaks the sound barrier in its approach to Cape Canaveral. We witness a perfect landing. Through its 36 minutes we see how astonauts are trained, witness a launch, the release of a very large experimental laboratory, the capture and repair of a malfunctioning communications satellite. As the astronaut approaches it and says "It looks like it's in pretty good shape," someone in the control center in Houston quips back "It doesn't work," followed by some laughter. That exchange is just one example of the relaxed manner everyone was in when all was working as planned.

The IMAX presentation includes some remarkable film taken of various parts of the Earth from orbit. And, of course, the first American woman to take a space walk (see subject quote). What a sight to see two heads in space suits appear visible through the orbitor's front windows. The DVD is as one would expect very sharp and the surround sound is used intelligently. Overall a great snapshot of the space shuttle program.
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A classic IMAX Experience
Opie-730 May 2002
I saw this movie at an IMAX film festival a couple of years ago. The shots of the earth from space are amazing, and the best part is, these aren't Hollywood Special Effects. It's all real. Even 15 years after it was made, it's still one of IMAX's best films.
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Still one of the greatest IMAX movies and space documentaries
Katich29 December 2005
I saw this when I was a kid when it was still a fairly new IMAX movie at the IMAX theater at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. It's the best IMAX movie I've ever seen and I've been to a lot. I can still remember the first time I saw it, the scene where they use the emergency baskets made me and everyone else in the theater nearly jump out of our seats. It makes a great experience and a lot of the scenes gave me tingles (like the shuttle takeoff). I bought the DVD for my mom who is a science teacher. The DVD is a bit different experience probably because I'm no longer a kid and it's not in an IMAX theater. Despite this and the fact that it is a little dated now (but the ideas are not), it still makes for a great documentary.
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Out of this world
KRiley455916 April 2002
I first saw THE DREAM IS ALIVE at the Imax at the Kennedy Space center, to say it is out of this world is an understatement. This film shows just what they all have to go thro to reach out to the stars. Our earth will one day not be big enough for mankind, we need to reach out to the stars, inspired by these brave astronauts, i'm sure that one day (not in my lifetime, sadly) the dream will be realized. If you can, go and see this truly awe inspiring movie.
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When The Shuttle Was King
Matthew Kresal8 November 2014
Space exploration has often returned to Earth incredible images not just from the heavens but of the Earth itself. So the pairing of out of this world images with IMAX seems like an ideal match and indeed space themed documentaries have long been a staple of IMAX's output. First premiering in 1985, The Dream Is Alive presents highlights from a year of NASA Space Shuttle missions and does so with IMAX's usual flair.

Having being made at the height of the Space Shuttle program in 1984, The Dream Is Alive is in some respects an interesting historical document for those interested in the history of space exploration. There's interesting behind the scenes footage of the shuttle program including the replacing of the shuttle's all important heat tiles (which would play a role in the tragic demise of the Columbia nearly two decades later) and the escape system astronauts would have (but thankfully never) used in the event of an emergency on the launch pad. There's also of course footage from a number of shuttle missions including footage of the now late Sally Ride as well as a number of including the dramatic recovery of the Solar Max satellite.

What this really captures more than anything else is the pre-Challenger atmosphere that surrounded the shuttle program including its early successes and the optimism that surrounded it. The tragedy of Challenger and the eventual disappointments of the shuttle program had yet to happen. There's something rather both odd and touching about the narration of Walter Cronkite, himself a major proponent and enthusiast of space exploration, at the end talking about how people would soon be living in space and how children would one day be born there. Close to thirty years later with the shuttle program over, the ISS soaring over our heads and the recent disasters of both NASA and Virgin space vehicles, the dream is alive but it seems as far away as ever.

Of course being IMAX, the visuals are all important. Filmed over the course of a number of different shuttle missions, The Dream Is Alive presents some incredible footage from those missions. There's dramatic sequences of the aforementioned satellite releases and captures ranging from Solar Max to the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) satellite. There's also some incredible point of view footage such as the opening sequence which gives the viewer the impression of what it's like to be inside the shuttle as it's landing and the aforementioned launch pad escape system. Perhaps the most dramatic footage though is of the Earth itself seen from space, bringing to mind the later IMAX space documentary Blue Planet.

Overall then, The Dream Is Alive remains a memorable addition to the IMAX space documentaries. While it has of course dated in its optimistic hopes for the shuttle program, it nevertheless presents a stirring picture of the shuttle program at its height. Thanks to the IMAX footage, it also remains a visual feast as well even on the small screen. For those interested or fascinated by space exploration, this is a must-see.
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Personal attitude made it tough for me to like this one
Warning: Spoilers
"The Dream Is Alive" is an American 37-minute documentary from 1985, so this one is already over three decades old. Director Ferguson and writer Myers have worked on several other (space) documentaries as well, but because of the IMAX reference here, this one is possibly their most known work. Or at least among their most known. In the tradition of known actors doing the narration for IMAX, a tradition that went on until today, we hear Golden Globe winner Walter Cronkite in this one and I must say he did a pretty decent job in terms of his voice acting for the most part. It also helped underline the fact that space and its exploration were a much bigger and more significant subject back then than they are today probably. The fact that I did not really enjoy the watch has mostly to do with personal bias. Speaking about the first woman in space is a bit on the sexist side in my opinion as it should be all about equality. Why don#t we say the xth person in space, only because it does not sound so impressive? Anyway, the concept of space exploration is also one that baffles me as we are (even today) at a point where we still have not even come close to exploring Planet Earth. Maybe there are some regions that just shouldn't be touched, here on Earth and up there on space. So yeah, everybody who likes space aviation and also some technical aspects about it can check this one out and they probably won't regret the watch. An American passport and a touch of patriotism won't hurt either.
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IMAX at it's best
prolette3 March 2000
This is a great film. Beautiful and informative, it takes you out to orbit the earth. Some of the info is pretty basic, however, the shots of the earth and of space is gorgeous and inspiring. There is a haunting twist to it though, some of the crew on this mission later died in the Challenger accident.
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gretchkuhn21 January 2001
I have had the EXTREME PLEASURE of seeing this SPECTACULAR movie 5 TIMES!!! I would have enjoyed seeing it MANY, MANY MORE TIMES ALSO!!! This is a movie, where after seeing it, you do not come out appreciating what the Astronauts do, I think that you do not appreciate the BEAUTY of SPACE! If I were 5'4", I would have been doing everything that I could so I could get my B. Science degree at a College or University so I could qualify to be on the Waiting List of Potential Astronauts! But, as my luck would have it, I am only 5'1/2", and so, unfortunately, this will have to be in another life... Ah, but the opportunity to see a Sunrise EVERY 90 MINUTES!!!! THAT WOULD BE THE ABSOLUTE BEST THING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT WOULD BE SIMPLY GORGEOUS!!!
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