Living Universe Review

Space, like the future, is inevitable. It’s a wide, open expanse that raises an infinite array of questions. These questions help fuel the eternally inquisitive nature of mankind. The why’s, the how’s, the what’s, the drive to find out about what is – or what isn’t – out there in the universe. These are all questions that may never be answered by the current generation of scientists and astrobiologists, but may very well be answered by the scientists of the future.

This is where the Australian-French co-production, Living Universe, comes into the field. It focuses on the work of the many in the present, and depicts the outcomes of their efforts in the future. It asks questions, and with the help of great minds like NASA Chief Engineer for the Planetary Flight Systems Directorate of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Gentry Lee, astrochemist Karin Öberg, and astrophysicist Tamara Davis, it answers those questions with logic and hope. In between talking head interviews, there are some truly spectacular CGI interpretations of what space travel may look like in the future.

While the concept of space and space exploration is an exciting and fascinating one, it is also a subject that can often feel impenetrable. If you scratch under the surface of discussions about space explorations, you’ll no doubt start to see an array of confusing equations flash past your eyes, and an unexpected urge to start writing on every window you see will arise in you. Thanks to the narration by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Living Universe never devolves into the incomprehensible. His enthusiasm for anything scientific is infectious – you can’t help but smile along with Dr Karl as he chimes in with genuine joy over the possibilities of space travel and the wonders of science. 

Alongside Dr Karl’s narration is the voice of Professor Tamara Davis as Captain Artemis – a hypothetical Artificial Intelligence that (in 150 years) pilots a spaceship to the fictional plant of Minerva B to find life. What first appears to be science fiction is soon revealed to be (as per the press release) science faction. As in, fiction based on the established facts of the present. 

What may seem fantastical and impossible is given a grounded feeling thanks to the passionate interviews from those who are making this science faction possible. Discussions about the history of insurmountable tasks that humankind has undertaken (with references to the many cathedrals around the world that took over a hundred years to build, showing that the engineers and architects who designed such a building never got to see the results of their imaginations) help provide an insight into the minds who dream of the stars. While they may never see the discovery of life on another planet during their lifetime, they at least know that they helped pave the way for such a discovery to occur. 

Profoundly optimistic and eternally excited, Living Universe helps instil the notion that one day, mankind will find itself not alone in this wide universe. Through deep (yet clear) science, and a clear path to future space exploration, this documentary will inspire and fill you with hope that we are not alone. 

Tip: See this on as big a screen as possible. The space sequences are stunning.

Directors: Alex Barry, Vincent Amouroux
Cast/Featuring: Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Professor Tamara Davis, Gentry Lee

Andrew F Peirce

Andrew is passionate about Australian cinema, Australian politics, Australian culture, and Australia in general. Found regularly talking online about Sweet Country, and reminding people to watch Young Adult.

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