ART + CULTURE

TOM HANKS GUIDES AUDIENCES THROUGH SPECTACULAR MOON LANDING SPECTACLE AT LIGHTROOM, KINGS CROSS

Exploring the Lunar Odyssey: Tom Hanks narrates an immersive journey through NASA's Apollo missions and Artemis endeavors

09.12.2023
BY MAXWELL SOETOMO
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In a dazzling fusion of history, technology, and entertainment, Tom Hanks takes on the role of narrator and co-writer in a groundbreaking multimedia family experience hosted at Lightroom, the innovative digital art performance venue in London's Kings Cross. The event delves into the awe-inspiring world of NASA's historic Apollo moon landings and offers a glimpse into the planned Artemis missions.

The Lightroom, previously the venue for the immersive David Hockney show "Bigger And Closer," transforms into a darkened arena, where audiences find themselves seated on comfortable double-stools scattered throughout the colossal space. Hanks, known for his likably folksy and nerdily enthusiastic persona, fills the room with his distinctive voice, revealing that the floor space mirrors the size of Mission Control in Houston.

The audience is treated to breathtakingly massive photo images of the moon's surface and Earth, along with captivating footage of astronauts bouncing and floating, all presented with cathedral vastness and crystal clarity rarely experienced on conventional screens.

The narrative unfolds with a celebratory overview of Apollo missions 11-17, sprinkled with previews of the upcoming Artemis project. The visuals, a mix of video art and Imax-style presentations, offer a spectacle that is both educational and visually stunning. Descriptions of astronauts handling ancient moon rocks, unchanged for over three-and-a-half billion years, add a sense of awe to the experience.

However, the production's school science project tone occasionally limits the historical depth, prompting some to note a certain ahistorical naivety. While JFK's famous speech is featured, the cold war context of the "space race" and the Soviet Union's role are somewhat overlooked.

A peculiar absence is the lack of mention of Apollo 13, a near-disaster that Tom Hanks famously portrayed in Ron Howard's film. The omission raises questions about whether the mission is considered an official embarrassment, given Hanks's role as the narrator and the reminder of the risks involved in these missions. The production does emphasize the perilous nature of the missions, but the exclusion of Apollo 13 seems conspicuous.

In a bizarre moment, a gallery of scientific discovery showcases each Apollo crew's findings on the moon's surface, progressing from Apollo 11 to Apollo 12 and so forth, omitting Apollo 13. Whether an oversight or a deliberate choice, it adds to the curiosity surrounding the mission's place in the narrative.

Despite these nuances, the spectacle provides a captivating journey through space exploration history, offering audiences a rare glimpse into the monumental achievements of humanity. The juxtaposition of Hanks's narration and the stunning visuals creates a unique blend of education and entertainment, reminding us of the extraordinary adventure that was the Apollo missions.

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