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'Voyage of Time' takes moviegoers through time and space, without leaving Earth

Michael Torellas, Special to
A supernova, captured in “Voyage of Time”
Source: IMAX Corporation

NASA, Richard Branson and Elon Musk are trying to figure out new ways to reach uncharted terrain in space, but a new movie is trying to give humans a new appreciation for the universe without leaving Earth.

"Voyage of Time," which opens on Friday, explores the Big Bang billions of years ago. In what the movie's makers call a "sensual cinema of science," the film takes viewers on an evolution of the entire cosmos, using scientific discovery to build a visually captivating story.

Unlike the big budget, computer generated sci-fi movies, "Voyage of Time" is very much grounded in history. It bills itself as a scientific endeavor that balances cinematography with targeted special effects. That combination, along with Brad Pitt's narration, paints a rich story of how the Earth came into being.

Directed by Terrence Malick, the visually stunning 45 minute IMAX film endeavors to "share nature's story in a way that doesn't numb the mind, but awakens within it a true sense of euphoria and awe," producer Nicholas Gonda told CNBC in a recent interview.

Malick is known for his work as writer and director of films including "Badlands" and "The Tree of Life." "Voyage of Time" is his first foray into the documentary genre.

A geyser jets up from the earth in “Voyage of Time”
Source: IMAX Corporation

To ensure the movie's details were scientifically sound, the filmmakers enlisted the expertise of Andrew Knoll, a Harvard University professor and NASA consultant, as chief scientific advisor. According to Malick, scientific accuracy was his top priority.

"My job was simply to make sure that Terry got the science right," said Knoll. "He would send me treatments and I'd comment on them very specifically."

"Voyage of Time" comes at an opportune moment in time, with earthlings demonstrating a seemingly insatiable appetite to explore the heavens, particularly Mars. Technological advances have made it possible for scientific pioneers like Musk — founder of auto company Tesla and of space exploration company SpaceX — and Branson, the British billionaire who has created the first commercial space travel company, Virgin Galactic, to bring their visions to life.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in research and experiments that could lead to a greater understanding of the universe. China's recent unveiling of the world's largest telescope, a $180 million project, marks a huge leap in the decades-long search for extraterrestrial life.

The sun strips away the Earth’s atmosphere
Source: IMAX Corporation

"Voyage of Time" provides a medium for the audience to see and understand the world in a way it hasn't been previously. "We hope people will look at the world with almost slightly fresh eyes," said Dan Glass, the movie's visual effects supervisor.

The filmmakers told CNBC the history of the planet will play a key role in the research and understanding of space, and inform the discovery of whatever may lie beyond.

"I think if we understood the history that lead us to this moment in the world we might be a bit wiser about how we consider the next moments," Knoll told CNBC.