In today’s world, in the grip of climate change urgency, space travel feels more like a luxury fad for tech billionaires than a human achievement. Trips to outer space are best experienced digitally – courtesy of Todd Douglas Miller or Damien Chazelle – to keep one's gas emissions in check.
The Moonwalkers: A Journey with Tom Hanks, the new Lightroom immersive show, takes you back to the time when space was the limit. The project is, in fact, the actor’s brainchild; the idea came to him while visiting the Lightroom a couple of months ago. ‘You could go to the Moon here’, he thought.
The script he co-wrote with director Christopher Riley is partly a testimony – Hanks was a young boy when the first Apollo mission landed on the moon in 1969 – and partly a narration filled with interviews and explainers. The show briefly conveys the genesis of the project and the reasons behind our longstanding fascination with the moon, so familiar yet so mysterious. It doesn’t dwell much on the technical prowess, tremendous efforts, and time it took to create a successful mission – only six between 1969 and 1972. Instead, it focuses on when astronauts (only twelve) reached the moon and their precious minutes on it.
And true to Hank’s words, it takes you to the moon with them. Whether watching Apollo 11 lift off and disappear into the immensity on giant screens or finding yourself surrounded by lunar landscapes, the visual experience is all the more potent in that it is not digital but authentic.
Shots of ‘this magnificent desolation’, as Buzz Aldrin put it, are taken by the astronauts during their brief walks. The otherwordly clarity of their photographs (thanks to the lack of air on the moon, we are reminded) accompanied by Anne Nikitin's score add to the stunning reality unfolding in front of our eyes.
There is also something nostalgic about Hanks' Moonwalkers narrative. It tells of an America uniformly filled with dreams and beliefs. From the crowd cheering President Kennedy's speech to the engineers serving in the control room to the astronauts themselves, one can't help but think that minorities, women, and non-American nationalities are barely present in this moon quest project. There is no reference to Russian cosmonauts, just the mention of a plaque featuring Yuri Gagarin, and certainly no reference to the fierce Cold War competition that was a pivotal motor to space conquest.
But for all its narrative shortcomings, The Moonwalkers is an undeniable visual must-see and a timely reminder for the younger generations of our ability to achieve the impossible. ‘It gives us clues about ourselves,’ says Hanks.
|The Moonwalkers: a journey with Tom Hanks, Lightroom
|King's Cross St. Pancras (underground)
06 Dec 23 – 21 Apr 24, 9:45 AM – 7:00 PM