Set 100 years in the future, L5: FIRST CITY IN SPACE is a story told in flashback by the first child born in space. The film combines incredible computer-generated imagery, actual footage taken of space expeditions and sci... more »entific data to create a compelling vision of how humans may live and travel in our solar system in the next century« less
"I first saw this movie at Moody Gardens at Galveston, Texas in the original IMAX and 3-D format. I've been pestering Sony ever since with enthusiastic inquiries as to when it would be available on DVD. At long last our wait is over.
The plot: Chieko is a little girl living on L5, and we see the colony through her eyes. The voice-over narration is her as an adult. A crisis arises: They need more water for their life-support system (and evidently can't afford to lift it up from Earth). Chieko's grandfather (also Senior Scientist of L5) makes a proposal. There's a comet passing by Jupiter. He advocates attaching a rocket to the comet to make it swing past Jupiter in such a way as to slingshot it around to where it will pass by L5 at regular intervals, and hence can be conveniently mined.
A robot spacecraft implants the rocket. But it won't fire. Chieko's father, Flight Commander Mori, is dispatched to repair the rocket. She is very concerned about him making it back safely, as indeed is everyone. As bad luck would have it, a solar flare interrupts communications at a critical juncture.
This is a great movie, in addition to being a wonderful introduction to the "High Frontier" concepts of Gerard O'Neill. Many aspects of the design of the L5 habitat are taken from an actual NASA study which looked with great detail into the necessities for sustaining human life in orbit. The plot is simple, but then the movie is only 35 minutes long, so it's the fault of the medium, not the writer (in the days this movie was made, it was the rare IMAX feature which went any longer than 40 minutes). There are the few inevitable science blunders, but they're very minor compared with most other shows set in space. For example, L5's depiction of the surface of a comet nearing the sun is a good deal more realistic than the considerably-hyperbolized version we saw in "Armageddon", or even "Deep Impact". By and large, these people did their research, and got it right.
There's only thing in this movie which I dislike: a brief jaunt into Virtual Reality (VR). Chieko discovers a snow globe which her mother has bought for her. Later on, she plays with friends on Earth in a simulated reality comprised of the snow globe, only life-sized with the children inside. Ever since "Star Trek: The Next Generation" there seems to have arisen a common belief that no one will want to go into space until there's a magic room which can simulate any reality. I hope not.
I would have far preferred to have seen Chieko ask if it could ever snow in L5, to be told, "No, we could make it cold enough, but there isn't enough water vapor in the air." Then later, after the comet retrieval, and when water is in greater supply, Chieko's grandfather could have arranged for it to snow on Christmas Eve. We could have had a very touching, human scene out of this more-realistic approach. But instead, "L5" chose to jump on the same VR bandwagon the rest of Hollywood was scrambling over at that time.
But don't get me wrong. This is a truly outstanding movie. The competent acting (Chieko's grandfather is particularly likeable) will pull you into the story, largely compensating for the simplicity of the plot and characterizations.
There are two bonus features on this DVD. One is a Korean educational short named "Journey to the Planets". It combines traditional animation (in the form of funny little space creatures) with the same kind of computer animation derived from actual space probe photography which we saw in "L5" (but in this case we get treated to fly-overs of Venus in addition to Mars). The space creatures are searching for a new home. As various planets of the solar system are encountered, the outstanding features of each are discussed. It's a curiously sedate short, with soft-spoken characters and periods of quiet.
The other bonus is the standard (but quite thrilling) trailer for the "IMAX Films on DVD" series.
"L5: First City in Space" offers a realistic glimpse of a possible future for us beyond our planet of origin. If you want a view of the High Frontier... this is the best we're going to get for a while.
I hope it's not a long while.
Mike Combs "
One Good Small Step in the Right Direction
Michael N. Ryan | Bel AIr, Maryland USA | 06/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am one of the firm believers in the dream of Gerard K. O'Neill to colonize space. As no planets known to us have atmosphere or sufficient gravity to support human life, and Gravity itself is a burden, the only means to colonize is to manufacture colonies of our own in space from the materials of the cosmos, Space Islands.
In my life I have collected numerous books on the subject, each of which has been a joy reading and dreaming with.
When Imax came out with this I was happy as it shows this vision.It often frustrated me greatly that I was never able to see this at Imax as I have never been near to any place showing this film. As soon as it became available on DVD I put it in my budget to acquire a copy.
Imagery is good, even spectacular. I must confess some disapoinments. I didn't like the 'futuristic' clothing of the characters. I would have been happier if it were off the rack. I would have prefured more of a tour of the place besides a farm, a lab and a home. I would have liked to have seen more people and more children. More of the common areas perhaps in line with the vision of what things might look like as found in the various sights on the internet, or for that matter the July 1976 National Geographic article on this subject.
Most of all, I thought the story too simple for my liking. I certainly don't like where it's going. L5 and L4 are not Spaceports for a few thousand people as this story goes staying in the Islapnd One Phase, they are Space Continents for Millions if not Billions of people to live and grow first in Island Ones of Ten Thousand Souls, then Island Twos of over a hundred thousand, followed by huge Island Threes of One and a Half Million, perhaps even larger Island Fours.
Mobile Suit Gundam gives a better vision.
Still if it does get people L5 minded then that will get it my applause."
A Major Step Forward for Space Awareness
Gordon R. Vaughan | Texas | 09/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The following is from my Xanga site AeroGo, which gives helpful info to students and others interested in going into the aerospace field:
I don't try too hard to turn my kids into space cadets, but when this film came out I took all but the youngest to go see it, way down at Moody Gardens in Galveston.
For those familiar with Gerard O'Neill's concepts for space colonies, much of it will be familiar, but the film is well-scripted and the graphics are great, especially in 3D if you can find it. Apparently a lot of the graphics were from veteran space artist Pat Rawlings, and quite good, but my favorite is a scene of Saturn and rings, from its moon Enceladus, created by Fujitsu. I wonder if there's a poster of that somewhere.
There's a dramatic part of the film where the hero lands on a comet, which in 3-D looks pretty harrowing, with chunks of ice and snow floating all over and hitting everything. Of course, with the results from the recent Deep Impact mission, scientists now think comets may be more like puffballs or "dirty dustballs" or even "brittle sponges" than "dirty snowballs" with large ice chunks, though water and organic molecules were found on Tempel I. Nevertheless, the film was a huge step forward for promoting space awareness; I'm just sad to say there's still nothing else like it."
L-5: The First City in Space
Patricia Mccord | Tucson, AZ | 10/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sorry to all those overly-judgmental viewers who gave this movie negative marks, I thought this little film was stupendous. In fact, i liked it so much in 3D that I saw it every chance I got--In Wash D.C., at Kennedy Space Center (at least four times there), and at Johnson Space Center. I'm a space junkie who will never get the chance to go out there. L-5 is the next best thing, with an upclose look at Saturn's rings and the inside of a habitable space station. I crawled inside and lived there for the 35 minutes or so of the film. I only wish I could get it in 3D for my home. A future remake?"
L5 - First City in Space
Michael Links | Gymea Bay, NSW Australia | 08/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw L5 at the IMAX in 3D. It is set in the late 21st century and is seen through the eyes of a young girl who has always lived in the city in space. She has never been to earth except in a virtual sense. It is interesting in that the scenario is quite possible and shows most of the technologies we might expect to see in a space city. The story centres around the need to find more water and maintain the supply indefinitely. It is like a documentary with a bit of drama."