30 years in the making makes a decent marketing line for Terrence Malick’s latest film Voyage of Time. With such a line and a pedigree name attached, it can’t help but underwhelm even if it does indeed show (in part) the grandest voyage of all time.
It almost feels pointless to say the film is beautiful, because the GIFs available online already show that. It’s a stunning feature. Images of the cosmos delight, as do the various nature shots. The former achieves an unparalleled richness thanks to the work of VFX supervisor Dan Glass and those working beneath him.
Where the film falters is the use of voice-over. In this version it is Cate Blanchett performing the narration. Her delivery is fine, but Malick’s writing drips with pseudo-profundity which, when combined with the images, can frequently provoke comparisons to overwrought perfume adverts. This is a recurring problem with Malick’s later films, and he still insists on this method to deliver meaning. A frustrating habit that is at its worse here.
Instead it is through editing that Voyage of Time achieves potency. Through simple juxtapositions Malick delivers moments that suddenly astound through the ingenious connection between images. In one instance, Malick bridges the evolution of animals from sea to land with a marvellous match cut between a sea snake and a foetus. It’s in moments like these that Malick reminds you why his name carries such weight.
All the same, Voyage of Time may being a footnote in Malick’s filmography, as there’s not a whole lot to the film. Malick has his fervent defenders, but there are plenty who are unable to see what all the fuss is about. It’s pretty, and occasionally it taps into a feeling that approaches profundity. However, those moments are not enough to turn Voyage of Time into another Tree of Life.
CAST: Cate Blanchett
DIRECTOR: Terrence Malick
WRITER: Terrence Malick
SYNOPSIS: An examination of the birth and death of the known universe.