Few of us will ever have the opportunity to see the Earth from orbit. Fortunately we have NASA, the International Space Station and high-def digital cameras that can recreate the experience for us from the comfort and gravity of an IMAX theatre seat.

A Beautiful Planet is the latest in a series of IMAX space documentaries produced in conjunction with NASA, and the experience is nothing short of breathtaking. There’s no CGI involved here; the immersive large-format images capture an incredibly detailed perspective of the Earth from above, as well as a claustrophobic look at day-to-day life on the ISS, incorporating POV shots that recreate the vertigo-inducing experience of a spacewalk.

This astronauts’ eye view of our beautiful planet provides some unexpected revelations. During the daylight hours, the Earth looks uninhabited from space; it’s only at night that it becomes obvious this is a highly populated world. Cities blaze with light across the continents, except for North Korea, which remains shrouded in pitch darkness, unlike its southern neighbor. Should an impending alien invasion ever become a reality, the solution is simple: turn off all the lights!

These spectacular orbital shots also serve to accentuate the effects of deforestation, pollution and climate change, with Jennifer Lawrence’s narration superfluously highlighting the obvious impact on the landscape and atmosphere.

A Beautiful Planet is pure grandeur; a visual feast that’s akin to a theme park simulator of the ISS. It’s what IMAX 3D was invented for, and the effect would be drastically diminished on a smaller screen.

In IMAX cinemas: September 8, 2016star-4
Narrated by: Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by: Toni Myers