Espace pour la Vie (Space for Life), part 2: Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium

Montreal Planetarium

[Read part 1 of our review (the Biodôme) here and part 3 of our review (the botanical garden/insectarium) here.]

Continuing our journey through the sprawling Espace pour la Vie (Space for Life) in Montréal, we move next door from the Biodôme to the planetarium. We also move away from the various ecosystems of our own little planet to the vastness of the Universe.

Admission to the planetarium includes access to three separate attractions: two different shows in two different planetarium domes and the permanent exhibition between them.

Currently, the two planetarium shows are Continuum and From the Earth to the Stars. Both are apparently temporary as the visitor’s map says that two new shows (Tempo and Vertigo) begin in November 2014.

exterior of the Milky WayTheatre

exterior of the Milky WayTheatre

If you are in the Montréal area and at all interested in space (or just beautiful, amazing things in general), you do not want to miss Continuum. I cannot understate how beautiful this film is. Continuum is shown in the Chaos Theatre, which is quite unlike any other planetarium dome I’ve been in. The inside is almost all “open seating” on beanbag chairs. There are Adirondack chairs surrounding the outside of the space, but for the most part it’s all about the beanbag chairs.

Continuum was conceived as a “cosmic poem” that examines the Universe, from the infinitely small to the infinitely large. It was designed by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, who are known for their artistic multimedia performances (including Cirque du Soleil’s Delirium), and the music was composed by Philip Glass.

Montreal Planetarium

beginning the Continuum journey

The film is wordless and takes the viewer on a journey up from Earth, through the solar system, beyond our galaxy, and around some absolutely stunning imagery (all computer generated but based on NASA images and data). The journey extends beyond the confines of our own Universe before ultimately returning to Earth.

If you’ve got four minutes, I highly recommend checking out this video about the show:

Since it is without narration, do not expect Continuum to be the most “educational” planetarium show you see. But it will be among the most fascinating…and entertaining. I’m desperately searching for the Philip Glass music used in this show. If you know where it’s available, please let me know.

From the Earth to the Stars is a more academic, traditional show shown in the Milky Way Theatre. It has typical planetarium seating and a live narrator walking you through the night sky and constellations. It was a good show; it just couldn’t hold a candle to its sister show next door.

The permanent exhibition between the two theaters provides a good distraction while waiting for your shows to begin. Titled Exo: Our Search for Life in the Universe, it had some good exhibits but nothing truly remarkable.

Montreal Planetarium

Verdict: Truly, I recommend the planetarium for Continuum alone. However, since it is only a temporary show, I’m not sure if I can recommend the planetarium on its own. I certainly wouldn’t suggest you make it your only stop at the Space for Life, but if it’s combined with your ticket, it’s definitely worth a look.

Montreal Planetarium

I should mention that both planetarium shows are recommended for ages 7 and up. Again, depending on your kid, make you own decision. I will say that both of mine (2 and 5) enjoyed Continuum but were scared during much of it. From the Earth to the Stars has the potential to bore the pants off of younger kids, unless they’re big-time into stars and constellations.

Read about the Biodôme here and the botanical garden and insectarium here.

(Disclosure: We were guests of the Space for Life for the day. All opinions are my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.

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