Apollo 11

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Wick's Review

Created Mar 10, 2019 12:01AM PST • Edited Mar 15, 2019 06:10AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    Apollo 11 is an enormous cinematic accomplishment – an rFactor 1 documentary with the power, pulse and scale of big time SciFi. See it on the biggest screen possible, with the best sound system, IMAX optimally.

    It revivifies the epochal year of 1969, the first and last time that billions of people around the world focused on one joyous global event. Seen now on the big screen, it’s not just the overwhelming scale to which IMAX does justice, it’s the freighted historical moment revealed like an accidentally perceptive home movie. There’s Johnny Carson in the Cape Canaveral gallery! There are live news reports about Teddy Kennedy’s crime at Chappaquiddick. There’s Richard Nixon calling the astronauts from the Oval Office.

    Most powerfully, documentaries operate on no more giant scale than getting up close and personal with a Saturn V rocket, a 34-story tall Roman candle loaded with six million pounds of liquid explosive. Such a real-life dream machine and its oversized accouterments fill the huge IMAX screen, and fill our spirits.

    As with the very best documentaries – Senna comes to mind – Apollo 11 has the tension of scripted drama, yet is rFactor 1 history. The tension is heightened tremendously by the ominous music, like house-music slowed down and intensified, Trent Reznor-like, and then piped through an IMAX sound system.

    Apollo 11 is the movie First Man should have been, though it’s good that that worthwhile disappointment came first, and just a few months ago. This documentary beats that theatrical production in terms of overwhelming SciFi visuals and visceral feel. Todd Douglas Miller deserves hosannas for directing it.

    Those of us of a certain age remember the real Apollo 11. Who says you can’t go home back again.

  3. Perfect 5.0

    Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin & Michael Collins were the last of the universally lionized NASA astronauts. We’re reminded why in Apollo 11: not just their steely bravery, but also their tremendous engineering skill.

    • Janet Armstrong is shown ushering her kids in to view the launch. Of course, we now know much more about the Armstrong family from the recent First Man.
    • Johnny Carson is shown in the launch gallery, dashing as ever.
    • Walter Cronkite was the voice America trusted to report big events.
    • Gene Kranz is seen in Mission Control wearing his famous white vest. Ed Harris immortalized Kranz in Apollo 13.
    • Jim Lovell is shown sitting next to CapCom in Mission Control. Lovell would captain the ill-fated Apollo 13 the following year and was famously portrayed by Tom Hanks in Apollo 13.
    • Deke Slayton is shown accompanying the astronauts under his command. Slayton was portrayed by Kyle Chandler in First Man.
  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars Perfect 5.0
  8. Perfect 5.0

    Todd Douglas Miller uses no post-hoc voiceovers in his benchmark film. The contemporaneous voice of Walter Cronkite is heard, as are CapCom and Neal Armstrong, all from 1969. Miller’s other savvy techniques include the use of split-screen and simple animations to show the position of the spacecraft. He explains several of these techniques in the nearby video.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0
  10. Play Perfect 5.0
  11. Music Perfect 5.0
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Per Wikipedia, the film uses previously “unreleased 70 mm footage from the launch and recovery of Apollo 11. The large-format footage includes scenes from Launch Complex 39, spectators present for the launch, the launch of the Saturn V itself, and the recovery and post-mission efforts aboard the USS Hornet. The documentary included this footage alongside conventional footage from 35 and 16 mm film, still photography, and closed-circuit television footage.”

  13. Content
  14. Tame 1.3
  15. Sex Innocent 1.0
  16. Violence Fierce 2.0
  17. Rudeness Polite 1.0
  18. Natural 1.0

    Crazy hoax rumors aside, Apollo 11 was real, as is the previously unseen footage in Apollo 11: rFactor 1.

    As to 1969, it was an annus horribilis other than for the Apollo 11 mission. The Vietnam War raged, Teddy Kennedy abandoned an innocent woman to suffocate to death, the wounds of recent assassinations festered. Yet these tribulations mercifully faded into the background as America and the world looked heavenward to follow Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, both in real life and in this oh-so-special movie.

  19. Circumstantial Natural 1.0
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0

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