Maybe You’ve Never Been to the Moon. . . But You Can with APOLLO 11
*Editor’s Note: In honor of The 28th Annual Movieguide® Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry, we’re highlighting nominees for the upcoming ceremony. The Gala will be broadcast at a later date on the Hallmark Channel.
Below is a portion of the review from APOLLO 11, which is nominated for the BEST MOVIES FOR FAMILIES.
On the surface, APOLLO 11 appears to be just another documentary about the space program’s quest for the moon, but it’s so much more than that. It starts on day one of the mission, with grand images of the Saturn V rocket being rolled out of its Cape Canaveral hanger to the launch pad. Engineers and workers walk alongside it, as if to protect their masterpiece. Meanwhile, away from the prying eyes of the public, astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins are getting suited up, all with solemn looks on their faces as they contemplate what they’re going do. Dozens of engineers in the Kennedy Space Center listen intently as they pour over their detailed launch schedule, discussing any last-minute changes that need to be made.
Outside, it’s early morning and a crowd is quickly growing in size. It looks like a tailgate party before a football game as people camp out in the back of their station wagons, relax in lawn chairs, and the children play games. The press have their cameras out recording the images for posterity, while celebrities and statesmen begin filing into the stands to witness the historic launch. At the bottom of the screen, a clock appears from time to time as a countdown to launch, and the voices of news broadcasts are mixed with the radio communication between mission control and the astronauts as they board Apollo 11.
A leak occurs on the launchpad just prior to departure, and the workers step in to fix it. With the all-clear, we have liftoff, and the historic flight begins. The clock at the bottom of the screen appears every few minutes as it chronicles the next eight days of the mission. The two days of travel between Earth and the moon pass relatively quickly, and then they approach the moon.
As the Lunar Module approaches a landing with Aldrin and Armstrong, the clock ticks by in real time as an infinite sea of lunar craters pass by underneath. There’s Armstrong’s famous first step on the moon, and a long stretch of both astronauts exploring the surface. Then, it’s time to go home. Back on earth they’re greeted as heroes, as President John Kennedy’s words of nearly a decade prior echo what is perhaps the greatest achievement of mankind.
Although there have been a number of documentaries regarding the Apollo 11 mission, none show it in such intimate detail. This 2019 rendition has managed to unearth plenty of unseen footage, and remaster it in HD. As a result, it creates stunning visuals that will have viewers questioning whether they’re actually watching footage from the 1960s. It tells the story in narrative form, without interviews and voiceovers, relying solely on the visuals and original audio.
At times, it’s easy to forget APOLLO 11 is a documentary. The editing is superb, coupled with engaging music that brings a modern edginess that nearly every other documentary on this subject lacks. APOLLO 11 truly brings this classic story up to date.
Since this movie is a documentary about a fairly benign subject, there’s very little questionable content. Toward the end, a song is played over a montage of footage as the astronauts travel home from the moon. The singer uses the word “hell” once, and other than that, there’s no foul language. Also, being the 1960s, the engineers smoked cigarettes and cigars in Mission Control, and the occasional cigarette is shown in the crowd gathered for the launch. Overall, APOLLO 11 is a great history lesson for a new generation, and a new, unique look at it for those who witnessed it. The entire family should be able to enjoy this one.
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