Film Review

Review: Apollo 11

Apollo 11 (2019)
Grade: B

I walk into a theater and I sit and I sit down and I watch a movie. And the movie is either good or bad or there are parts that are good and other parts not so much. Sometimes I like what they are trying to say but the film isn’t that effective in saying it. Often the movie is just plain dumb fun.

Apollo 11 scared me.

As I was taking and writing notes for Apollo 11 and even as I was leaving the theater I was afraid that maybe I wouldn’t have much to say about it. The vast majority of my experience was “Wow, I didn’t know they had to do it that way.” and “Wow I should have know that’s the way they had to do it.”

I work hard in my thought process and my reviews to go beyond writing three or four paragraphs supporting the phrase “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it”. There are just too many nuances involved in the making of a movie and in the performance and in the wider culture. I said all that to say this: I liked it.

The biggest artistic device the film uses is to completely omit any typical narration and there are no interviews of people remembering past actions or feelings. The documentary is told entirely through pictures, animations and voices that were live and used in 1969 from a few days before the launch to the point where the astronauts were released from quarantine a few weeks after re-entry. And even though many of the photos appear enhanced for today’s audience this narrative method keeps the mood very 60s throughout.

We’re not forced fed the fashion choices of the 1960s but we see the spectators, we’re not force fed the the ticks, phrasal patterns and the overwhelming white male presence but we hear and see it on the screen. It looks like a bunch of people from the past were watching or taking part in what they believed was science fiction. I’m sure that mood would be lost if we had a typical Biography channel narrator guiding the story of Apollo 11 and introducing the players who are in their seventies or older. In that respect Apollo 11 was special and sets itself apart.

The story has merit. Obviously. Even those people who deny the moon landing will be watching with interest (also with disgust I’d imagine). The direction of the narrative is a thoughtful manner in which to tell the story. All together it is a beautiful piece of work. But am I’m supposed apply all my above accolades and not consider the price of an XD /IMAX type ticket? Should we just watch a film as if there is no monetary effect?

The reason I ask I question whether this should have even been a theatrical release. Yes it was well done and yes I prefer to see anything in the theater but was this documentary any more special than something that would appear on the Discovery channel. “New unseen footage” is relegated to Bluray bonus content in any other context but here it comes with an extra $5 added to your movie ticket.

Those aren’t concerns because I’m happy when I’m able to watch anything on the large community friendly theater screens and if you’re the same way then shell out that cash because nothing is the same as that, even you have a 70 inch TV at home. But if you feel the other way keep in mind this film is not anything new even if it features “70mm footage previously unreleased to the public.” You probably haven’t watched the film that had been previously released.

So I guess I did have something to say about his movie.