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Apollo 11 – Movie Review

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Apollo 11 – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

One of the most extraordinary achievements accomplished by humankind was launching the first astronauts to set foot on the moon. This remarkable event, despite having occurred 50 years ago, still amazes to this day. Damien Chazelle’s First Man recently recreated the trial and error that went into sending Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins into space and Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary Apollo 11 serves as a nice companion piece. Using only footage filmed in 1969, he has edited a solid look into the mission and it’s wondrous seeing this historical moment restored for modern audiences.

The most impressive aspect of Apollo 11 comes from seeing the archival footage restored and then blown up for IMAX. The clips look like they were filmed only yesterday and the clarity is tremendous, but they don’t lose that filmic quality, either. The most stunning sequences are when we see the massive scale of the Apollo 11 spaceship. Lead sound mixer Eric Milano also deserves credit for how he amplifies the aural sensation of the spaceship taking off. Meanwhile, Miller is able to create a narrative with the footage by editing between the multiple people involved and onlooking spectators.

Enough proper context is given for the various people involved in the launching of Apollo 11, making the documentary a genuine educational experience for those who are learning about this event for the first time. It’s fascinating watching the various NASA engineers in the control room, including future Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell. Miller also includes plenty of shots from the people who came down to Houston to watch the spacecraft take off. The film truly shows the awe and wonder that came from this magnificent feat and how it brought together the United States and the world.

Some of the best parts of Apollo 11 involve the glimpses of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. There’s an interesting contrast between the two, but we also see the value of teamwork as both deserve equal credit for their work on the mission. It’s especially neat to see them have a telephone conversation with then President Richard Nixon, while on the moon. Included throughout the film are little animated transitions that provide an idea of the next step of the mission and where the spaceship and space pods are on the journey. Matt Morton’s score also provides the needed mood, but never in an obtrusive way.

Even with the impressive special effects used for big Hollywood productions like First Man, Apollo 13 and Gravity, they still don’t quite compare with seeing the real space launch and moon landing that occurred in 1969. Todd Douglas Miller likely had many days worth of archival footage to cut together and he has assembled a solid documentary. Apollo 11 provides a neat time capsule to an event everyone should learn about and watching it in IMAX is quite the experience. It’s a worthy tribute to Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins and everyone at NASA who was able to make this trip a reality and an inspiration to many.

Stefan Ellison

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