Apollo 11 70mm Film Review

Director Todd Douglas Miller and his team have created an almost perfect account of Apollo 11 with stunning levels of detail, featuring no narrator as with most documentary films.

The filmmakers discovered 165 reels of never-before-seen 70mm Panavision film (used for widescreen cinematic epics like Cleopatra) as well as other archival footage.

The Story

This 93-minute documentary offers an engaging glimpse of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s journey to the moon, including wide-lens crowd shots as the spaceship took off to reach lunar orbit, vibrant color palette, and voiceover narration from Walter Cronkite who is seen exchanging dialogue with Houston from actual footage interspersed throughout it all.

What sets this movie apart is its unique portrayal of NASA’s most celebrated mission through the perspectives of astronauts themselves, Mission Control staff, and spectators on the ground. This depiction captures that pivotal moment when an entire nation invested all their resources into creating technological advancements deemed impossible at that time and shows just how far we’ve come since then.

Miller and his team were working on a short film about Gemini missions when they unexpectedly discovered a cache of large-format film reels that would become the basis for Apollo 11. After searching numerous storage vaults and laboratories at the National Archives, these filmmakers found and restored massive amounts of 70mm footage, from onboard video to backroom chatter on headsets.

One of the most captivating scenes of this movie comes early on when astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin are being carefully fit into their spacesuits, sitting patiently. There’s an electric atmosphere as all three sit down.

Notable scenes include liftoff, the first steps on the lunar surface and reentry back into Earth’s atmosphere – moments which are equally moving thanks to stunning images and stitched-together audio recordings. Music ranges from orchestral sounds to heartbeat thump-thump and radio transmission between astronauts and Mission Control; radio exchanges make these pivotal events come to life on screen. But my favorite moment from this movie wasn’t among stunning outer space images or crowds watching landing unfold: rather it captures true spirit of one giant leap for humanity!

The Film

Joe Miller spent two years combing through 11,000 hours of tape from Nasa and the National Archives and using some rediscovered 70mm reels as part of his production of Apollo 11. Additionally, home movies, news footage, and modern animations were used to complete this eye-opening account of its mission, from preparations on launch pad to final bio-isolation before returning back home. This documentary provides a stunning record of this historic journey!

Miller differs from many documentaries in that she does not employ voiceovers or talking heads of elderly scientists to convey information. There’s some narration by Walter Cronkite and the astronauts themselves; otherwise it’s mostly images. Miller made this choice strategically – she wanted audiences to be fully immersed in the experience rather than reminded they’re watching a documentary.

He succeeds. The visuals are breathtaking, from the massive scale of Saturn rocket to its compact but tight confines to that of the Command Module that carried astronauts into space. But its greatest strength lies in capturing not only iconic images but also less obvious ones: how it juxtaposed huge feats of engineering with mundane details such as parking lot parties and ketchup packets to show that this event not only changed world history but was truly part of our community effort.

That is why Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon and proclaiming, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for humanity,” feels so right in this film. This iconic American phrase seems to be part of American lore for generations – yet viewing behind-the-scenes details makes its meaning all the more profound and timeless.

The Soundtrack

Todd Douglas Miller wanted to create a film that “was as close as possible” to how Apollo 11 looked and sounded when it happened; consequently, nearly the entirety of this movie is made up of archive footage from its mission; its sounds also make an important impactful statement about this mission’s importance and importance to humanity. While archive footage alone can make for impressive viewing experience, sound gives this movie its true lifeblood.

Matt Morton, who has worked with artists like George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, composed the soundtrack to Apollo 11. Morton set out to compose music that fit authentically with period audio by using instruments available during 1969 such as a 1968 Moog IIIc modular synth. As a result, his score never deviates into cosmic cliches while still providing listeners with access to classic sounds associated with this iconic piece of history.

From its opening scene of a giant caterpillar crawler slowly transporting Saturn V to Cape Canaveral for launch, and throughout its seven day mission culminating with Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” declaration by Neil Armstrong himself, this film unfolds at an incredible natural and compelling pace that feels genuine and gripping compared with modern cinema’s fast-cut narrative style films.

Miller’s approach allows viewers to make sense of this incredible footage, juxtaposing major feats of engineering (as evidenced by close-ups of rocket engine nozzles) with scenes showing astronauts wearing their flannel shirts and outdated bathing caps – it feels like an act of trust between viewer and film, making Apollo 11 such a cultural touchstone.

The Audience

Apollo 11 Archival footage alone can fill an entire theater, and is further enhanced with color video and still images shot in smaller formats that make each frame truly remarkable. This film brings alive Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s experience of walking on the moon almost 47 years ago; thus helping viewers connect it to reality today.

The filmmakers collaborated closely with NASA and the National Archives in culling through 11,000 hours of audio, restoring original 70mm film that had lain dormant since 1969, and compiling an integrated selection of historical material. They also included contemporary footage showing astronaut training programs as well as non-mission events to help viewers relate with what was taking place at that moment in time.

Miller went against the grain of most documentary movies by opting for an eyewitness approach instead of interviewing those involved with it directly and using narration as part of her narrative structure. She used cinema verite filming methods throughout, with no narration from Cronkite himself (other than some scene setting), allowing audiences to fully immerse themselves in events as they unfold and creating more of an eventful cinematic experience than just history lessons.

Miller provides many details and visual explanations of what was going on at Cape Canaveral before and during launch, with crowds cheering as the Eagle lunar module took off for its historic journey across space and then landing successfully before eventually embarking on its moonwalk mission. Miller even captured some footage inside of mission control room including rows and rows of male engineers dressed in white shirts with dark ties preparing to launch into space.

The result of our collaboration is an animated documentary film that places Apollo 11 into context for contemporary audiences, inspiring a new generation of space enthusiasts and reminding them that anything is possible with hard work and dreams. Watching it was both fascinating and magical at once!

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