Apollo Missions to the Moon Movie Review

apollo missions to the moon movie

Miller uses a mix of broadcast TV footage, home movies and never-before-heard NASA audio recordings to examine all missions within the Apollo Space Program – winning him an Emmy award in 2011. By forgoing traditional talking heads or Voice-Of-God commentary he adds more context and makes each moment feel more than just about Aldrin, Armstrong or Collins.

What to Expect

Most people living today know of the Apollo missions that took humanity to the moon. Each was an astonishing triumph of technology, imagination and perseverance – something this National Geographic documentary, featuring no narration but using NASA archived footage as its guideposts, vividly conveys. It weaves an engaging tale about their astronauts’ experiences while showing the intricate processes involved.

The film opens with a classic image: Saturn V rocket being pulled by massive tracks across a launchpad. This iconic moment instantly transports audiences into another dimension of reality and emotion. What distinguishes this film from similar works like First Man and Apollo 13 is how it humanizes each of the men who explored and conquered the lunar surface. We often forget just how hard these missions were in reality. Even the more high-tech aspects of this mission were highly hands-on; for instance, heat shields were applied using a caulking gun by hand while parachutes were sewn, packed, and folded by hand. Furthermore, watching their backstories — including those from their families and friends– gives this movie an emotional depth that you cannot find from more stylized movies with famous actors portraying them.

Director Todd Douglas Miller carefully assembled this movie without commentary or new interviews to allow the images and historic audio recordings speak for themselves, giving it an authentic feel that sets it apart from other space-themed documentaries (as well as many TV series such as From the Earth to the Moon this year and HBO drama Space in 2018)–almost as close as being there when Armstrong made history by saying, ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Though technically a history lesson about the Apollo program and its race to the moon, this movie exudes magic and wonder. If you are American, watching this film might be a reminder of just how lucky we are to live here and what can be accomplished when all parties involved pull together as one team.

The Story

The American Apollo space program was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century and marked humankind’s first visit beyond Earth orbit and visited another planet. Here is their story as told by those men whose lives were on the line to make this dream become a reality.

Todd Douglas Miller took an innovative approach to documenting space exploration in this film. Instead of using narration, he instead relied solely on images and sound for storytelling. Utilizing archive footage he created an immersive narrative covering key aspects of each of the Apollo missions; making this an engaging viewing experience suitable for kids as well as adults alike.

This film provides an amazing introduction to the Moon landings and their men who took risks on them, showing just how much work was involved and introducing many behind-the-scenes NASA employees who get equal screen time as astronauts themselves – their worries in Mission Control are just as moving as those seen flying the Saturn V rocket and crawler transporter featured prominently during its opening sequences.

Since Sputnik launched by the Soviets in 1957, Americans became obsessed with beating them to the moon and taking back control of space. President Kennedy challenged NASA to land astronauts on the moon within 10 years; then detailing all the innovative technologies and feats of engineering which made that goal achievable. This movie shows this monumental challenge first hand.

This documentary provides a deep-dive into Apollo 13’s disaster, showing how its explosion could have killed all aboard, yet its survivors persevered, becoming true heroes in the process.

The final act of the movie centers around Apollo 11’s planned lunar landing, an event widely celebrated. But it is equally important to recall all the hardships the crew encountered on their way. Astronauts had difficulty staying awake for extended periods; two even developed head colds during their mission. Yet they managed to complete all tasks successfully and captured famous photos of Earth that helped launch environmental movements worldwide.

The Visuals

Director Todd Douglas Miller expertly weaves new and old footage together so it feels as if you’re experiencing it all over again. From Florida’s blue skies where a rocket blasts off, as the spacecraft separates from its command module and heads for lunar landing, through program alarm in Eagle which almost stops their mission and astronaut communication with Mission Control around the world, you will feel your spine tighten with excitement, heartbreak, and relief – it all happens effortlessly using minimal onscreen text and illustrations with breathtaking clarity throughout its entirety. From launch through lunar landing to safe return journey it does it all with astounding clarity – captivating you every step of the way – leaving nothing hidden along the way!

The movie’s monumental scale can best be appreciated on a large screen, especially in an IMAX theater. Just the opening sequence alone with the Vehicle Assembly Building and Crawler Transporter towering above astronauts in spacesuits is breathtaking; Star Wars could never match it! Apollo provides an authentic time machine which lets viewers experience all its glory without commentary or modern-day editing of original footage.

While other movies in this genre tend to feel too much like history lessons, this one stands out by being more like a film than a documentary. It’s incredibly well-made while remaining engagingly fun to watch.

As an avid space fanatic, I won’t lie: watching various space modules docking and ejecting is worth every penny of admission alone! Even if space doesn’t interest you as much, however, this movie still provides a compelling tale packed with action and drama.

This film’s subtitle, “The Triumph of American Power,” perfectly sums up its US-Canadian production’s approach to this fascinating time in history. The movie recounts three female NASA mathematicians — Marilyn Jackson, Shirley Ann Jackson and Betty Jean Johnson — who broke through gender and racial barriers in STEM fields to calculate John Glenn’s orbital flight trajectory of 1962; their research ultimately ensured Apollo 13 would reach the moon safely after its electronics malfunctioned during launch.

The Soundtrack

Contrasting with films like Apollo 13 or For All Mankind, which often romanticized Apollo missions, this movie offers the full truth of how they felt to actually be there. It shows that astronauts weren’t all smiles when facing danger; many felt anxious, scared or angry instead. Furthermore, the movie shows all of the hard work going into these missions behind-the-scenes; often splitting screen to show all hands at work at once to ensure everything would go according to plan for astronauts and mission managers alike. History buffs and space fans will especially enjoy this film; likely dispelling conspiracy theories regarding NASA faked moon landings while giving new hope about what mankind might accomplishing in terms of achievement versus what’s possible today compared with what’s possible today.

Download it on iTunes, Amazon or Vudu now. Although expansive in scope, this film never becomes tedious or dull. Archival footage paired with moving music gives an intimate perspective into astronaut life and their support network back on Earth – for instance archival footage shows Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin prepping to land on the moon while nervous yet excited – their soundtrack perfectly encapsulating their passion and courage is also spot-on!

Director Miller expertly sifted through 11,000 hours of audio recordings and restored hyper-detailed 70mm footage that had been stored away for almost 50 years, all stored away in boxes. Miller skillfully edited all this material into an engaging documentary which stands as a testament to human ingenuity and perseverance, and serves as an incredible testament to scientific record keeping.

Not ready for a three-hour documentary? No problem; other movies exist that honor Apollo’s legacy as well. Most notably, 2018’s Hidden Figures portrays Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan and Katherine Johnson who worked at NASA prior to John Glenn’s historic orbital flight; it boasts an exceptional cast including Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae – just some examples.

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