Apollo 11 [2019 Todd Douglas Miller Documentary] Review

Apollo 11 BluRay

AKA: Apollo 11 (2019)

Genre: Historical Documentary
Year Released: 2019
Distributor: Neon/CNN Films/Statement Pictures/Universal

Origin: USA
Running Time: 92 minutes

Rating/Recommended Audience: G
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Footprints on the Moon, Moonwalk One, For All Mankind, Apollo 11 (1996), In the Shadow of the Moon, Chasing the Moon, The Dream Is Alive, Magnificent Desolation, NASA’s Story, The Space Movie, When We Left Earth


-Special thanks to Ben Richardson for recommending this film.
Fun Facts:

-Apollo 11 commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing.
-This film won the Sundance Award for Best Editing.

-Hilarious in Hindsight: There’s an actual job at NASA called a capsule communicator. Do you want to know the shorthand term for that position that is even mentioned in this film? Capcom. Come on, like you all weren’t thinking about that video game company when you watched Apollo 11 and the signs mentioned that phrase in parentheses? Another thing that makes it funny is that the film’s theatrical run happened close to the same time that Captain Marvel debuted, so in the box office, would it be Marvel Vs. Capcom, then? Okay, I’m done now. :3

-Animation Fan Bonus: Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin is the same person whom Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story series got his name from.

-Film Buff Bonus: Universal’s logo got the 60s retro treatment for the DVD and Blu-Ray release. It looks super authentic and the only main difference is the “A Comcast Company” sign which shows this was made this decade.

-Todd Douglas Miller has also directed Dinosaur 13, Gahanna Bill, and Scaring the Fish.

2019 provided several big anniversaries this year. Several shows and movies have been commemorating their existence for being around for decades. However, one of the big stories of the twentieth century was the moon landing in 1969. This event is still talked about to this day as America set out to send its astronauts up to space. One such documentary happened to get a collage of so much footage to give homage to NASA’s biggest mission in its existence.

Will this form of direct cinema be a direct launch for the golden anniversary of the most famous space mission?

Apollo 11 is a collage documentary of sorts that covers the notorious mission of the same name. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and others are dealing with this ground-breaking opportunity for mankind to visit the moon. All eyes were on them for this mission since no human had ever touched the moon’s surface before.

I know everyone knows the story about that mission from school, “One small step for man…”, this, that, and the third. However, this is a unique take on this particular event. Even though it’s a documentary, there’s no narration or backstage interviews going on. All the dialogue is straight from mission control, news archives, phone calls, and the live communication from the astronauts themselves. The found footage really tells the story from beginning to end from launch day to about a day or two after the astronauts come back from the lunar locale. There are no recreations, actors, or talking heads going on. It’s all footage straight from 1969 where a ton of it was remastered to an insane level. Most of the footage barely had a trace of film grain and I applaud the creators for cleaning up the aged footage so much. This is certainly the best remastering job I’ve seen since the Blu-Ray release of Jungle Emperor Leo (1997) and even that’s a gross understatement. The editing gets great with the split screens, the chronology of most of the footage, and the B-roll worked so well. This is some high-quality mastering and editing going on for a good portion of the film which is certainly commendable. The music worked very well. What I didn’t realize was this was all made from instruments from the 60s which fooled me because certain numbers sounded modern. That’s space-age music done right if you can make me convinced this was made with current instrumentation or programming. Even though the story is obvious, it certainly was inspiring to see everything that went into this successful mission. I thought it was great that Apollo 11 focused on the ground control team instead of giving all the glory to Armstrong and Aldrin. That was a very nice touch.

Apollo 11 could use a little fixing here and there regardless if Houston could help or not (I had to reword that in order for it to not be cliche). The text work was way too tiny and I had to move closer to the screen to get a glimpse of what was there with some of the names and/or numbers. I did think that some parts went on for too long and meandered which made my attention a bit divided at times. While it was very impressive getting things from beginning to end, there was a major error in the continuity. In my research, I found out that Michael Collins’s sarcastic comment about breathing when the sensors briefly malfunction happens during the return voyage instead of liftoff to the moon. That was a stretch to give it more of a dramatic first act and it really wasn’t needed in hindsight. It would’ve made more sense to have it during the trip back to Earth for accuracy and continuity’s sake.

This documentary was certainly a fascinating experience in checking out this pivotal event in history. The collage work was impeccable and the editing was clearly top-notch. The atypical approach in showing the documentary without resorting to common tropes in that form of filmmaking was quite original as it let the visuals do all the talking if you will. I do wish it stayed interesting for the whole run time and that there wouldn’t be any liberties taken just for filmmaking’s sake. Apollo 11 did succeed way more than not and I would still recommend anyone to check it out at least once. If you have a good screen and surround system, then I’m sure you can bump this up a point immediately.

Adjustable Rating System:
Add 1-2 points if you like space documentaries.
Subtract 1-2 points if you want your documentaries to be more traditional.

-Excellent remastering job with the footage
-Powerful soundtrack
-Unique direct cinema approach

-Meanders in the middle of the film
-The text elements are way too small
-Questionable liberties and continuity at times

Final Score: 8/10 points

Content Warning: Apollo 11 is rated G which makes sense. The only offensive thing that’s shown are people smoking cigarettes and cigars, but even those scenes are very brief.

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Apollo 11 is property of Todd Douglas Miller, Neon, CNN, Statement Pictures, and Universal. The Blu-Ray cover is from Amazon and is property of Neon, CNN, Statement Pictures, and Universal.

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