Apollo 11 (2019)
March 2, 2019 5:27 PM - Subscribe

A look at the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon led by commander Neil Armstrong, lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, and command module pilot Michael Collins.

From director Todd Douglas Miller (Dinosaur 13) comes a cinematic event fifty years in the making. Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Apollo 11 takes us straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission—the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into household names. Immersed in the perspectives of the astronauts, the team in Mission Control, and the millions of spectators on the ground, we vividly experience those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.

Official Trailer
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit (20 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Saw it at a preview in IMAX and loved** it, especially the first part up to/including the launch. (Since I was around for the original moon landing/walk, I'm more familiar with that footage, which is probably why I responded more to the first part of the film.) It is well worth seeing, and well worth seeing on as large a screen as you can find. This may be of interest: Eleven hidden space history details in new documentary 'Apollo 11'.
**Footnote: I loved the movie EXCEPT for the inclusion of the the song "Mother Country" by John Stewart; I get why they did it, but I absolutely hated that scene.
posted by gudrun at 7:32 PM on March 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

There's a moment before the launch where they show what the elevator ride up the gantry looked like. Looking out at the Florida waters, the Saturn V is in the foreground and it just keeps going and going and going and going as they move upwards. It's massive. It's impossible. But it's there.

It's those perspectives that I found most moving. The shots of the crowds, who were camped miles away but wanted a glimpse. Freaking Johnny Carson is wandering around in the crowd! Evidently Asimov is there, too!

Then when ignition finally hits and the speakers unleash this.... wall of sound. It blows through you. And I imagine it's barely adequate for what it was really like to be there. As Scott Manley says in his review, there are a lot of places where I will want to pause the eventual Blu-Ray and just look at the details.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:24 PM on March 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

Seeing thus tomorrow, looking forward to the old compare nd contrats with regard to First Man.

(I have an Apollo 11 commemorative coin that was minted with spacecraft metal from Columbia and Eagle, given out in large numbers to technical staffers in 1971. Last time I looked into this, I seem to recall concluding that the metal was actually mission flown. Suppose I should revisit that. Might make a good show and tell to bring to the show tomorrow. It's the fourth listed medallion here.)
posted by mwhybark at 10:50 PM on March 2, 2019

For those who've seen For All Mankind, how does it hold up compared to Apollo 11, besides the latter being 70mm?
posted by Fukiyama at 6:45 AM on March 3, 2019

Fukiyama, I have seen For All Mankind on several occasions... but don't recall it well enough to answer!

Apollo 11 shows the mission from dawn on launch day to splashdown and takes an hour and 33 minutes. There is no narration or third-party voice over, just what is presented as archival audio. There are some relatively simple graphics intended to evoke glass-board grease pencil diagrams illustrating the key maneuvers shown via archivl footage (launch, stage separations, lunar insertion, etc).

I haven't sought out publicity and production info on the film but went into it understanding there was a significant amount of 'unseen' footage (which I presume to mean public-domian NASA footage that was either previously not yet digitized or not previously used in a commercial film).

Certain pre-launch segments, including an apparent close-vantage crane angle shot of Apollo 11 at takeoff, were incredibly cleanly transferred at IMAX digitial resolution, whatever that may be. The crane angle shot of the liftoff actually strained my credulity and I will be attempting to determine if it was a CGI insert. It was lovely and I am grateful for it but it unquestionably will lead me to seek more information on the use of contemporary FX in the construction of the film, if any.
posted by mwhybark at 10:07 PM on March 3, 2019

Interviews with the director talking a lot about the restoration process here, here, and here.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:54 AM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

So if I am reading his interviews correctly, Miller says

a) no one had ever archivally transferred any of the Apollo 11 footage via scanner or telecine previously
b) This project set out to do that


c) they attempted something similar for 60 total tracks of Mission Control (and possibly ancillary) recordings associated with primarily Apollo 11 but also with other Apollo missions, 11,000 hours on Apollo 11 and an additional 7,000 hours of other missions, although I gather that this part of the project must primarily have been logging to identify useful material.

it's possible I am mischaracterizing a), since there were shots in this film that I thought had been in other films (probably I am thinking of "For All Mankind"), such as the static tower shot of the side of the Saturn V sliding upward at launch, shedding frozen condensation. If I had to guess I would think that maybe Miller meant there had not been any prior direct digital transfer of the assets with regard to the previously-seen footage - "For All Mankind" would presumably have employed only optical reproduction, given when it was produced.

Neither of the first two interviews asked about CGI. I imagine there will be other interviews when it opens wide and surely someone will ask. The obvious assumption is that only the diagrams and screen graphics are CGI, but documentary film is slippery!

For example, according to the interviews, the film presents actual space-shot footage of two events - translunar injection, in which the ship acellerates out of Earth orbit, crossing from night into day as it does so, and of a lunar eclipse of the sun from the perspective of the spacecraft. Miller notes that the footage used in the film was from "a prior mission". Which is fine (I'm guessing it's from Apollo 8). But the format of the film itself does not contextualize these shots as drop-ins from another source. Which is, actually, perfectly acceptable, like, I have no objection to or argument with indirect sourcing in the context of documentary filmmaking. I just want to know about it, because not knowing about it, that is, not being made aware of the indirect sourcing in the context of the film as first viewed, raises questions about the sourcing of other shots - it calls into question the verity of the image as presented.

So I guess that is a substantive critique of one of the filmmaker's choices here.

That said, the film was absolutely worth seeing and very interesting to view with First Man so recently in mind. I rather wish First Man was still in a theater nearby because that film had such a novel takes on cinematic representation of the launch sequences and an equivalent and aesthetically unified approach to audio mixing in the same sequences. It's much more impressionistic than any other cinematic expression related to Apollo that I am aware of.

If I had a chance to interview Miller (and I suppose I probably could, given the fact that the two non-audio interviews cited above were published on relatively low-profile blogs) I would ask followups:

just how much of the raw reel stock of the film archives were digitally transferred, both in terms of total hours and percentages of the total film? Who holds the rights to the transferred footage, I guess that's probably your production team? Is there a mechanism for access to the transfers via NASA?

(in one of the interviews above he implies they did develop assets that will be available for future use, but it was not clear if he meant logs or actual digital assets)

offhand, what is your estimate for the percentage of the film not including the mission graphics that empoyed indirectly sourced material as in the two sequences cited above?

and finally

Did you employ any CGI modeling at all in the final product, excluding the mission graphics?

I expect with regard to the last question the answer is likely "no". The other questions are pretty interesting to me and I can't predict the response.

Oh and Fukiyama, the film is in part dedicated to "For All Mankind" creator (and scriptwriter of "Apollo 13") Al Reinert. Miller implies that he was in touch with Reinert throughout the production process until Reinert's death prior to the completion of the project.
posted by mwhybark at 9:49 AM on March 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

there were shots in this film that I thought had been in other films
My understanding of the interview was that the "previously unreleased" footage was only the 65mm stuff, and not everything on-screen in this film was 65mm, so some of it was previously available. They did seem to go out of their way to not choose the really obvious shots for much of it; I hadn't seen the TLI burn before, and that looked to have been captured from the ground (?)

I expect with regard to the last question the answer is likely "no".
Agreed. I did have to keep reminding myself that it wasn't special effects, and I'll be pretty disappointed if it turns out some of it was! Radar tracking telescopes can produce some amazing results, so I Want To Believe.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 1:44 PM on March 4, 2019

Agreed, rhamphorhyncus. They were clearly privileging newly-cataloged or transferred footage and, yes, that quick cut to the TLI burn was new to me and made me gasp in surprise. But now I wanna know, was that 11? Was it another mission? I suppose to an extent that will await the commentary tracks.

Moonwalk One and For All Mankind have both had DVD releases, I now know. I think both were HD, as one would hope, although my impression was that Moonwalk One might have been out of print for a while now.
posted by mwhybark at 4:55 PM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh and w/r/t to whether the TLI burn was shot from the ground, my hind brain insists that they had high-altitude chase planes shooting as well. Was their 1969 physical stabilization technology up to capping the ship at, what was it, 72nm up? Dunno offhand.

Loved the ground shots of the pool camera operator wearing his IATSE local emblem, IATSE 666. The filmmakers cut him back and forth with a four-star general, and IATSE's international logo is a five-petaled variation of a maltese cross, a maltese pentagram I guess you could say. There were extensive cinematography credits at the end of the film which seemed to also cover camera operation - here's hopin' that guy was named too.
posted by mwhybark at 5:06 PM on March 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am rolling For All Mankind tonight and expect to roll Moonwalk One tomorrow. I would dearly love to roll all three back to back at an IMAX theater but god's sake, how many space nerd large format film critics are there in the whole world?
posted by mwhybark at 10:49 PM on March 6, 2019

OMG the Apollo 11 launch sequence in For All Mankind totally dusts Apollo 11. It's as if the filmmakers on Apollo 11 just ceded the ground. Apollo 11 has a great deal of footage that I have never seen, but the up close footage - the elevator ride and the Saturn sliding up - seen in Apollo 11 - is in For All Mankind too. FAM adds a ton of shots of the gantries swinging back.

FAM sort of presents a composite mission, using footage from all the flights, which I guess A11 does too. The films definitely complement one another.

Oh goddammit, I want my big-screen big-format cinespace festival!
posted by mwhybark at 10:58 PM on March 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's this year. It has to be this year. Preferably in July.
posted by mwhybark at 10:59 PM on March 6, 2019

Immediate post roll thoughts on For All Mankind: Brian Eno was the primary musical soundtrack contributor, and it has been blowing my mind the whole time. I enjoyed Apollo 11's musical soundbed but missed badly in guessing it was by Philip Glass.
posted by mwhybark at 12:02 AM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Saw it tonight (in a packed house) and I loved it. Breathtaking and tense. Although it's worth mentioning that IMAX-sized shaky handheld footage does not mix especially well with a hangover.
posted by figurant at 9:26 PM on March 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Absolutely worth seeing on the big screen. I appreciated the emphasis on teamwork and the mission.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:00 PM on March 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Saw it last night and cried at the footage of the crowds. I was only six at the time and I'm probably conflating memories of Apollo 11 with later missions but seeing the styles and the colour of the light sent my emotions back.

I'd read about the landing and seen re-constructions on YouTube but it was presented so simply with the altitude and fuel and (false) alarms...it was gobsmacking...they only had a single chance at getting this right.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:54 PM on March 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

I realize this is how it happened, it’s a product of its time &c, but am I the only one who was profoundly bummed that there were no women in the movie?
posted by STFUDonnie at 9:57 PM on April 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is on CNN tonight and it's really something else, even on the small(er) screen. I'm a little curious what it was like in real time, without the split screen combinations and (amazing!) pictures that weren't available until afterwards. It's really affecting, and having seen and heard 80% of the material a hundred times before really doesn't make a difference.

"Bockita bockita bockita."
posted by rhizome at 9:21 PM on July 20, 2019

Watched this tonight. It was spectacular. That TLI shot was awesome. Now I need to get FAM again to compare.

Yeah, rhizome, nothing like late 60s colloquialisms. "Roger, dodger!"
posted by Fukiyama at 7:38 PM on February 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

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