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Apollo 13 (1995) - DVD Review

By Widge - posted 04.01.05 @ 3:49 pm
Apollo 13 DVD cover

Film:
DVD:

Written by: William Broyles Jr. & Al Reinert, based on the book Lost Moon by Jeffrey Kluger & Jim Lovell
Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise

Features:

  • Both the theatrical and IMAX versions of the film are included
  • Running audio commentary with director Howard
  • Running audio commentary with astronaut Jim Lovell & his wife, Marilyn
  • Making-of docu: "Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13"
  • Docu: "Conquering Space: The Moon and Beyond"
  • From Dateline NBC: "Lucky 13: The Astronauts' Story"

Released by: Universal
Region: 1
Rating: PG
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Own it.

They were on their way to the moon. Space travel, surprisingly, had become old hat. This all changed when an explosion crippled their space capsule, leaving them stuck with little to no chance of getting back to Earth in one piece. What followed was a harrowing experience for both the astronauts out in the etrick and the controllers on the ground as they tried to cobble together what they needed to get these three guys back.

I've never quite understood why a lot of critics have it in for Ron Howard. They laud him for his mediocre award-seeking films (sorry, but A Beautiful Mind was crap) and then beat him up for his popcorn flicks (I liked Backdraft and Willow--sue me). But Howard finally started getting taken seriously--by most everybody--with this one.

The first thing going for him was the fact that the story alone is strong enough to not need a lot of embellishment to be engaging. He sticks with that, and then populates the film with strong, strong actors. Tom Hanks and Ed Harris both stand out, although the rest of the cast has no slackers. Also, technically, the film is pretty impressive, especially for ten years ago when you couldn't easily create a world from scratch on a desktop machine. All of these factors--plus a decent amount of fill in any gaps or shortcomings in the direction.

Tom Hanks from Apollo 13

Howard's commentary track is respectable, but the real treasure here is having Jim Lovell (played in the film by Hanks) and his wife give commentary on the film. We're happy enough when actors get their thoughts on audio for posterity, but having the actual folks talk to what's happening is priceless. There's also the IMAX version of the film, which is nice, but...well, let's face it. IMAX films rock on an IMAX screen because their screens are bigger than God. But ninety-nine percent of folks out there probably don't have a screen that makes it worthwhile.

The making-of docu is in depth, taking you both behind the scenes of the film and the event itself. It's chocked full of interviews of cast, crew and also the real astronauts and ground control folks. It clocks in at around an hour. Disc two has two additional bits: first up is a featurette with the history of the space program. I'd like to say that this is a nice, if a little stodgy, overview of the subject, but if you want to get in depth on the early days of the program, the A&E release Race to the Moon is probably a better bet. The "Lucky 13" segment was originally produced for Dateline, so it's not very long and only scratches the surface of what happened. Again, Race covers this better.

While this new edition is a nice one, it does drop some of the features from the last disc (which I can't make a comparison to having not reviewed it) and adds two docus that are nice, but not the best DVD resource out there on the subject. Still, if you didn't pick up the previous version, there's no reason not to grab this one. The video quality is reportedly enhanced, so there's that if you're one of these videophiles and you have the old release...but from what I can tell, if you're okay with how it looks (and don't care to own the IMAX version), keep your old one and pick up Race to the Moon instead.

Read More About:

Widgett Walls is Need Coffee's Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. He is the author of the novel Mystics on the Road to Vanishing Point, and two collections of short stories, Magnificent Desolation and Something Else: The Complete First Season. He is also co-author of the children's book There's a Zombie in My Treehouse! All of those books are available in paperback or for the Kindle from Amazon. He is also the narrator and publisher of the first unabridged recording of Seneca's letters, available here. He is active on both Twitter and Facebook. (If you befriend him on Facebook, do say you came via Need Coffee.) He lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He hardly ever sleeps.

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