Apollo 13 (1995) - DVD Review
By Widge - posted 04.01.05 @ 3:49 pm
Written by: William Broyles Jr. & Al Reinert, based on the book Lost Moon by Jeffrey Kluger & Jim Lovell
Released by: Universal
My Advice: Own it.
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.
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.