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Movie Review – For All Mankind

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The space program has always fascinated me, particularly because my interest in Science Fiction, particularly through series like Star Trek – which in turn lead me to an interest in the space sciences and some terrestrial sciences as well. So, when I heard about a documentary about the space program that I hadn’t seen before, and one that was coming out from the Criterion Collection, I had to check it out.

The Premise:

Using footage from all the Apollo missions (plus a bit of the Gemini missions), the film depicts the journey from Earth to the Moon, to the explorations of the Lunar surface, to finally the trip back home. All of this is accompanied with interview audio from various astronauts in the Apollo program discussing the program, and what it felt like to go to the moon.

The Good:

The film does an excellent job of showing what the trip from the Earth to the Moon, and what the lunar surface was like. Both through remastered versions of film footage that we’ve seen before, and footage that the public hasn’t seen before. In many ways, this is the most captivating way I’ve seen this footage before – re-mastered and looking like feature film footage, instead of the fuzzy film footage that we’ve all seen in the past.

The Bad:

The trip home from the moon gets kind of brushed over, which is kind of disappointing. I understand from a visual standpoint it’s pretty much the same, but from a psychological standpoint it would be interesting to hear in the interview audio what it was like to come back from the Moon, especially those who were on the Apollo 11 and 12 missions.

The Ugly:

Watching this after having watched all of HBO’s series From the Earth to the Moon, I feel that while the movie does a good job of showing each stage of the journey to the Moon, I feel that the time-line of the Apollo program is so captivating – the process of preparing for the final landing and preparation for the actual science to be done on the trip. The movie doesn’t have much of that prep, and we barely see any of the Science being done. This is a deliberate decision by the director, but one I don’t totally agree with totally. At the very least, I feel watching some of the science being done would be really captivating, and would give me, as a fan of the space program, a fan of science and space science, and as a layman, it would give me a better idea of what the process was like. On the other hand, as depicted in the movie, the geological process of getting moon rocks can be described as “What a pretty rock, we’ll take that one.”

The Verdict:

This is, frankly, an excellent documentary. If you are interested in the space program at all, especially the Apollo missions, you really need to watch this movie – especially on Blu-Ray if you’ve got a Blu-Ray player.