Mill Creek Entertainment // 2009 // 45 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // August 1st, 2009
One Giant Leap.
Journey to the Moon: The 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 is all about the mission that landed the first men on the Moon. With NASA all aflutter about its latest plans to return to the Moon (via the Constellation program), it's not hard to see the logic behind the documentary.
It's not for everyone, however. It's a wee bit on the dry side and does little to make things all sparkly and shiny. It goes on a simple step-by-step reveal of the mission, from planning to execution to completion. They used video and photographs taken at the time. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any new material -- no interviews, no computer simulations, no funky little drawings. Everything is drawn from the archives.
The lack of gloss and shine actually helped me get into it, though. I was born almost twenty years after Apollo 11, and by then, space travel had become passé, commonplace and, dare I say it, a little bit dull. Gone are the days of astronaut celebrities, and it seems that NASA only gets on the news nowadays when someone dies. For someone like me, it's hard to understand the hoopla that surrounded those early days of space travel. Sure, space is cool, but tickertape parades?
Journey to the Moon does a lot to transmit that old excitement, as people step onto a strange world for the first time. By relying on the old footage and TV reports, it's possible to see just what it was like way back then, when the rocket lifted off the launch pad, when the Moon came into view on camera, when Neil Armstrong jumped from the Lunar Lander. It's rough around the edges and a little dull at times, but compelling and exciting as all get out.
Along with the main attraction, Mill Creek has packaged along several other documentaries, all of them contemporary to the actual missions and all only half-an-hour long, good for this ADD generation. The only exception is Apollo 11-Time of Apollo, a deadly dull affair narrated by Burgess Meredith (Rocky). I expected better of him. The others, which focus on the Apollo 12, 13, and 17 missions, act much like Journey to the Moon, in that they help to recreate that excitement for the space program.
Fly Me to the Moon and Back, which seems to have been made before the Apollo program was ever off the ground (literally), is more of a curiosity than something to watch all the way through. It details all the problems and concerns with a mission to the Moon. While it's interesting to see all the stumbling blocks that lay before the early program, it's really slow.
They've also included President Kennedy's speech at Rice University, where he makes his famous statement that, by the end of the decade, man would walk on the moon. More than that, though, it's a rousing speech that gets one excited about space and science again and is well worth a listen.
To cap it all off, there are two slideshows, with a huge mess of pictures. One slideshow focuses exclusively on the Apollo 11 mission (most of the pictures you'll recognize as having been used in the documentary),and the second slideshow is just photos from around our universe. The only way to control what you're looking at is to fast forward or rewind, which is clumsy at best.
The visual and audio quality varies wildly from documentary to documentary. It's never stellar (ha ha) and is sometimes raddled with static and pops and scratches.
All in all, it's a rough set and perhaps not for the casual space enthusiast, but still a worthy tribute to the glory days of the space program. It rekindles some of that old fascination with space that I used to feel and that's good enough for me.
Journey to the Moon is found innocent of faking the Moon landing.
Review content copyright © 2009 Dylan Charles; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 45 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Constellation Program Official Site