Judge Eric Profancik has landed.
Our review of Moonshot, published December 10th, 2009, is also available.
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Oops. I was reading the brief synopsis of Moonshot on Amazon, trying to determine if this would be something I wanted to review. When I finished reading it I decided in the affirmative, requested the disc, and it arrived in my mailbox a few days later. Shortly thereafter I put it into my PS3, started to watch it, and instantly said "Oops."
Facts of the Case
Moonshot is a fact-based drama detailing the generalities of the historic Apollo 11 landing on the moon. It starts with President John F. Kennedy's decree that we should land a man on the moon by the end of that decade, and it ends with Neil Armstrong (Daniel Lapaine, The 10th Kingdom), Buzz Aldrin (James Marsters, Torchwood), and Michael Collins (Andrew Lincoln, Afterlife) back on Earth, newfound heroes of the space age.
Why does my review start with an "oops" and does that imply bad things for Moonshot? The "oops" is because my interpretation of the movie's description was of a pure, non-fiction telling of the story of Apollo 11. That it would be comprised completely from actual footage from the event and events that led up to the landing. Hence my surprise when it started and it became instantly apparent that this was a "fact-based drama" of said events. I will admit that I wasn't too pleased upon this discovery. My brain was ready for grainy footage, dull interviews, and lots of dry facts. Luckily that isn't the case.
Moonshot, in using actors to inform viewers about this monumental moment in history, is pretty darn good. Shown earlier in 2009 on The History Channel, Moonshot not only shows you what you already know about The Eagle's landing, but it also gives you key moments in the lives of those three astronauts in the preceding years. It conveys how they ended up being the chosen three; how it was determined Armstrong would be first on the moon; and how other small events molded the men and their character.
Perhaps you're pondering just how much fiction may be in this fact-based drama. That's a good question. The movie begins with a quick introduction by the real Buzz Aldrin who tells us that what we are about to see is fact, maybe not exactly how it happened, but very true to the situation and how it all falls into history. With Mr. Aldrin's word, I take what I saw in Moonshot as fact. And in that, I learned many a thing about Apollo 11 that I never had asked before. In retrospect, being a semi-astronomically interested guy, I wonder why I never asked these questions. I'm happy to have made this unexpected discovery.
Moonshot is a well-constructed made-for-television movie. Acting, set design, and direction/cinematography all give the story the gravitas and scope it deserves. Each of our male leads make you believe they are astronauts, exhibiting Armstrong's calmness, Aldrin's vigor, or Collins' thoughtfulness. I'll give extra props to Lapaine and Marsters. Lapaine was instantly recognizable as the introverted Armstrong. You could see in his acting what Armstrong was and would become in his later years. And Marsters, though I never watched Buffy, is very much tied to that role; but I never once had a moment to let my thoughts wander out of his performance. It also helps their performances by having sets that convey the reality of the situation. When at home, it looks like home; when at NASA, it looks like a "space port;" and when on the moon, well, it looks just about right. And all this was directed well and nicely shot by Richard Dale and Paul Jenkins (who are both "television guys").
The Blu-ray disc comes with the usual good news and bad news. The good news is the transfers. Video is a clean 1.85:1, 1080p, transfer that is rich and bold, with strong, lifelike colors, deep blacks, and an impressive level of detail. I didn't see any substantial flaws. Audio is a little less good news, with two options: a Dolby 5.1 (lossy) or PCM 2.0 (uncompressed). The packaging only lists the PCM track, and that instantly made me unhappy as I cannot understand any Blu with a 2.0 mix…well, with certain caveats of course. But this, being brand new, certainly should have a 5.1 mix, and it does. So let's start with the Dolby mix, and the best word for this track is muted. Everything sounds refrained, maybe even slightly dull and muted; nothing is especially crisp or robust. True, there aren't any hints or distortion or hiss, dialogue is always clear; yet it sounds diminished. But when you flip over to the PCM mix, it opens up. You can hear a distinct difference between the two, with the PCM feeling wider. Yes, you lose the surrounds, but it may be the better choice of the two. Then we have the bad news, the bonus features. They are weak: just a couple photo galleries, bios, and a jukebox that will play music from the movie. For such an important event, surely you could have included just a bit more?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
You need actors to convey the story of man's landing on the moon? Isn't there enough real television footage available? Then you let that spiky-haired blonde vampire portray one of the most important astronauts? What kind of silly, joke production is this? No wonder Neil Armstrong won't come out of his house!
Though initially disappointed by my erroneous deduction of the material, I quickly swept away those thoughts and was delighted by the production and story presented to me in Moonshot. It's a quality production, with quality transfers, but it's missing quality bonus materials. And because I like the story, I recommend you keep your eyes out for a repeat of it on The History Channel. Though the disc has no significant flaws, I don't feel this warrants a purchase. But, if you are a fan and really want it, you'll have no qualms with your purchase.
Moonshot is hereby found guilty of faking its moon landing.
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Studio: History Channel
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