Apollo 13: Anniversary Edition

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

It’s hard not to think of the space program without having some memories…Man walks on the Moon in July 1969, Shepard orbits the Earth 8 years earlier and a mission that no one really thought about, until it all went wrong…Apollo 13 is the true story of the mission that had America on it’s feet and listening to every word that was uttered for four days. Ron Howard has assembled a near perfect cast with Tom Hanks playing flight commander, Jim Lovell. This role garnered Hanks his third consecutive Best Actor nomination and it’s well deserved, as Hanks was perfect for the role. The rest of the cast, while not quite as stellar, only added to the intensity of the movie. Gary Sinise plays Ken Mattingly, the crew member who was sidelined at the last minute due to a case of the measles (which he never got). Kevin Bacon plays his replacement, Jack Swigert and Bill Paxton plays the third member of the crew, Fred Haise. There’s no telling how the flight would have gone had Mattingly been up there with the original crew, maybe fine, maybe none would be here today. It’s just one of those things…

Nevertheless, the story of Apollo 13 is one of the most remarkable in recent history. The story starts off before the flight and introduces us to the lives of the members of the crew. Kathleen Quinlan, who also was nominated for an Oscar for her performance here, plays Lovell’s wife Marilyn. We see how passionate Lovell is for his job and that he’s a natural born leader, and that’s part of what Hanks brings to the role as well. Things progress normally, and the flight is treated as another “mission to the moon”, but Lovell in an interview remarks “There’s nothing normal about going to the moon” and he’s right. When you think about it, look at what we’ve accomplished! Once airborne, the flight seems to be taking place just as they practiced. With the flip of a switch, a routine stir of the Oxygen tanks, the whole mission is ended and the only thing that matters is getting home alive! It’s about at this time where we see the crew and the members of the ground crew (led by Ed Harris) come together. We see the smartest people in the world trying to figure out how to get three astronauts, who are 200,000 miles from home, back safely.

Apollo 13 is not only good because it’s a story of triumph over impossible odds. It’s good because of a number of things. First, with Ron Howard directing a movie, odds are it will be good. And second with Hanks, Harris and Bacon in starring roles you’re bound to have a hit on your hands. Apollo 13 doesn’t concentrate on the beginning of the space program like “The Right Stuff” or how it all happened from the ground like “From the Earth to the Moon”. Apollo 13 chronicles one of the most significant events that happened this century, after all…what would have happened to the space program had Apollo 13 not made it back to Earth safely?

Video: How does it look?

This appears to be the same transfer used for the previous release(s), but it’s not entirely a bad thing. The 2.35:1 anamorphic image benefits from the movie being on the first disc with some supplements on the second disc. Naturally, a majority of the movie takes place in the Apollo 13 space capsule with dark surroundings. I really couldn’t find any element of artifacting or edge enhancement to speak of. This movie looked good on DVD when it first came out five years ago and it looks just as good now. If you’re not into supplements and are hoping that this has an improved transfer – keep your old disc as this appears to be exactly the same.

Audio: How does it sound?

This movie was released with individual Dolby Digital and DTS versions a few years back and now they’re both been combined into a two disc set…sort of. The second disc contains both Dolby Digital and DTS versions while the first disc just had the Dolby Digital soundtrack. Either way you go, the sound is ample and robust throughout. There are a lot of discrete effects that play through the surround channels, while the dialogue sounds clean and natural throughout. Again, this sounds the same as the previous offerings so unless you just have to have the new version – keep the old one.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The main draw of “upgrading” to this version is the addition of the IMAX version of the movie. This was the first major Hollywood movie to be shown on IMAX screens and even though the movie has been shortened (24 minutes), it’s still worth a look. The length of the movie was a factor so the film could physically fit on the IMAX reels. Imagine that! All of the other supplements from the original disc are included minus the Isolated James Horner score. Trailers for this and Howard’s upcoming “Cinderella Man” are shown (hmmm…how odd).

The second disc includes two new documentaries: “Conquering Space: The Moon and Beyond” which is essentially a recap of the space program to date, starting with the Mercury astronauts and going on through Gemini, Apollo and Challenger. This is interesting, but clearly Hanks’ “From the Earth to the Moon” gives a much more in-depth look at the space program. A shorter “Lucky 13: The Astronauts’ Story” is a ten-year old featurette that came out the same time as this film. All in all, “Apollo 13” is a great movie and if you don’t own the disc – this is the one to get. However I really couldn’t comprehend buying it for the IMAX version seeing as how it’s full-frame and shorter than the original version. It looks as if it’s yet another attempt to rekindle interest in another catalog title…

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