Apollo 13, Blu-ray (1995/2010)
Starring Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris
Director: Ron Howard
Studio: Universal 61112003 [4/13/10]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio. French, Castilian Spanish, LA Spanish, Italian, Czech, Hungarian DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, Italian, C. Spanish, LA Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Romanian, Slovenian
Extras: “Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13,” “Conquering Space: The Moon and Beyond,” “Lucky 13: The Astronauts’ Story,” Feature commentaries with Ron Howard and Jim & Marilyn Lovell, D-Box Motion Enabled, BD Live, U-Control, Pocket BLU
Length: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Viewing these 15th Anniversary (this one) and other 20th Anniversary and so on Blu-ray reissues is making me feel very old. It always feels like I had seen these in the theater just five or ten years ago! Apollo 13 was nominated for nine Academy Awards and was directed by Oscar-winning director Ron Howard. It was highly unusual in that the producers and director actually got the full cooperation of NASA in using some of the actual locations and equipment, and even shot some of the zero-gravity scenes in actual zero-gravity inside a military plane in the stratosphere. Yet one of the extras goes into the re-creation of the launching and other special effects that they decided to go with instead of NASA’s dramatic actuality footage.
This was the real-life story of the scheduled moon landing that not only didn’t work out but seriously threatened the lives of the three astronauts involved, due to part of their spaceship being blown out in an explosion of oxygen tanks. It was considered so hum-drum after the original walking on the moon expedition that none of the TV networks had any interest in even carrying for a few minutes the telecast direct from Apollo by the astronauts. Of course when it was clear that they might die if Houston Mission Control could find no fix for their problem the networks suddenly had crews and cameras all over the homes of the astronauts.
It’s a real challenge to make an interesting film on a subject with which most viewers are familiar and know exactly how it turns out, but Ron Howard succeeds beautifully. The tensions aboard the craft and at the Houston center are clearly depicted. Tom Hanks is especially convincing at the lead astronaut James Lovell. He reveals in one of the three excellent documentary extras his long desire to play the role of an astronaut, and is superb at it. It is also elucidating to have Lovell himself discussing the details of the mission in the extras. Harris is also a standout as the Mission Control leader whose cool in the face of what looks like a hopeless failure brings everything to a positive conclusion.
The U-Control feature interactively fills you in on some of the science and technology involved in the Apollo mission, and there’s plenty of it. The Blu-ray transfer looks terrific and the DTS surround is excellent at putting one aurally entirely into the cramped capsule, or right next to the roaring rockets of the rocket launch components. I suppose if you have the gear set up, the D-BOX coding really puts you right in the ship with the threatened astronauts – if you dig that.
– John Sunier