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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Apollo 13

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly look at one of the many DVDs or Blu-Rays, or VHS tapes that I've acquired over the years.  Today, we're tackling one of the surprise hits of the summer of 1995, the historical drama Apollo 13.  This entry is dated in my notes as having originally been written on August 26, 2012.

Apollo 13 movie poster

I was hoping to start a big multi-part series on the Batman movies this weekend, but when I heard of the death of Neal Armstrong, I was in the mood for something space-related instead.  It's always neat reading about Armstrong.  He was a very private man...almost to the point of being a recluse.  Whenever he'd be asked about being the first man on the moon, he'd just kind of shrug and have a "I was just doing my job" attitude about the whole thing.  From what I gather, that attitude is partially why NASA chose him to be the first man on the moon...they wanted someone with very little ego who wouldn't let the fame go to his head. 

So, going through my DVD collection, I figured I'd watch Apollo 13, probably one of the finest movies ever made about the space program.  I must like that movie a lot...it's one of the few films I own on VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray.  I still regret that I have yet to see From the Earth to the Moon.  After the success of Apollo 13, Tom Hanks and Ron Howard felt like telling the tale of the entire Apollo program, and produced the epic HBO mini-series From the Earth to the Moon.  1998 it came out.  I've been putting it off for far too long.

Apollo 13 really was one of the sleeper hits of the summer of 1995.  (Movie terminology:  Sleeper hit = movie that becomes a massive hit with little to no promotion.)  Sadly, despite my love of the space program, I'm still rather ignorant of the whole thing, so when Apollo 13 hit theatres and I learned of this near-disaster in space, my mind was suitably blown.  After seeing the movie, I remember seeking out the book that the movie was based on (Lost Moon, co-authored by Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell).  If the movie blew my mind, the book was a real revelation.  I highly recommend the book, because it goes into a hell of a lot more detail than the film.  One thing that I can tell you:  the movie's explanation for the explosion as being a "faulty coil in the oxygen tank" is a gross simplification.

There's a few Hollywood fabrications in the film.  The biggest one is, just days before launch, astronaut Ken Mattingly is replaced with Jack Swigert.  While that did happen, the real astronauts maintain that it did NOT cause the tension on the crew that we see in the movie...they were all professionals out there doing a job. 

But some things really did happen.  Marilyn Lovell losing her wedding ring down the shower drain on the day of the launch, which she interpreted as a bad omen...totally happened.  And she said as much in interviews.

Did you know Annie Lennox contributed to the film's score?  She's a featured vocalist on the soundtrack.  I always found that kind of neat.  The composer was James Horner, and I've always found his score for this to be quite similar to his score for Titanic.

After all these years, if I have a complaint about the film, that is Apollo 13 is very much a "men on a mission" film.  It's all about the story and the mission to get these people home.  We don't find out too much about the astronauts and the ground crew as people.

But yeah.  Apollo 13.  When I saw it back in 1995, I remember enjoying it a lot more than the other big blockbuster in 1995 I was waiting for, Batman Forever.

Ooo!  Amazon.ca has From the Earth to the Moon down to $30!

--Edits on August 30--

Kinda been reflecting on this all week cuz when I watched it on Sunday, I had the sniffles and was kind of out of it.  Lots of little stuff I liked.

Like there's this one character moment early in the film.  Shortly after the landing of Apollo 11, we see Jim Lovell reflecting on it.  Lovell points out that Neil Armstrong will now be remembered in the same breath as Christopher Columbus and Charles Lindbergh.  And he laughs.  I always wondered why he laughed at that.  And then it hit me.  Yeah, for a guy like me, Neil Armstrong is up there with Columbus and Lindbergh.  Always has been.  But to a fellow Apollo astronaut like Jim Lovell, Armstrong was just the guy in the cubicle down the hall.  Of course he'd find it just a little bit ridiculous that this guy...this co-worker is now cemented in history. 

And then there's the part where they have to get the CO2 filters from the CM to work in the LM.  These brilliant NASA engineers have to literally figure out how to make a round peg fit in a square hole.  So they dump all the spare parts that the Apollo 13 astronauts have to work with on a table and start figuring it out.  It's a great scene, and apparently it was the inspiration for Junkyard Wars, a reality TV show that was on a few  years back that I was kind of fond of.

Yeah...just a few more reflections as the week went on.

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