HBO is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing with a re-release of its Emmy-winning 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon.
The 12-part docudrama told the story of the NASA and the space program in the 1960s and 1970s, from the Mercury and Gemini missions, to the tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire, the Apollo 11 landing, and the subsequent lunar landings ending with Apollo 17.
The episodes have been remastered for high-definition, and the standard-definition visual effects have been replaced with new CG effects based on reference models from NASA.
The 12 remastered episodes will be available on HBO Go, HBO Now and HBO On Demand beginning July 15, the first time the series has been available through the apps. In addition, HBO2 will air a marathon of the miniseries beginning at 8:45 a.m. July 20, the 50th anniversary date of the Apollo 11 landing.
A Blu-ray edition of the remastered episodes will be released July 16 with Dolby ATMOS audio and an exclusive “Inside the Remastering” featurette.
The miniseries was produced by Imagine Entertainment following the theatrical success of Apollo 13 in 1995, and went on to win the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries.
Executive producer Tom Hanks hosts the episodes, and the cast includes David Andrews, Adam Baldwin, David Clennon, Gary Cole, Matt Craven, Brett Cullen, Tim Daly, Cary Elwes, Sally Field, Dave Foley, Al Franken, Tony Goldwyn, Mark Harmon, Tom Hanks, Peter Horton, Chris Isaak, Tcheky Karyo, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Ted Levine, Ann Magnuson, DeLane Matthews, Jay Mohr, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Pollak, James Rebhorn, Stephen Root, Alan Ruck, Diana Scarwid, Peter Scolari, Nick Searcy, Grant Shaud, Lane Smith, Cynthia Stevenson, Jobeth Williams and Rita Wilson.
Street Date 5/14/19; Universal; Documentary; Box Office $8.56 million; $22.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray; Rated ‘G.’
In preparing this 50th anniversary retrospective of the first moon landing, director Todd Douglas Miller and his team uncovered troves of previously unreleased film from the NASA archives.
Much of the footage was in 70mm, making the project a natural fit for an Imax presentation. And while the impact of the large-format screen is undeniable, the high-definition re-creation of the historic mission is just as stunning in a home-viewing setting.
According to the three-minute behind-the-scenes featurette included on the Blu-ray, this well-preserved footage was scanned at 8K and 16K using brand new equipment to remaster it at the highest resolutions yet possible.
The 93-minute documentary lets the footage itself tell the story of the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, using no narration or retrospective interviews. Exposition is similarly handled through whatever someone might have said to explain it at the time, primarily through the audio feeds of the technicians and astronauts, or newscasts from famous voices such as Walter Cronkite.
Miller does provide bits of animation to demonstrate key mission details, as well as on-screen graphics denoting mission times and spacecraft speeds when such information would be most pertinent to understanding what is going on.
The clarity of the newly found footage really puts the audience in the moment, be it at mission control, at the launch pad or among the millions of onlookers camped out along the Florida coast to get a glimpse of the massive Saturn V rocket blasting into space.
The film is as much a tribute to the men and women working at all levels of the space program to put a man on the moon, giving audiences a view beyond the grandeur, at all-too-human moments that seem like almost a footnote today, and details that even many space enthusiasts may be surprised by.
For example, as the world focused on astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins heading to the launch pad, technicians were working to fix a leak in one of the rocket’s engines, just a few hours before lift-off.
Then, a few days into the mission, we’re reminded that the Apollo missions weren’t the only source of major news in the world, as we overhear some NASA engineers discussing the Chappaquiddick incident, when Teddy Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and left his female passenger to drown. That happened two days after Apollo 11 launched.
The documentary also enlightens us with some otherwise mundane information, such as the heart rates of the astronauts during the more stressful phases of the mission — Armstrong’s pulse during the lunar landing passed 150 beats per minute — that continues to ground the events in a common humanity.
There’s also some lip service to the cosmic radiation the astronauts would have been exposed to — often brought up by conspiracy theorists who don’t believe humans could survive long durations in space. The truth is, passing through the Van Allen radiation belt surrounding Earth, the speed of the Apollo capsule would have been sufficient enough so that its occupants would have absorbed a radiation dose equivalent to a typical X-ray scan.
Aside from the spectacular launch footage, another highlight of the film is the presentation of the landing sequence in real time, using mission audio synced to camera footage taken from a camera mounted on the lunar module during its descent.
Rounding out the documentary is a mixture of still photographs and archival footage from a variety of sources, some familiar and some offering new perspectives on known events.
For fans of the space program, history buffs in general, or just plain people who could use a reminder of the technological achievements man is capable of, Apollo 11 is a documentary that should not be missed.