However, if you are a teenager, then you might have a different reaction. You might not have much context and you might feel that the movie gets a bit tedious, repetitive, and maybe even boring at times.
This documentary is all about Apollo 11, America’s successful mission to land the first men on the moon. Apollo 11 fulfilled the aim announced by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, that the U.S. “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." When people think of America and our accomplishments, Apollo 11 is one of the things that really makes the U.S. stand out, as it fulfilled a national dream.
In 1957, the U.S. was outdone by the Soviets when they sent Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, into space. Then in April, 1961, the Soviets sent the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin. The U.S. was devastated that we were “losing the space race.” One month later, President Kennedy announced his goal for America to send the first man to the moon, which was the Americans’ attempt to assert their dominance in the world and especially over the Soviet Union. Thus, when the U.S. finally accomplished Kennedy’s goal, it proved to the world that America not only won the space race, but that we were also the most powerful superpower of the world and had beaten the Soviet Union. This accomplishment was a source of national pride and meant so much to the American people. It captured the imagination of everyone and fulfilled a dream of people all over the world to advance civilization by reaching new heights.
The movie takes the viewer on the journey of the Apollo 11 mission: from when the astronauts were preparing for the mission to when they splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. The movie shows multiple scenes that include huge numbers of people working to operate this launch and landing. NASA employees worked for years leading up to the moon landing. The constant flow of details shown on the screen helps the viewer imagine the heavy labor that was needed for Apollo 11 to go right. Even then, we are only given just a hint of the work that was put into the mission. This movie includes footage that has never been seen before and makes this movie historically accurate. It helps the viewer imagine what it must have been like being there for the mission.
If you were one of the approximately 600 million people who were alive in 1969, and who saw the moon landing, you may feel sentimental and nostalgic about this incredible accomplishment. Never before had any country attempted to put a man on the moon. The movie shows how the whole world was glued to their TVs in great anticipation for the moment when history would be made. Thus, people who are older now and who witnessed the Apollo 11 moon landing will probably really enjoy reliving their experiences by watching the movie. The movie shows how not only Americans but people around the world were excited to see if this major milestone would be achieved.
By contrast, teenagers might not like the movie as much. Since Apollo 11 occurred 50 years ago, today’s teenagers have no personal connection to this event. For them, it’s just history, and the film is narrated at a very slow pace, which isn’t what most teenagers find interesting these days. Teenagers have grown up expecting instant responses to their needs due to the internet, social media, and instant messaging. This all translates to speed. If teenagers don't find something interesting immediately, then they likely will move on quickly. To make the movie more engaging, the director could have focused on the relationships of the astronaut with one another and their families. For example, the astronauts must have had many hopes, as well as fears, which could have been explored more in this movie to create tension and interest. People used to joke around by saying, “that will be the day when they put a man on the moon.” At the time it seemed impossible. It would have been very interesting to have heard the astronauts, in their own words, talk about their excitement to be selected as the first men who would land on the moon.
The filmmakers used archival audio clips instead of voiceover throughout the film. The audio reports the specific details of the whole mission, such as the trajectory, outside temperature, and mission tasks. A scientist or engineer will most likely find those details very interesting, but probably not so much the average viewer. If filmmakers would have developed the characters more, then this movie might have appealed to a wider audience.
All in all, I would rate this movie a 3.5 out of 5. Even though I had no emotional connection to the film, I enjoyed seeing the progress and eventual success of the historic Apollo 11 mission. This movie shared never-before-seen footage which grabbed my attention. I believe adults who lived through that era would enjoy this movie the most, compared to a young audience that doesn’t understand the importance of the mission.
Therefore, I would recommend that folks over 60 years old watch this historic movie and relive the excitement of those years, but I would not recommend Apollo 11 to teens.
Max Mesh is an eighth grader at the Computer School in New York City. In his free time, he enjoys bowling and playing ultimate frisbee. He also loves to write science fiction with his friends.
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