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Apollo 11 (2019 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Todd Douglas Miller|
|Music by||Matt Morton|
|Edited by||Todd Douglas Miller|
|Distributed by||Neon (US)
Universal Pictures (International)
|Box office||$15.3 million|
Apollo 11 is a 2019 American documentary film edited, produced and directed by Todd Douglas Miller. It focuses on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, the first spaceflight from which men walked on the Moon. The film consists solely of archival footage, including 70 mm film previously unreleased to the public, and does not feature narration, interviews or modern recreations. The Saturn V rocket, Apollo crew consisting of Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins, and Apollo program Earth-based mission operations engineers are prominently featured in the film.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2019, and was released theatrically in the United States by Neon on March 1, 2019. Apollo 11 has received acclaim from critics and grossed $15 million.
In late 2016, Todd Douglas Miller had recently completed work on The Last Steps, a documentary about Apollo 17, when British archivist and film editor Stephen Slater suggested making a similarly themed documentary for the upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations of Apollo 11. CNN Films subsequently became a partner in the film. Miller's conception of the film was centered on a direct cinema approach. The final film contains no voice-over narration or interviews beyond what was available in the contemporary source material. Portions of the mission are illustrated by animated graphics depicting the parts of the Apollo spacecraft as line drawings, the designs of which are based on the cel-animated graphics in Theo Kamecke's 1971 documentary Moonwalk One.
In May 2017, cooperation between Miller's production team, NASA, and the National Archives and Records Administration resulted in the discovery of unreleased 70 mm footage from the preparation, launch, mission control operations, recovery and post flight activities of Apollo 11. The large-format footage includes scenes from Launch Complex 39, spectators present for the launch, the launch of the Saturn V rocket, the recovery of astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins and the Apollo 11 command module, and post-mission efforts aboard the USS Hornet. The documentary included this footage alongside conventional footage from 35 and 16 mm film, still photography, and closed-circuit television footage.
Miller's team used the facilities of Final Frame, a post-production firm in New York City, to make high-resolution digital scans of all reels depicting ground based activities that were available in the National Archives. Specialized climate-controlled vans were used to safely transport the archival material to and from College Park, Maryland. The production team sourced over 11,000 hours of audio recordings and hundreds of hours of video. Among the audio recordings were 30-track tapes of voice recordings at every Mission Control station. Ben Feist, a Canadian software engineer, wrote software to improve the fidelity of the newly available audio. Slater, who had synchronized audio recordings with silent 16 mm Mission Control footage in earlier projects, performed the task of synchronizing the audio and film. The production team was able to identify "Mother Country", a song by folk musician John Stewart, in Lunar Module voice recordings. The song was subsequently featured in the film.
A 47-minute edit for exhibition in museum IMAX theaters Apollo 11: First Steps Edition includes extended large-format scenes that differ from the full-length documentary.
A soundtrack album Apollo 11 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) composed by Matt Morton was released worldwide by Milan Records on digital download on March 8, 2019. Played on electronic instruments available in 1969, the seventeen-track album was also released on CD on June 28 and vinyl on July 19, 2019.
The film takes some liberties with the timeline of the mission. For example, the incident involving Michael Collins’s biomed sensors going out, leading him to wisecrack, "I promise to let you know if I stop breathing," occurred during the return voyage, on day 8 of the mission, but is depicted as happening during the approach to the Moon before the separation of the command and lunar modules.
The world premiere of Apollo 11 took place in Salt Lake City at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2019. It was given a limited release in the United States on March 1, 2019 in IMAX through Neon and was released in the United Kingdom on June 28, 2019 through Universal Pictures.
Universal Pictures released Apollo 11 in the U.S. on digital download, DVD and Blu-ray on May 14, 2019. The discs have two extra features; a 3-minute featurette titled Apollo 11: Discovering the 65mm and a theatrical trailer. It was released on DVD, digital, Blu-ray and a 4K Ultra HD two-disc set in the United Kingdom on November 4, 2019 by Dogwoof.
In its opening weekend, Apollo 11 grossed $1.6 million from 120 IMAX theaters (a per-venue gross of $13,392), finishing 15th at the box office. In its second weekend, the film gave up most of its IMAX venues to newcomer Captain Marvel, but played in a total of 405 traditional theaters and made $1.3 million, finishing 10th at the box office. It continued to hold well in its third weekend, grossing $1.2 million from 588 theaters, just a 2% drop.
Upon its premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, the film was acclaimed by critics, who mostly praised the quality of the film's footage. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 99% based on 172 reviews, with an average rating of 9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Edifying and inspiring in equal measure, Apollo 11 uses artfully repurposed archival footage to send audiences soaring back to a pivotal time in American history." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
In a positive review for IndieWire, David Ehrlich complimented Miller's ability to make the Moon landing sequence feel unique and thrilling, and stated that the clarity of the footage "takes your breath away". In another positive review, Owen Gleiberman of Variety called the footage "quite spectacular", and many critics compared the documentary to Damien Chazelle's 2018 Neil Armstrong biopic First Man in their reviews. Glenn Kenny of The New York Times called the film "entirely awe-inspiring" and wrote, "Although we know how the mission turns out, the movie generates and maintains suspense. And it rekindles a crazy sense of wonder at, among other things, what one can do practically with trigonometry." Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gave the film four-out-of-four stars, calling the film "an adrenaline shot of wonder and skill.... Films this completely imagined and ecstatically realized are so rare that when one comes along, it makes most other movies, even the good ones, seem underachieving. Any information that you happen to absorb while viewing Apollo 11 is secondary to the visceral experience of looking at it and listening to it." Paul Mavis for Movies & Drinks, wrote, "Apollo 11 not only thrills you like a rollercoaster ride, it brings back to life an exceedingly brief moment in the American timeline where brash and wholly warranted confidence in our technological superiority created a miraculous, quantum leap forward for us as a (mostly) unified nation."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Sundance Film Festival||February 2, 2019||Special Jury Award for Editing||Todd Douglas Miller||Won||
|US Documentary Grand Jury Prize||Todd Douglas Miller||Nominated|
|Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication||June 24, 2019||Film community||Todd Douglas Miller||Won|||
|Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards||December 8, 2019||Best Editing||Todd Douglas Miller||Won|||
|Independent Spirit Awards||February 8, 2020||Best Documentary Feature||Todd Douglas Miller||Nominated|||
|Cinema for Peace||February 23, 2020||Most Valuable Documentary of Year 2020||Apollo 11||Nominated|||
- Footprints on the Moon, a 1969 documentary film by Bill Gibson and Barry Coe, about the Apollo 11 mission
- Moonwalk One, a 1970 documentary film by Theo Kamecke
- For All Mankind, the Oscar-nominated 1989 documentary film by Al Reinert about the Apollo program (1969 – 1972) featuring the music of Brian Eno
- Apollo 11 in popular culture
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- apollo-11 | Sundance Institute
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- Apollo 11 | Blu-ray | United States | Blu-ray + Digital HD | Universal Studios | 2019 | 93 min | Rated G | May 14, 2019
- Apollo 11 4K Blu-ray | United Kingdom | 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray Dogwoof | 2019 | 93 min | Rated Exempt | Nov 04, 2019
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- 35th Film Independent Spirit Award Nominations Announcement - Film Independent on YouTube
- Nominations 2020 - Cinema for Peace Foundation
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