Space History News
space history and collectibles feature articles

discussion forums about space history and collecting

calendar of worldwide astronaut appearances

collecting guides and selected space history documents

related space memorabilia and history websites

Go / No Go :
"Apollo 13: Anniversary Edition" DVD

Review by Rick Houston

Studio:   Universal Studios
Release:   March 29, 2005
Length:   Main feature: 2 hrs, 20 mins; IMAX: 1 hour, 56 mins
MSRP:   $22.98
Extras:   Disc one: "Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13," feature commentary with Ron Howard; feature commentary with Jim and Marilyn Lovell; production notes; theatrical trailer.

Disc two: IMAX Experience version; "Conquering Space: The Moon and Beyond"; "Lucky 13: The Astronauts' Story."

Ten years after Apollo 13 was first shown in theaters, seven years after its original release on DVD and 35 after the mission itself, Universal has put together a two-disc release to commemorate the anniversaries. Should you pick up the new offering, especially if you already own the original? Good question. Read on.

When the movie debuted in 1995, it introduced millions to the space program and rekindled my own interest. From the first seconds of the movie, it was obvious that it was made by people who cared very deeply about the subject.

During the launch sequence (for example), it was almost as if you were a most unfortunate bird flying over the pad. Great shot. The actors weren't always making ridiculously slow movements to simulate weightlessness, as had been done in other space movies; they were also filmed floating for seconds at a time aboard the "Vomit Comet," NASA's KC-135 parabolic trainer used by real astronauts.

All of the special effects were, pardon the pun, out of this world. You almost wondered if director Ron Howard, in his The Andy Griffith Show days, hadn't somehow planned ahead and arranged to send along a camera on the actual mission. Then again, he couldn't have; if he had sent a camera along with the real Apollo 13 crew, the film would not have been nearly this good.

The computer-altered, but nonetheless incredibly realistic shots of the Aquarius/Odyssey lunar module/command and service module stack wouldn't have been possible. More than any space-related movie ever made, Apollo 13 put the viewer alongside the participants... right there in mission control, in the spacecraft and in the homes of the astronauts' families.

It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since the movie was first released. How many times have I seen it since then? The number passed countless long ago, and still, every time Blanche Lovell - portrayed by Howard's mom, Jean - says that if "they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it," I tear. Every time the eldest Lovell daughter slides over to hug her mother as Odyssey is in re-entry blackout, I tear.

And I am relieved every time I see that craft floating under those three parachutes as seen on the front screen in mission control.

I love this movie, even with its faults. Apollo 13 is not a dead-on accurate portrayal of Apollo 13.

For example, Lovell and the rest of his crew did not get bumped up from Apollo 14 simply due to Alan Shepard's "ear infection." Rather, it was NASA's decision that Shepard and his crew needed more time to train, following Shepard's long layoff due to Meniere's Syndrome.

There's more, for instance:
  • Lovell and his fellow astronauts weren't at a party at his house when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. Most were in mission control.

  • Guenter Wendt was in charge of the launch pad white room, and was not with the astronauts as they suited up.

  • If the hold-back arms on the launch tower had released one by one as depicted in the movie, the Saturn V would have toppled over, destroying itself mere seconds into flight.

  • Fred Haise wasn't in line for Apollo 18, as mentioned at the end of the movie; he was slated based on crew rotation for Apollo 19.
There are other scenes that were added or exaggerated for dramatic effect. For instance, it's said that if rookie command module pilot Jack Swigert couldn't dock with the LM, the mission would have been lost. Nonsense. Lovell would have gladly completed the job. The dramatic licenses however, never detract in the slightest.

Extras: The anniversary edition commentaries included on Disc One, from Howard, Lovell and his wife, Marilyn are the same as on the original "Collector's Edition" DVD release. They're detailed, funny, poignant, informative, as any good commentary track should be.

"Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13" is a superb, in- depth look at the making of the film. It's so good, that it's almost worthy of a separate DVD release. It, too, was included in the original DVD release.

So what's different this time out? Disc Two...

The IMAX Experience version of the movie makes up the bulk of the second platter. Some 24 minutes have been cut out of the original version, to accommodate the larger IMAX film reel. The chapter stops are the same as the full-length movie, so scenes are shortened. The Saturn V launch sequence however, is shown second for second, as is the explosion and emergency scene. They're by far the longest unchanged portions of the movie.

The IMAX version has a DTS 5.1 digital sound track that is optimal for surround sound systems. A DTS version of Disc One was released a few years ago, but strangely its not included for the new Anniversary Edition.

The two documentaries on Disc Two are "Conquering Space: The Moon and Beyond," a 48-minute general overview of the race to the Moon and the exploration of Mars. It's a decent effort, but there's nothing new, nothing really out of the ordinary included in the program.

Next up is a 12-minute segment that originally aired on NBC's Dateline program on July 29, 1995, dubbed "Lucky 13: The Astronauts' Story" for this release. It covers a lot of ground while looking at the flight, a perfect tie-in to the original theatrical release of the movie. Not only is Lovell interviewed, but so are flight controllers Gene Kranz, Sy Liebergot and John Aaron. "Lucky" also includes original air-to-ground transmissions and footage.

Go/No Go: Go, but only if you haven't gone before.

If you do not already own the original DVD release, this is an absolute must own.ĘThis film may be the only thing some people know about the space program, or it may open the door to a lifelong love for manned space flight.

If you already own another DVD version, the extras on the Anniversary Edition may not be enough to justify the second copy. The DTS track on the IMAX cut is a nice touch, but it should have been available for the full-length movie as well. The "Conquering Space" documentary is nice, but you may have seen it all before. "Lucky 13" is a much better effort, but it's relatively short.

Order now: Amazon

back to collectSPACE

© 1999-2014 All rights reserved.
Questions? E-mail
About the reviewer:
Rick Houston is an avid collector of DVDs (he has more than 600). Houston is also a space history enthusiast, so he is sure to not miss a documentary or docudrama.

Feedback: collectSPACE: Messages

'Go/No Go' Review Archive: