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  "Apollo 13": Alternatives to the 1995 feature film

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Author Topic:   "Apollo 13": Alternatives to the 1995 feature film
Buel
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posted 06-22-2013 01:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Buel   Click Here to Email Buel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some of you may find this hard to believe but I consider myself a Space/Apollo fan but I have never seen the Apollo 13 movie. The reason for this is I have heard/read that it is, partly, factually inaccurate (which really puts me off). Another reason is that I believe it exaggerates Gene Kranz's role in the event whereas I heard that actually Glynn Lunney was more prominent.

Please can I ask are there any alternatives to the film that you would recommend, perhaps a documentary of some sort. I hope you can understand my reluctance to watch the movie.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-22-2013 01:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If I may, I think your reluctance is misplaced.

So long as you realize that "Apollo 13" is not a documentary (which, by your own acknowledgment, you do), then it is an excellent film. Yes, it takes certain liberties, combining characters and adding a conflict between the crew that the astronauts say never happened, but it gets a great many of the details correct — so much so, that it was criticized by some for being unbelievable, even though it was how the real events played out (e.g. Marilyn Lovell losing her wedding ring on the morning of the launch).

More importantly though, "Apollo 13" can be credited with changing the public's opinion of and awareness of the mission, itself becoming part of the flight's cultural history.

"Apollo 13" is one of the few films I can watch countless times and appreciate with each viewing. Tom Hanks does a masterful job capturing Jim Lovell's persona and Ed Harris does such a good job capturing Gene Kranz, that Kranz adopted several of Harris' lines from the film as his own (much like Gordon Cooper adopted Wolfe's "Who's the best pilot you've ever seen?" line from "The Right Stuff").

Buel
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posted 06-22-2013 02:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Buel   Click Here to Email Buel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert, that's good enough for me. Thank you.

canyon42
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posted 06-22-2013 02:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for canyon42   Click Here to Email canyon42     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The brief shouting match on Aquarius is the only scene that really makes me cringe at all (unlike many, many scenes in "The Right Stuff," which I like a great deal as a movie but have to turn the "Reality Switch" in my brain off each time I watch it). Some other "wrong" details always jump out at me, such as Mattingly being in the wrong state at launch time (not to mention not being liquified by being within a half-mile of a Saturn V lighting off!), but they don't bother me.

One other point that I've heard criticisms on concerns how the film takes several groups of people and distills them into just one or two characters. For example, the OP mentioned Kranz, and yes, he sort of stands in for multiple flight directors at times. Similarly, Mattingly is really the only on-the-ground astronaut featured as working through all of the simulations, although he was in reality just one of several. I guess that's a valid criticism, but at the same time I recognize why the filmmakers did this--introducing everyone involved in a way that would have kept everyone clear and interesting to the audience would have been difficult, not to mention that it probably would have added an hour to the film. Keeping it simple in this regard was probably a good decision from a filmmaking perspective, even if it does take some liberties with reality.

FullThrottle
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posted 06-22-2013 07:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FullThrottle   Click Here to Email FullThrottle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jim Lovell has said many times he loved the movie, he's even in it! He personally told me some of the minor details that were off, but was overall very impressed with the film, and not just because Tom Hanks and Lovell are friends... Apollo 13 has been out 13 years, you MUST see it, even with distilled truths its a great movie!

GoesTo11
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posted 06-22-2013 08:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"Apollo 13" is fantastic, and you need to watch it now.

I don't have much to add to Robert's summary. The only qualification I can speak of addresses the previously referenced tension portrayed onscreen between Fred Haise and Jack Swigert. If I recall correctly, actor Bill Paxton ("Fred Haise") acknowledged in the DVD commentary that "some dramatic license" was taken in this scene.

I live in Jack Swigert's hometown of Denver, and I recall that when the film was released there was something of a clamor about his portrayal by Kevin Bacon as a randy bachelor (may or may not have been true) and as a shaky "rookie" (definitely not true; his crewmates, while unhappy about Mattingly's scrub, had total confidence in Swigert's ability to fly the mission.)

Anyway, it's a drama, not a documentary, and the key figures portrayed generally understood that certain accommodations with entertainment were made and accepted them. I know that Gene Kranz was a big fan of the movie, as was (noted) Jim Lovell. Look for Lovell at the end, appearing as the captain of the recovery ship greeting the crew (He refused to wear captain's bars onscreen, as he hadn't actually earned them.)

As for the movie itself, I saw it in a theater during its original release, and the full house cheered when Apollo 13's chutes opened. Don't know what to add to that.

YankeeClipper
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posted 06-23-2013 12:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is often said that life and art imitate each other.

Before the movie Apollo 13 (1995) and the mission Apollo 13 (1970), came the movie Marooned (1969) which was adapted from a 1964 Martin Caidin novel.

Marooned is about 3 astronauts stranded in a space emergency and stars Gregory Peck, Richard Crenna, and Gene Hackman. In real life, NASA Apollo 13 CDR Jim Lovell took his wife Marilyn to see it prior to his mission and it is where the idea of Marilyn's nightmare in the Apollo 13 movie originates.

Marooned may actually have played a supporting role in the real life Apollo 13 emergency as NASA Apollo 13 Warning System Engineer Jerry Woodfill relates here.

NASA Apollo 13 Flight Dynamics Officer Jerry Bostick was consulted by the Apollo 13 movie team and explains the true origin of the line "Failure is not an option!" here. NASA Apollo 15 CDR Dave Scott was the main technical consultant for Apollo 13 with NASA Skylab 4 SCI-PLT Ed Gibson assisting for a day.

Jim and Marilyn Lovell both appear in Apollo 13 - Marilyn is in the viewing stand on launch day behind her character while Jim plays the recovery carrier captain at the end. Small details like Mount Marilyn on the Moon and Jim covering the Moon with his thumb are referenced. If you purchase the Apollo 13 2-Disc Special Edition, there is the option to listen to a running commentary from both of them on the movie as it screens which is interesting. There are additional astronaut interviews aswell.

Sure there is dramatic licence taken when required - e.g. Fred Haise's urinary tract infection was debilitating in real life but he told me he could still function. The movie's main attribute is its ability to convey a sense of what it felt like to be aboard that mission e.g. the devastation at losing the lunar landing, the cold in the LEM, the worry about moisture in the electrical panels etc. It covers a lot of space and aspects of the mission and does it pretty well for a historical docudrama.

Apollo 13 I would recommend you watch - if nothing else large sections were filmed aboard a "vomit comet". Marooned is for the true aficionado curious about history!

KSCartist
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posted 06-23-2013 04:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KSCartist   Click Here to Email KSCartist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I recently watched the Apollo 13 post flight press conference on YouTube. At the beginning Jim and Fred introduce their wives to the audience. Then Jim says that "the entire crew of Continental stewardess' are here for Jack."

So Jack's reputation of being a "ladies man" was well known.

You can see it here at the 4 minute mark.

I have a letter from Lovell written in 1983 where he praises Swigert. East Hartford, CT was my hometown. In 1983 we honored Swigert as an adopted son. He had been a test pilot for Pratt & Whitney and a member of the CTANG prior to joining NASA.

nasamad
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posted 06-23-2013 10:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for nasamad   Click Here to Email nasamad     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Buel, let us know your opinions once you have seen it. Do you regret having watched it now? Personally I'm of the same opinion as Robert, it's just that I have to wait until the house is empty until I put it on, lol!

robsouth
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posted 06-23-2013 10:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The film Apollo 13 is very enjoyable to watch time and time again. I just wish they'd have gotten the LES jettison sequence right during the launch scene, makes me want to edit it every time I see it.

Rick
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posted 06-23-2013 02:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you're looking for a good documentary on the flight, you'll definitely want to check out "Apollo 13: To the Edge and Back." I did a review of it here on cS a few years ago.

YankeeClipper
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posted 06-23-2013 04:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A couple of interesting articles on Apollo 13 from 1995.

YankeeClipper
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posted 06-23-2013 04:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you can stand the suspense, this DVD will be released December 31, 2020!

Apollo: When The World Held Its Breath

Paul23
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posted 06-23-2013 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul23   Click Here to Email Paul23     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One thing you might want to think abut doing as well, once you've watched the film through, is to watch it again with the commentary track with Jim and Marilyn Lovell. It's very interesting to listen to their recollections and where they see the film diverging from reality.

David C
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posted 06-24-2013 07:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by robsouth:
I just wish they'd have gotten the LES jettison sequence right during the launch scene, makes me want to edit it every time I see it.
Yep, and I wish they had the LV Lights ("Thrust OK") working in the correct sense. I know that they changed them to highlight the engine failure, but to me it does the reverse - which is why the real thing didn't work that way.

albatron
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posted 06-24-2013 08:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had the honor of sitting with Al Worden at the Kennedy Space Center IMAX theater and watching the movie.

I think he enjoyed it overall, and felt Lovell should enjoy it as it's from him (from his book of course). He did point out some inaccuracies but as stated here, it's a drama not a documentary.

Just a point of correction to Goesto11, Lovell did retire as a Captain in the USN, and they wear eagles, not bars.

4allmankind
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posted 06-24-2013 10:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 4allmankind   Click Here to Email 4allmankind     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I love the film.

But for a space historian/fan that is reluctant to watch Apollo 13 because of its dramatic flair, I would recommend to you to watch it if nothing else for the fact that most of your friends and family have seen it.

It might be their only true taste of a space film, so watching it yourself can serve the simple purpose of being able to chat with your friends less knowledgeable than you are.

Saturn V
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posted 06-24-2013 11:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Saturn V     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I suggest you get a copy of Spacecraft Films Apollo 13 DVD set. You really won't find a better account of this flight than that.

garymilgrom
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posted 06-24-2013 11:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another reason to watch - Tom Hanks and the visual effects team went to great lengths to create believable effects that could seamlessly be edited with real footage. So we have actual footage of the launch, followed by recreations of camera angles not possible - like the Saturn heading vertically off the pad toward you. I think this is very well done, especially given the movie's production timeframe.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-24-2013 12:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by garymilgrom:
So we have actual footage of the launch, followed by recreations of camera angles not possible - like the Saturn heading vertically off the pad toward you.
"Apollo 13" used no archival footage from the launch or the mission. Everything is recreated.

With regards to the errors in the Saturn V launch sequence, they were not accidental.

In this video, "Apollo 13" visual effects supervisor Rob Legato explains why he purposely "got it wrong" to create what people — including astronauts — remember rather than what actually occurred...

Lunar Module 5
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posted 06-24-2013 04:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunar Module 5   Click Here to Email Lunar Module 5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have recently been putting together the Apollo 13 full mission videos on YouTube - for example the accident sequence is here.

It is not quite perfection and I know I get a lot wrong in the flight dynamics but its another alternative view of the flight.

The response to this and the Apollo 10 series has been amazing.

And I love doing them! You learn so much from just listening to the Comm.

GoesTo11
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posted 06-24-2013 07:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 4allmankind:
For a space historian/fan that is reluctant to watch Apollo 13 because of its dramatic flair, I would recommend to you to watch it if nothing else for the fact that most of your friends and family have seen it.
This is an excellent point. For many people with little exposure to the subject — especially those too young to have any recollection of the actual events — "Apollo 13" may well be their only point of reference to the moon missions and the space program in general. I've found that movie to be a great conversation prompt on several occasions.

Also, thanks Al (albatron) for the correction on Lovell's rank. I was referencing an anecdote purely from memory; either I misreported it or the source was wrong, not sure which.

YankeeClipper
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posted 06-24-2013 08:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very interesting (and amusing) presentation from Rob Legato!

onesmallstep
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posted 06-25-2013 12:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Without belaboring on the anecdote about Lovell's onscreen rank during his cameo in Apollo 13 (his second, after appearing with David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1976); they offered him the role of two-star Admiral, which he turned down, and wore his Captain's STRIPES on rank shoulder boards, not 'bars'. The Eagle insignia is used in khaki dress uniforms, on the collar, or on a field cap.

kr4mula
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posted 06-25-2013 12:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had the opportunity to interview several of the flight controllers about Apollo 13 - the movie - and none had anything really negative to say, even those whose characters were blended together or overlooked. In my opinion, it's not really in their character (no pun intended) to feel slighted by a Hollywood dramatization. On the contrary, many seemed very pleased that such a popular movie so prominently feature flight controllers and engineers, even in a simplified way. For one example, see my 26 January 2000 interview with John Aaron. He talks about the movie at some length.

onesmallstep
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posted 06-25-2013 01:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with above post. After many movies, books, and articles on "The Right Stuff" astronauts, it must have been nice to see the ground crew get their due in this movie, and the "From the Earth to the Moon" miniseries.

By the way; Tom Hanks, are you listening/reading? How about a sequel covering Skylab thru Shuttle?

Buel
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posted 06-25-2013 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Buel   Click Here to Email Buel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you all for the excellent replies. I have found them very persuasive and am just about to order 'Apollo 13' from Amazon.

I will ask/please/make my long suffering girlfriend watch it with me too.

paulushumungus
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posted 06-25-2013 03:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for paulushumungus   Click Here to Email paulushumungus     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You will love it. See if you can spot James and Marilyn Lovell playing cameo roles in it.

mikepf
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From: San Jose, California, USA
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posted 06-26-2013 11:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikepf   Click Here to Email mikepf     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Years ago I was at a trade show. I went into a booth that had a HUGE high definition TV and sound system being demoed. They were running the Apollo 13 movie launch scene.

It was awesome! I've never had the pleasure of being at a real launch, never mind a Saturn V, so this was my closest thing to being there.

garymilgrom
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From: Atlanta, GA, USA
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posted 06-26-2013 04:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
"Apollo 13" used no archival footage from the launch or the mission. Everything is recreated.
I stand corrected. Thanks Robert.

p51
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posted 06-26-2013 07:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Maybe it's off topic, but I always thought the actor who played John Young in the feature film (Ben Marley, according to Wikipedia) looked a lot like the man at that time.

But when they did the "Earth to the Moon" series, THAT actor (John Posey) looked like a seriously overweight version of Young. I wonder how Young felt about that...

YankeeClipper
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posted 06-27-2013 02:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think Jim Lovell originally thought that Kevin Costner might play the Apollo 13 CDR based on facial and physical similarity. Interesting to wonder how the movie would have turned out with Costner in the lead role - I think he would have done ok providing he could have handled all the filming aboard the "vomit comet".

Here's an interesting article on Apollo 13 with observations from Ken Mattingly on how the movie differed from real life. He talks about previous mission simulations and how certain emergency procedures were originally conceived and then rapidly adapted for the real Apollo 13.

All times are CT (US)

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