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Apollo 13: 2 Disc Anniversary Edition R1 DVD Review

by Casimir Harlow
Movies & TV Review

Apollo 13: 2 Disc Anniversary Edition R1 DVD Review

Picture

When it comes to the two transfers, both versions of the film are presented in anamorphically enhanced widescreen, the first disc housing the 2.35:1 aspect ratio original theatrical version and the second disc housing the 1.66:1 aspect ratio IMAX ediion. The original theatrical version has the edge in terms of detail and clarity, although both transfers are largely superb. Neither displays any sign of grain or dust, dirt or any other defects that might impinge upon your viewing pleasure. The colour scheme is fairly restricted once they get into space, but the rest of the show back on the ground allows for some fairly lurid seventies pastel colours to be presented accurately. The blacks of space are also excellent - deep and solid and conceivably seeping off into infinity. Both transfers are brilliant but my money would go on the original theatrical version.
Apollo 13: 2 Disc Anniversary Edition R1

Sound

There are several audio tracks on offer here. Both versions of the film have a near-as-identical Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but only the IMAX edition carries a DTS 5.1 track. Now, the Dolby track is fantastic, with excellent directionality for the crystal-clear dialogue, and superb use of the surrounds for the many little space rocket special effects - both big and small. And the crowds' cheering, in particular, tends to liven up your living room, whilst the solid score by stalwart James Horner does a good job of sustaining the dramatic tension.

Normally this strong a track would not really warrant upgrading, but with DTS on offer as the alternative, I decided to give it a whirl. You know what? It was phenomenal - and to be honest, unlike some DTS variants, you can really tell the difference here. The mix is more potent than the Dolby alternative, with more bass - especially during the noteworthy shuttle lift-off. Unfortunately, it clearly would have been nicer to have a DTS for the full theatrical version. Instead we get alternative language 5.1 tracks for the theatrical version dubbed in French and Spanish.
Apollo 13: 2 Disc Anniversary Edition R1

Extras

Disc 1

First up there is an audio commentary with the Director Ron Howard, talking about the historical impact of the movie that came about almost as a side-effect from telling a simple tale of three men trying to get home. He explains what actually took place and what was fictionalised for the purposes of cinematic draw and storytelling, commenting on the acting talent as they appear on screen and the filming techniques he used to capture the spirit of the mission. Occasionally a little dry, and often taking a break to watch the movie himself, I'm not sure just how much of the commentary can be tolerated in one sitting, but there certainly are a few interesting titbits in amongst the more tedious moments if you are willing to endure it. Hanks' improvisational moments and the depth Howard provides into the characters' actions are amongst the highlights but it is still not one of the better commentaries that I have listened to.

The second audio commentary track is with Jim and Marilyn Lovell, the real couple fictionalised in the movie and portrayed by Hanks and Kathleen Quinlan. The pair are considerably more animated than Howard was on the previous track, even if they often lapse into indiscriminate praise for anything related to the production. James Lovell talks about what really happened, relating what occurs on screen to the truth - everything from the accuracy of the colour of his car (he had a blue not a red Chevrolet Corvette) to the last-minute replacement of one of the crew. He more often than not dominates the proceedings but his wife, Marilyn occasionally interjects a nice comment about what she has noticed in the movie - like Hanks' adherence to depicting Jim's mannerisms. It is clearly the better of the two commentaries, and I can see why it was separated from the Director's input - clearly the Lovells have a great deal to say about the production and most of it is really nice to follow.

Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13 - The Making of Apollo 13. This hour-long documentary covers the production of the movie in good detail. Starting with footage of the real Apollo 13 heroes, the director takes us through his labour of love and how he wanted it to be as true and real as possible. He posits that the film will stand future generations in good stead when it comes to painting a real picture of what happened out there, being even more useful than the archival footage of the real landing. Tom Hanks states that it is one of the seven great premises in good literature - a tale about people getting home. Then we get a great barrage of sound bites from both the cast (Hanks, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon) and crew talking about how the project came about - it had funding even before the script was written - and how everybody was so happy to be on board. This is all book-ended with slow-motion clips from the final film set to a choir singing and this is how the featurette goes on for the duration, with discussions on the effects and the script occasionally livened up with some behind the scenes footage of rehearsals and even goofing around on set, including Kevin Bacon doing a funny impression of the director, Ron Howard. It was nice to hear how they convinced NASA to let them film in their zero-gravity unit and how much effort everybody went to do bring this thing together. It is a good featurette that covers just about every aspect of the production you can imagine, often crossing over the information that the commentaries provides, and the real astronauts don't just pop up at the beginning - there is more footage of their journey spread throughout.

There are also production notes, the theatrical trailer for the main feature and a single, solitary, slightly out-of-place preview on disc start-up (for both discs!) for the new Russell Crowe boxing drama, Cinderella Man.

Disc 2

Conquering Space - The Moon and Beyond is a fifty-minute look at the history of space exploration: borne from two world powers struggling for space dominance. After the Russians' success with Sputnik, and the initial failure of the U.S. endeavours, Kennedy motivated the then-new NASA organisation to put them back in the running. The documentary looks at most of the launches from both sides, with an overall narration that helps explain the rusty footage and lots of contributions from various astronauts and NASA personnel, including Jim Lovell himself. It's an extremely interesting documentary which ought to be given consideration as a keen record of an important piece of our history.

Lucky 13 is a thirteen-minute featurette made in 1995 and looking at the flight of Apollo 13. It basically sums up the movie in a few minutes, featuring interviews from the real hero astronauts and footage from the actual mission itself along with clips from the movie. It's a nice but fairly fluffy addition to the disc.

As you will have already noted, this is the new 10th Anniversary edition which gives us two versions of the movie - the theatrical and the IMAX version. Now it is a tough call between the two because the only version with the DTS track is the IMAX edition but it is not only in the wrong aspect ratio but it also runs about twenty minutes shy of the theatrical version. Therefore, overall, I would recommend you stick with the theatrical version, mainly because it is the most complete edition. Alternatively, the UK special edition release has all of the same features, but the DTS track is on the main theatrical version - giving it the clear edge. Fellow reviewer Mark Haywood has done a fantastic review for this recent UK release on this very website.
Apollo 13: 2 Disc Anniversary Edition R1
This is not the first Apollo 13 release, and it is unfortunately not a definitive edition - mainly because of the decision not to put DTS on the first disc. It still has superb audio and, with an excellent transfer and a solid set of extras - some new - so I'm sure it will entice many new buyers. If you want to upgrade, however, I would recommend seriously considering the Region 2 release instead. Certainly it is a worthy addition to anybody's DVD collection.

Scores

Movie

.
.
8

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

.
9

Extras

.
.
8

Overall

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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