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Apollo 13: 2 Disc Special Edition DVD Review

by Chris McEneany
Movies & TV Review

Apollo 13: 2 Disc Special Edition DVD Review
SRP: £19.99

Picture

Well, Universal have provided a scintillating transfer of Apollo 13 this time around. Presented in glorious 2.35:1, the image is crystal clear and positively radiant. Offering tremendous colour with no banding, bleed or chroma noise, I don't think I've ever seen this movie look so good. Skin tones have a natural and realistic hue, the psychedelic bedroom of Jim's daughter really dazzles and the blast-off sequence is particularly captivating - the flames vividly leap out at you and the cool blues of the sky slip effortlessly into the deep black of space. Stars are beautifully etched like tiny diamonds and the colours of the Earth are so entrancing you'd wonder why we'd all be so eager to leave it. There's terrific detail captured too. Check out the aerial view of the launchpad near the start or the great clarity and colour on offer as the crowds leave after the launch. Even the earlier scene in one of NASA's offices with the lovely sunny view peeping in through the blinds - great sense of colour and shadow throughout. Reflections on visors are caught with precision, the instrumentation panels are sharply depicted with buttons and switches you really think you could reach out and press, and the lunar landscape is obviously well-rendered with great depth and shadow. Also check out the gorgeous image of the rescue helicopters coming across the sea after the splashdown.

Blacks are well depicted offering awesome contrast between the views outside the ship and the brilliant whites of the spacesuits. There is some edge-enhancement, but it is not in the least distracting and, unlike the original R2 release, there is remarkably little grain on show. I found no trace of dot crawl or pixellation, no artifacting whatsoever, in fact. A real visual treat.
Apollo 13: 2 Disc Special Edition

Sound

Obviously the main drawing point here is the addition of a new DTS 5.1 track and I can assure you that it is nothing short of awesome. Right from the word go it asserts it dominance over the Dolby Digital mix with the opening drum roll filling the room. It sounds so much more vivid and accomplished, more aggressive and involving, creating a wider soundscape that really seems to stretch the movie out around you. The highlight is definitely the lift-off - you know its going to kick ass and raise the roof, so let it rip. The sub and rears get plenty of action throughout - the pivotal explosion is a wonderful sonic moment that starts with the hiss and sizzle of the burning wires streaming past you from the rear right and when the boosters are jettisoned they roar away front to back with terrific precision. Dialogue and ambience is always well steered and James Horner's elegiac score really benefits, rolling in with incredible power and that angelic chorus especially soars. It's possibly my least favourite of his scores but I must admit it is well presented here.

Now, don't get me wrong - the Dolby Digital mix is brilliantly delivered too. It always was. But the DTS track definitely takes the prize here, punching through the atmosphere with as much power as the Saturn 5 rocket itself. Wonderful audio mixes all round.
Apollo 13: 2 Disc Special Edition

Extras

Now this UK release is called the Special Edition whilst the R1 version is called the Anniversary Edition. So what's the difference? Firstly, the US version appears to be offering up the IMAX version of the movie as well as the theatrical cut. This is shorter and, in my opinion, rather pointless. It also appears that it's only this version that carries the DTS soundmix on that particular release while we get it on the full theatrical cut. Which is nice and a step in the right direction for R2. As regards the rest of the extras, they all seem to be the same.

We get the two Commentary Tracks that graced the original release - one from director Ron Howard and the other from Jim and Marilyn Lovell. Both these tracks are worthwhile. Howard's has plenty of anecdotes about the cast and crew and offers lots of technical explanation as to how they achieved many shots. He points out his brother Clint in his obligatory role and reveals that the real Ken Mattingly reckons that besides Mission Control there was probably around five thousand people in industry that were engaged in resolving the crisis, too! He's also good at indicating who was real and who was an amalgamation of several people and likes to point up the heroism of the techno-nerds as he calls them. The Lovell's are obviously closer to the real side of the drama and Marilyn occasionally gets upset - even at the afore-mentioned lunar walk sequence that I didn't think fitted in with the movie. Jim keeps the chat bubbling along quite amiably without getting overwrought. He adds titbits here and there and explains when things have been altered for dramatic purposes and, overall, seems very happy with the end result. Oh yeah, Swigert's confession to the IRS was true as well, but it seems the President managed to smooth things over. Great couple of tracks.

Disc 2 contains the new stuff. First off is the documentary Lost Moon: The Triumph Of Apollo 13. Running for almost an hour, this is a great making of. We do get a little back slapping but, thankfully, not too much. There is some great footage of the cast in the Vomit Comet, a specially designed KC 135 Boeing 707, that performs some incredible aerodynamics to achieve weightlessness for those on board. Bacon reveals that the only trouble he had was actually wearing the full spacesuit because it was so tight and painful. Big tough Gene Krantz reminisces and still becomes emotional at the memory of it all and Ed Harris reveals that this is the moment he so wanted to capture. There is a lot of talk from Lovell and actual footage from the time cross cut with behind-the-scenes stuff from the film and fair few talking heads from all the principals. Lovell even gets to reveal that he plays a captain on board the navy vessel that picks the astronauts up - apparently he declined playing an admiral as it was above his real rank. As a whole this is a solid piece, entertaining, informative and a fitting accompaniment for the movie.

Then there is 45 mins Conquering Space : The Moon And Beyond. Although informative, this overview of the space race from its early days, briefly covering the Apollo 13 crisis and all the main missions right up to the Mars robot rover, is a little lightweight and glossy to be anything other than a pure idiot's guide. There is some great archival footage but I doubt you would really look at this more than once.

Finally, we get Lucky 13: The Astronaut's Story. This is a 12 mins featurette about the fateful mission told from the point of view of those who were involved. Short but effective.
Apollo 13: 2 Disc Special Edition
Apollo 13 is a great film. It does sometimes veer too far into the realm of being overly worthy and a tad sentimental but, given the subject matter, I think we can allow that. All the main cast deliver the goods - I mean we'd expect nothing less from Hanks, but it is the others that elevate the movie beyond what could've amounted to little more than a one-man show. Paxton, Bacon and Sinise are all tremendous and, of course, Ed Harris is the rock that the film seems to be gravitationally revolving around. A touching and exhilarating ride showing the dark side of exploration and the shining light of man's determination to survive. Universal's new disc is a definite winner with superb AV quality to mark it out from the previous releases. Retaining the great chat tracks and adding one worthwhile documentary and a little bit of filler, this is still worth upgrading to, if only for the DTS. Recommended.

Scores

Movie

.
.
8

Picture Quality

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
9

Extras

.
.
.
7

Overall

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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