Apollo 11 Blu-ray Review

Highly Recommended 4.5 Stars

Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary Apollo 11 is a visually stunning look at the United States’ legendary and historic trip to the moon.

Apollo 11 (2019)
Released: 28 Jun 2019
Rated: G
Runtime: 93 min
Director: Todd Douglas Miller
Genre: Documentary, History
Cast: Buzz Aldrin, Joan Ann Archer, Janet Armstrong, Neil Armstrong
Writer(s): N/A
Plot: A look at the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon led by commander Neil Armstrong and pilots Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
IMDB rating: 8.6
MetaScore: 90

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: G
Run Time: 1 Hr. 33 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Blu-ray keepcase with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 05/14/2019
MSRP: $34.98

The Production: 4.5/5

Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary Apollo 11 is a visually stunning look at the United States’ legendary and historic trip to the moon. Told through the use of archival footage (in 65mm, 35mm, 16mm, color and black & white video and sill photos) and archival audio from the actual NASA mission recordings and news broadcasts from the likes of Walter Cronkite and others (only Cronkite is credited). And that is part of the beauty and poetry of the film – it is comprised of no newly created footage and no real narrator. The most breathtaking images come early on, utilizing recently discovered 65mm footage (in both 5-perf and experimental 10-perf) that was scanned at 16K before it was edited into the film, documenting the days leading up to and including the launch of the Saturn rockets that propelled Apollo 11 into space. Most have never seen the Apollo 11 mission like this before, and is a must-see for any classroom or anyone interested in space travel or exploration.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

As mentioned above, Apollo 11 is comprised of several different formats of video source material, ranging from 10-perf and 5-perf 65mm to 16mm handheld newsreel to black and white 1960s era security video, and pretty much everything in between. Director/Editor Todd Douglas Miller then composited it all into a 2.20:1 aspect ratio, sometimes cropping to full screen, often window boxing or combining multiple images into a split screen. Footage was cleaned up in the best possible quality, and the finished film was completed as a 4K digital intermediate. Universal’s Blu-ray release consists of an excellent 1080p AVC-encoded transfer that replicates the film’s traditional theatrical exhibitions. Colors are bold and vivid, especially in the 65mm footage, but also in the lesser quality 16mm and 1960s color video (hooray for videotape!) without appearing overly smeared. Cropping of this footage was done so with care, and although grain is often very noticeable in much of the 16mm footage, there is still a great deal of detail visible. The only real disappointment is the fact that Universal has not yet released the film on 4K UHD Blu-ray.

Audio: 5/5

Apollo 11 arrives on Blu-ray with one and only one audio option – an earth-shattering DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The launch of the Saturn rockets will definitely cause your floorboards to rattle thanks to a deep LFE presence, but those floorboards will also rattle a bit as the rockets are moved to the launch pad by the giant crawler-transporter at the start of the film. Dialogue is clear and mostly understandable throughout (there are a few instances where the cleanup of the archival tapes still could not clear up some of the dialogue spoken). Surrounds are used to fill out the listening area with music and atmospheric effects.

Special Features: 1.5/5

Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 1:53)

Apollo 11: Discovering the 65mm Featurette (1080p; 2:54): This all-too-brief featurette looks at the prototype scanner used to scan the 65mm footage at up to 16K resolution, the pouring through of archival audio recordings, and how much data storage was required once everything was compiled. Although very detailed, I really wish it had been much longer.

Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on Movies Anywhere.

Overall: 4.5/5

Apollo 11 is a documentary that deserves to be experienced in the best way possible, and Universal’s Blu-ray comes very close.

Published by

Todd Erwin

editor,member

55 Comments

  1. I just received my copy and it is truly astonishing. I double… no triple recommend it.
    this film should be the talk of the town, not multi released-edition movies!!!!
    buy it, watch it, best film I've ever seen of this event ever.
    and crank up than volume for the launch!!!!

  2. I'm pleased to hear that the Blu-ray includes lossless audio; the original specs released had indicated that it would be lossy Dolby Digitial 5.1 only, so that's a big improvement.

    I'm not terribly shocked that a documentary film wasn't initially slated for a 4K UHD physical media release. What does surprise me is that none of the digital storefronts have a 4K version available for streaming.

    The film was co-produced by CNN and is slated to air on their network around the time of the actual launch anniversary this summer. CNN doesn't broadcast in 4K, though, so even if the theory was that CNN was holding that back for themselves, it doesn't actually make sense.

  3. Josh Steinberg

    I'm pleased to hear that the Blu-ray includes lossless audio; the original specs released had indicated that it would be lossy Dolby Digitial 5.1 only, so that's a big improvement.

    Same here. In fact, the specs on the packaging even list "Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround" audio. I was pleasantly surprised when I popped the disc in that it came up as DTS-HD MA 5.1 instead.

  4. I watched this film last night and loved every minute of it.

    I also watched his 20 minute film final steps about Apollo 17. I hadn’t seen this mentioned as another of his films!

    I’m also hoping to check out Moonwalk One soon. This 1970 documentary used some of the same footage?

    Finally is he making any othe Apollo documentaries? Apollo 13 would be a great choice. Also the others that we hear little about. Apollo 12 had a very interesting launch with lightening!

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_12

  5. 'Apollo 11' was a blind buy for me last week. My wife and I watched it on Friday night and we loved it. Fantastic documentary! And the image quality is downright jaw-dropping. In the included bonus feature, it is mentioned that the 65mm and 70mm film from 1969 was scanned at 8K and 16K for use in the documentary. Yet, no 4K release. Dumb!

    But I'm glad I opted for the standard Blu-ray anyway. We'll be showing 'Apollo 11' in the Booth Bijou Garage Theater in a few weeks (we might wait until July for the 50th anniversary). On a scale of 1 to 10, 'Apollo 11' is an 11. 🙂

    Mark

  6. Hot damn! Just saw the blu-ray and want to echo all the gushing accolades poured onto it – although why not 5/5 for the actual film, Todd? Haven't seen anything equal to this so far this year. The way the film was edited together from hundreds of hours of film footage and tens of thousands of hours of sound footage into such a masterful 93 minutes is staggering. I mean – it's not as though they had a modern story-boarded production! The picture looked really good uprezzed to 4K projection in my eyes. There was quite a lot of grainy 16 mm footage used, so my initial disappointment that this wasn't getting a 4K UHD released is ever-so-slightly mitigated after seeing this (I haven't seen it theatrically). Now I'm going to put on Criterion's For All Mankind to compare and then watch all the bonus features – indeed sorely lacking on this disc!

  7. Todd Erwin

    But likely not for those who purchased the Blu-ray and redeemed the MA code…:(

    They will have to do the “gift it to yourself” trick to get it to upgrade. It’s currently only $9.99 right now.

  8. Osato

    Encouraging people to not be in a hurry to buy anything.
    Wait till they get it right.

    Only iTunes purchases will get it in 4K. All code redemptions will be HD because there is no 4K Blu-ray.

  9. Robert Crawford

    The stream has upgraded to 4K/HDR on iTunes. I’m happy I bought it at $9.99

    Yep, I picked it up in 4K for $9.99 on Tuesday Robert. See my post at the top of this page. I'll be watching it tomorrow night with some friends.

  10. I grew up during the 60's and I was fascinated by the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. I had and Aunt and Uncle who lived in Cocoa. They used to manufacture tie tacks modeled after space capsules. A neighbor of theirs worked at NASA and provided details/blueprints to help them make accurate capsules/LEM.

    I was immediately transported back to my youth while watching this film. I was blown away by the 65mm footage. Such a visual feast. Thanks to everyone who recommended this disc.

  11. Just recently saw Apollo 11 on Blu – I went into watching the doc. knowing nothing about this. WOW! The PQ – especially early on in the doc. – was truly stunning. I have never seen 50-year old archival footage that looked this good. Though most/many of the later sequences were understandably "rough", much of the early control room footage & some of the exterior shots (showing the large groups of people gathered outside, watching the launch) are incredibly sharp – amazing. In fact, when I initially started watching the film, I suspected parts of the film/doc. were actually a modern recreation that made everything look like it took place in 1969. Then, I watched some more & as time went on, it was obvious it was all archival footage. Everything looked extremely believable re: the era – right down to the cars, hairstyles, clothes, etc. – i.e., no recreation I've ever seen looked this authentic.

    I wasn't yet born when this iconic launch occurred, so have 0 memories of seeing this on TV, etc. However, the doc. brought me right back to that era – if only temporarily.

    Re: the film itself, very interesting. I didn't mind the lack of narration, etc. that would typically be seen in a doc. like this. Obviously, the footage spoke for itself. Well-done!

    In addition to the obvious impressive moon launch footage & the footage surrounding the launch, I liked the other little minor touches: I.e., it was interesting to see the lunch room shots showing a sign for 5 cent coffee, as well as the mention of what later came to be known as the Chappaquiddick incident/tragedy – which happened as the moon launch was occurring.

  12. The Drifter

    Just recently saw Apollo 11 on Blu – I went into watching the doc. knowing nothing about this. WOW! The PQ – especially early on in the doc. – was truly stunning. I have never seen 50-year old archival footage that looked this good. Though most/many of the later sequences were understandably "rough", much of the early control room footage & some of the exterior shots (showing the large groups of people gathered outside, watching the launch) are incredibly sharp – amazing. In fact, when I initially started watching the film, I suspected parts of the film/doc. were actually a modern recreation that made everything look like it took place in 1969. Then, I watched some more & as time went on, it was obvious it was all archival footage. Everything looked extremely believable re: the era – right down to the cars, hairstyles, clothes, etc. – i.e., no recreation I've ever seen looked this authentic.

    I wasn't yet born when this iconic launch occurred, so have 0 memories of seeing this on TV, etc. However, the doc. brought me right back to that era – if only temporarily.

    Re: the film itself, very interesting. I didn't mind the lack of narration, etc. that would typically be seen in a doc. like this. Obviously, the footage spoke for itself. Well-done!

    In addition to the obvious impressive moon launch footage & the footage surrounding the launch, I liked the other little minor touches: I.e., it was interesting to see the lunch room shots showing a sign for 5 cent coffee, as well as the mention of what later came to be known as the Chappaquiddick incident/tragedy – which happened as the moon launch was occurring.

    It's the 65/70 mm footage that you are marveling over. Check out the short restoration documentary to learn about the origin of that footage.

  13. I've watched the blu-ray 3 times over the last week, and it's become one of my favorite films of the last few years. I think it edges out the Al Reinert doc For All Mankind (which is very, very good) because it's more immersive and focused on one mission rather than the entirety of the Apollo program. The lack of narration and talking heads is a big plus, as well, because I think landing on the moon was such an incredible, awe-inspiring, one-of-a-kind event that it's almost futile to have experts try to put it all into words. Better to let the experience speak for itself and let the viewer come to his/her own conclusion.

    If anyone is on the fence about getting this, don't hesitate – it's excellent.

  14. My copy arrived in time for a viewing last night with my son (I was 8 when watching Neil and Buzz walk on the moon). I have watched many hours of Apollo film and interviews over the last 50 years but nothing as good as this amazing film. It is so well edited together, you forget that it happened 50 years ago. We were transfixed by the descent of the LM with the countdown fuel clock and height rapidly reducing from 50,000 ft, the astronauts working on the moon, and the film of the LM approaching and docking with the CM, and then splashdown.

    The passage of time just makes it seem an even more extraordinary achievement.

  15. Keith Cobby

    The passage of time just makes it seem an even more extraordinary achievement.

    It certainly does. It almost seems like something out of a myth or a wild Biblical story, because no other event in history comes close to its grandeur and audaciousness.

    The Apollo 11 documentary has quickly become one of my all-time favorite films. I've enjoyed many other Apollo documentaries recently (like Chasing the Moon), and even though they're all interesting and informative, Miller's Apollo 11 doc just feels more powerful. I haven't seen the old Moonwalk One documentary from the early '70s, and I'm curious how it compares to this new one.

  16. I was going to watch First Man tonight, but I think I’ll watch Apollo 11 instead after reading the comments!

    I grew up on Apollo too, so this new 65mm footage sounds like a real time travel capsule.

  17. If you redeem the Blu-ray code at Movies Anywhere, it’ll port over to iTunes and then you’ll get those same special features.

    The iTunes 4K release is great for those who are 4K capable or don’t want a disc. I collect space-related documentaries so it was important to me to have an actual disc for this one.

  18. Tino

    Again, the 4K version is available for $9.99 on iTunes and has exclusive extras like commentary and deleted scenes not on the Blu Ray.

    My wife and I watched the 4K version last night. It was my first time seeing this documentary. The footage was stunning. I was seven years old when Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon, and it was the first historical event in my life that I can clearly recall. We had my aunt, uncle and grandparents at our house, all sitting in our living room to watch the telecast.

  19. I was six and recall it too. Everyone was talking about it. Everyone

    And to think that there are people out there that believe we didn’t land on the moon and it was all faked! It boggles the mind!

  20. Tino

    I was six and recall it too. Everyone was talking about it. Everyone

    And to think that there are people out there that believe we didn’t land on the moon and it was all faked! It boggles the mind!

    You can educate ignorance, but you can’t fix stupid.

  21. I wonder if this doc will ever get a real special edition physical release, with commentary and other special features. It really deserves it, although I suppose it will depend on how well the current edition sells. I think this doc should be seen as important as Al Reinert's For All Mankind, which got the Criterion treatment.

  22. Tino

    I was six and recall it too. Everyone was talking about it. Everyone

    And to think that there are people out there that believe we didn’t land on the moon and it was all faked! It boggles the mind!

    Frankly, it would have been easier to actually get to the moon than to have a massive conspiracy of silence involving hundreds or even thousands of people for 5 decades.

Leave a Reply