DVD Review HTF Review: Apollo 13 - Anniversary Edition

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Mar 30, 2005.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Jul 6, 2003
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    Apollo 13: 2-Disc Anniversary Edition

    Studio: Universal
    Year: 1995
    Rated: PG
    Running Time: 160 minutes / 116 minutes – IMAX Version
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) / Anamorphic Widescreen (1.66:1) - IMAX
    Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1 IMAX

    Release Date:
    March 29th, 2005

    NOTE: This “Anniversary Edition” of Apollo 13 contains two versions of the film – the theatrical cut on Disc One and the 24 minute shorter IMAX Version on Disc Two! Personally, I am not a fan of the IMAX version, as it is re-framed at 1.66:1 and because the limitations of the format required the film to be trimmed down, resulting in the loss of some interesting character moments. Of course, that is only my take on it, and your mileage may vary! That is the beautiful thing about film…
    Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 is an amazing and engrossing account of one the most dramatic missions in the history of the United States’ space program, the Apollo 13 mission, which occurred was launched in April of 1970. The “Apollo” program commenced in 1967, as the final step in President Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon before 1970. After some setbacks, the program realized its high point on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon’s surface. Less than a year later, Apollo 13 rocketed into the heavens for another moon landing, but as such missions were now viewed as “normal”, the mission received very little fanfare…until things went dramatically wrong that is!

    As the film begins, we are slowly introduced to the trio of astronauts that manned the Apollo 13 spacecraft, namely mission commander Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), command module pilot Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon), and lunar module pilot Fred Haise (Bill Paxton). These brave fellows were thrilled to be embarking on a journey to the moon, but unfortunately, their mission did not go as planned, for the ship was damaged by the explosion of an oxygen tank while en route to Earth’s lone natural satellite.

    Unfortunately, this incident left the astronauts facing a grave situation – a rapidly declining supply of oxygen and power problems that could prevent them from returning to Earth. Obviously, the failure to resolve these problems would ultimately lead to a horrible death for the men, either by asphyxiation, freezing, or incineration upon re-entry (should they even make it that far)!

    Led by flight director Gene Kranz (Ed Harris), the Mission Control center in Houston, Texas quickly ramped up a rescue operation, with the small hope of bringing the trio of astronauts home safely. Interestingly, another key player in the improbable rescue effort was Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise), who was supposed to be the command module pilot for Apollo 13, but was removed from the mission after he was exposed to German measles. The resultant rescue operation was characterized by teamwork, improvisation and a determination not to fail, especially not on Krantz’s watch!

    Now as an example of their out-of-the-box thinking, the team proposed to conserve power by powering down the command module and transplanting the astronauts into the lunar module. If they could manage to bring the astronauts to the point of re-entry, the plan was to cut the lunar module loose at the last possible moment, in hopes that the main capsule’s depleted batteries would have enough juice left to permit the crew to safely reenter Earth’s atmosphere.

    In the interim, it would be Mission Control’s job to help keep the courageous explorers from dying in the vacuum of space. For instance, carbon dioxide was building up in the craft, requiring that the astronauts fashion a makeshift filter out of the items available onboard, to keep it from contaminating the air supply. Problems like this raise an interesting point, namely that the spacecraft and its components were barely adequate for the monumental journey to the moon. Sure, the technology existed to achieve the goal, but once there were any problems with the craft, its fragility was exposed, and the likelihood that its crew would ever see their loved ones again seemed extremely remote.

    Honestly, there really was very little hope for a safe return – perhaps “Only a fool’s hope,” as Gandalf the Grey might say - for even if the moon’s gravity could be used to successfully propel the craft back towards the Earth, other problems awaited. The most troubling issue was that even if the ship was able to make it back into the Earth’s atmosphere, it had to negotiate the point of contact with the utmost precision. Without complete accuracy, in terms of the entry angle, the craft would either burn to cinders or bounce back into space off the atmosphere’s outer reaches, without the means to make another attempt.

    Well, you probably know how everything turned out, so I will refrain from describing the story in any more detail. Instead, I will try to describe the reasons why I think director Ron Howard was able to make this film, about events that are well chronicled, such a dramatic and powerful experience. To begin with, I think he masterfully established and sustained an incredible amount of tension and suspense throughout the re-telling of this tale of courage and ingenuity, as Mission Control personnel fought desperately to bring Apollo 13’s crew back to Earth alive.

    In my opinion, Howard was able to do so because he effectively captured the drama present in the situation itself, which helps the audience experience, as nearly as possible, the harrowing journey of Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise! Mr. Howard also takes very few liberties with actual events, so the film also has a gravity (pardon the expression) that most fictional stories must struggle mightily to achieve, and viewers are given a “real” sense of some of the things the individuals directly involved in the Apollo 13 mission had to endure.

    Ron Howard also deserves a lot of praise for ensuring not only that the film’s special effects serve the story, but also that they never get in the way of the uniformly superb performances (which should probably be expected given the company of actors in this film). With that in mind, the trio of actors playing the astronauts on board Apollo 13 - Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon – was each phenomenal in their respective role. Similarly, while these three actors are all great in the film, their performances enhance the story, and there is no grandstanding by any of them. Indeed, their work seems to get better with each successive viewing, as additional subtleties in the performances emerge.

    On the ground, or so to speak, Ed Harris is an equally commanding presence as Gene Kranz, the man responsible for coordinating the massive effort to save the astronauts’ lives. Indeed, the intensity and magnificence of his performance led to his being nominated for an Academy Award®! Finally, I must note that Gary Sinise was also very good as Ken Mattingly, the aforementioned member of Lovell’s team denied medical clearance to fly, but later plays a crucial role in the rescue of his fellow astronauts.

    To sum things up, Apollo 13 revisits a very powerful and dramatic story, re-told by Ron Howard with a remarkable attention to both technical details and the human elements of the situation. Better still, Howard not only shows complete respect for the real story, but also uses the drama inherent in the situation itself to generate suspense and excitement fear in the audience!!! This is a wonderful motion picture; even if you are not a space buff…don’t miss it!

    The “Collector’s Edition” DVD for Apollo 13 has always been one of my favorite demo discs, as its video quality was excellent, especially for a release from the early days of DVD! Happily, the newly minted high-def transfer results in an image that is outstanding in both of its anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 - theatrical & 1.66:1 - IMAX) presentations, and absolutely brilliant during all of the sequences featuring shots of the moon and Earth from outer space. The shots of Earth as it appears from space are particularly breathtaking, revealing an incredible level of detail and an almost three-dimensional appearance.

    Colors are also rendered even more crisply than on the previous DVD release, with nearly perfect saturation and no discernable bleed. Better still, I noticed no artifacts or mosquito noise at all, even during Apollo 13’s smoke-laden launch, which is impressive since smoke and fog can usually wreak havoc on the format’s ability to produce a film-like image. Despite a careful search, I also noticed no ringing around the edges of light/dark transitions.

    Well, I suppose you want to know if the transfer(s) on this disc are an improvement over the “Collector’s Edition”. My answer would be yes for the theatrical version, as I think color rendering is a touch more accurate, and the image is also more detailed. For the improvement to be “only” subtle is a realistic expectation I think, since the previous DVD version of this film was certainly very impressive, in terms of its image quality. The IMAX version is even better, if you can believe that, but I am still not a fan of re-framed films, so I would never willfully watch it while having the theatrical release on hand!

    To sum things up, this is yet another top-notch transfer from the good people at Universal Home Video, and I am very pleased that they decided to make the effort to kick the already great transfer from the previous release up a notch, instead of just resting on their laurels! [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Note: There is no DTS track available for the theatrical release! Sadly, the DTS track is available only with the IMAX version of the film. [​IMG]

    As was the case with the previous “Collector’s Edition” and DTS Version DVDs, both the Dolby Digital and DTS surround (5.1 channel) tracks offer terrific aural experiences, boasting spacious soundstages and excellent frequency response and dynamics! As is almost always the case, the DTS version is superior, featuring more accurate timbres, more powerful/defined bass, and more precise imaging. That being said, the Dolby Digital track is a very good one, which sort of makes up for the fact that there is no DTS audio option for the theatrical cut of the film in this set! Good thing I never let go of my trusty old DTS version of Apollo 13! [​IMG]

    The aural centerpiece of this DVD is the demo-worthy launch sequence, which practically begs to be heard at ear-splitting volumes, and will threaten to shake your home right off its foundations! Of course, there is also a lot of talking in this film, and to that end, dialogue remains clear and smooth throughout the feature. In fact, at no time did I detect any hissing, sibilance, or distortion in either the actor’s voices or sound effects. Similarly, James Horner’s excellent score is presented beautifully, thanks to its careful distribution throughout the listening space.

    As you might imagine, both the rears and the subwoofer are put through their paces throughout the film during the space scenes, and especially during the aforementioned launch sequence. The surround channels are also used to create the appropriate sense of ambience during the scenes set in Mission Control, which really drew me even further into the film. Bottom line, this is a wonderful, involving 5.1-channel mix that should thoroughly please fans of this fine film, not to mention a good companion to the discs’ stellar image transfer!


    NOTE: Extras that are ported over from the “Collector’s Edition” of Apollo 13 are denoted by asterisks.


    *** Lost Moon: The Triumph Of Apollo 13
    “Lost Moon” is an hour-long “making-of”, which offers an in-depth look at both the real events that inspired Apollo 13 and the process of putting the film together, via behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the principal cast and crew, and the real astronauts and technical folks portrayed in the film.

    I hadn’t seen it in a while, but this documentary is a very worthwhile viewing experience, filled with stories from the set, footage from the actual Apollo 13 mission. More impressively, the honesty and caring evident in these interviews shows a great respect for both the space program and the event being dealt with in the film. Make sure to look out for the amazing footage of the cast recreating the conditions of weightlessness on a special plane that was used to record many of the “special effects” shots in the film.

    Almost as worthwhile an experience as watching the film, and a must-see for space buffs, this is a great documentary, and offers an intimate look at both Apollo 13 the film, and Apollo 13 the mission from the eyes of the people who know them best.

    *** Audio Commentary #1
    The first audio commentary for Apollo 13, by director Ron Howard, was both informative and enjoyable, despite being carried over from the previous DVD (as with “Lost Moon”, I hadn’t listened to it on a while). During the film, Howard talks at length about the intimate details of the production, including offering some interesting insight into the scenes shot aboard the KC-135 jet, which created weightless conditions.

    Mr. Howard also reveals the massive amount of research done to make the film more accurate, and points out places where the onscreen happenings differed from actual events. Yet another area of interest is the frequent discussions about the casting process, and insight into the featured performers.

    Overall, it is a fascinating commentary from one of Hollywood’s most respected directors, and a must-listen for fans of the film that have not taken the time to do so already.

    *** Audio Commentary #2
    The second yack track, turned in by Jim and Marilyn Lovell, is a nice contrast from Ron Howard’s commentary, as Mr. Lovell and his wife are able to talk from a unique perspective about what really happened during these scenes. Their comments do not come as frequently as those of Ron Howard, however, almost everything said is immensely interesting, and there is plenty of insight into the duties that must be performed aboard manned space flights, and on being an astronaut in general.

    Once again, this commentary was available on the “Collector’s Edition” DVD, but that does not make it any less worthwhile! I know it requires a significant investment of time, but if you enjoy this film, this track is every bit as much a must-listen as Ron Howard’s!!!

    *** Production Notes
    There are 16 pages of trivia and background information on Apollo 13, much of which is interesting. It really doesn’t take long to read it all, so be sure to check it out!!!

    *** Trailer
    The original theatrical trailer for Apollo 13 is included.


    Conquering Space: The Moon And Beyond
    “Conquering Space”, which runs for 48 minutes, is a fairly comprehensive and well put together documentary that takes viewers from the early days of the “Space Race” between the United States and U.S.S.R. that began during JFK’s Presidency, through the creation of NASA, and right up to the trials facing the present-day space programs of the world’s developed nations.

    I will admit I am a space nut, so I found it all really fascinating, but even trying to look at it objectively, this featurette was pretty informative and entertaining. I found it to be a nice addition to the set for sure!

    Lucky 13: The Astronauts’ Story
    Far shorter than “Conquering Space” (roughly a dozen minutes long), this featurette takes viewers inside the ill-fated Apollo 13 moon mission, via interview excerpts from flight director Gene Kranz, mission commander Jim Lovell and his wife, Marilyn, and lunar module pilot Fred Haise, among others. During their time onscreen, the participants talk about what happened during the mission, and their comments are supplemented by a visual representation of what they are describing for us.

    Despite its relatively brief running time, the featurette really offers a good overview on the Apollo 13 mission, from the perspective of the people that lived it. It may not be quite as deep or detailed as I would have liked it to be, but it is certainly worth checking out!

    Promotional Materials
    There is a trailer for Cinderella Man, starring Russell Crowe, on both discs in the set.


    (on a five-point scale)
    Film: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    While this is essentially the Collector’s Edition of Apollo 13 on Disc One and a brand new to DVD “IMAX cut” on Disc Two, complete with two new featurettes, this is still a great treatment of the film. In my opinion, Ron Howard’s account of this ill-fated mission is artfully directed with an incredible attention to detail (including filming sequences where the actors were actually weightless) that makes it as riveting and suspenseful a film as one could hope for. Mr. Howard, knowing he already had a great story to work with, also told it in a remarkably entertaining and understated manner, a tone which carried through to the sublime performances by Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Ed Harris, and Gary Sinise.

    As a DVD release, this two-disc Anniversary Edition has a lot to offer, giving fans both the theatrical cut and IMAX version (although personally, I wouldn’t watch it willingly), along with the extras from the previous DVD and two new featurettes that further enhance the experience. And the A/V quality…well, it simply rocks!!! My only real gripe is that there is no DTS track available for the theatrical cut (my preferred version of the picture), but fortunately, I never let go of my DTS version of Apollo 13. If that is not a deal-breaker for you, and you do not already have this title in your library, this is a good chance to rectify that oversight right now [​IMG] ! Recommended!!!

    Stay tuned…
  2. Josh Simpson

    Josh Simpson Supporting Actor

    Jan 23, 2002
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    Jason, thank you for the detailed review! I don't see anything about the isolated score on here, but the audio and video seem so good, I'll eventually pick this one up. Thanks.
  3. Bleddyn Williams

    Bleddyn Williams Supporting Actor

    Jun 30, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Bleddyn Williams
    For those of us who are Region-free, the R2 UK version may prove to be a better option, as it ditches the IMAX version and offers DTS on the theatrical version.

    Provided the transfer is the same of course...
  4. Ryan Belfast

    Ryan Belfast Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 22, 2004
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    Can anyone confirm that the R2 has a new transfer?
  5. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

    May 8, 2000
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    Thanks for the review. It's a great film.

    Oddly, as a space race nut myself, I've never added this one to my collection.

    Now, I wonder if I should seek out the original DTS version or pick this one up.

    I notice at Amazon that "To The Edge and Back" is available now on DVD (I have it on VHS, and seem to have missed its release on DVD last fall). It's one of the best documentaries on the subject... I may have to pick that up.

  6. Jonny_L

    Jonny_L Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 6, 2004
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    This was a fantastic movie and I still say it was robbed for the oscar by Braveheart. At anyrate, when it all boils down there are really only 2 added featurettes - not enough incentive for me to upgrade from the current version.

    Great review though Jason!
  7. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

    Jun 24, 2003
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    Real Name:
    Michael Osadciw
    Grrrr...no DTS on original film, eh?

    That sucks.

    Well, I'll wait for the lossless audio version on HD [​IMG]

  8. Kevin_H

    Kevin_H Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 27, 2003
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    Since APOLLO 13 was shot in Super 35, does that mean that the full 35mm frame was used in the IMAX transfer? As such, does that mean the IMAX transfer has more picture information on the top and bottom of the frame?
  9. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

    Jan 16, 1998
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    Neil Joseph
    Thanks for the review. I have not done a comparison to the dts version's video but I remember old reviews stating that the video was not as good on the dts as the original DD SE which in turn is not as good as this newer version.
  10. Christian Preischl

    Christian Preischl Screenwriter

    Oct 11, 2001
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    Real Name:
    Christian Preischl
    Yup, the IMAX version has noticably more picture on the top & bottom. Certain CG scenes may still be P&S though, I only checked the opening scene at the party.
    Also, I checked it on the computer and there are no black bars whatsoever on the sides, so the AR is not 1.66:1 as stated on the packaging, it's 1.78:1. Not that it really matters as I have no intention of watching the IMAX version. [​IMG]

  11. Michael Bailey

    Michael Bailey Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 20, 2001
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    I hate to agree but the image is better on the IMAX version. Does anyone know why?
  12. Kain_C

    Kain_C Screenwriter

    Nov 17, 2002
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    Love the film but I am going to stick with my old Collector's Edition. It has sentimental value as well as being one of my first DVDs.
  13. AlexBC

    AlexBC Second Unit

    May 1, 2003
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    The brazilian DVD will have the theatrical cut with DTS in NTSC. It has the same specs as the UK version. I believe R3 Korea will get the same as well.
  14. MarcusUdeh

    MarcusUdeh Supporting Actor

    Sep 23, 2003
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  15. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

    Aug 13, 2000
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    Your review of the video quality is the only correct description I have read at this point. Other reviews have been saying how it's much better than the old one --- I don't see it. They are very similar. I almost I thought I still had the original disc in my player when looking at the new version.

    This disc is NOT worth the upgrade for video and I'm very disappointed I bothered upgrading.
  16. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Real Name:
    I have the two previously dvd releases of "Apollo 13", but I'm not buying this latest release. I've already seen the IMAX version of the film at Universal City and though it was an interesting experience, I wasn't that impressed by it. I appreciate the comments about this dvd release because it helped me make my purchasing decision. My next video purchase of this film will be in the high def. format.

  17. David Brown Eyes

    David Brown Eyes Second Unit

    Jan 6, 1999
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    Is the isolated soundtrack still in the new version?

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