After directing Apollo 13 in 1995, Ron Howard sure has been getting a lot of mileage out of his Hollywood relationship with the space program. And once again he lends his name to yet another Apollo-themed piece of entertainment, a stately documentary about the 24 men who actually flew to the moon as part of the United States Space Program in the late '60s and early '70s.
I guess it's no surprise that the bulk of this movie covers the pioneering Apollo 11 landing and Neil Armstrong's historic steps, although the stories and images from the less-discussed later landings were of more interest to me. As for the elusive Armstrong, he's a no-show amongst the ten talking heads in the picture - many of the surviving astronauts of the program, including Armstrong's crewmates Buzz Aldrin and a hilarious Mike Collins - but his mythic status looms so large that the film may as well have been called In the Shadow of Neil Armstrong.
Anyway, despite the expected uncontroversial, awe-filled reminiscences of the aging space cowboys and the bombastic score, there's still lots of neat lunar footage (some of it apparently shown for the first time, though that's a bit hard to believe) and fine documentary storytelling. The film didn't - how shall I say it? - send me over the moon, but I liked it well enough. However, the grainy footage from space doesn't impress much on the big screen, and I'm sure In the Shadow of the Moon will lose nothing when it winds up on TV.